Multiculturalism became very bogged down by the politics of identity. In its commendable rush to try to prevent assimilation and preserve heritage, it ‘essentialised’ identities into narrow and fixed conceptions of who we are. It has not been able to cope with plural identities – mixed ethnic, faith or national identities, let alone multiple concepts which also take account of sexuality, disability, gender and other ideas. It also cannot cope with the idea that peoples ideas about themselves might change over time. That’s where interculturalism comes in.
Peoples ideas about themselves are in any case changing faster than academic theories and are becoming more intercultural. ‘Mixed race’ is already the fastest growing minority in many European countries and now – remarkably – an EU survey (see link below) has revealed that only 30% of young Europeans state that they feel exclusively citizens of their country (against approximately 38% from the older age group). This supports the need for national identity to be re-framed (see my Open Democracy article) in a separate blog.
Plural identities are not a threat to notions of national, faith, ethnic or other singular forms of identity. These are welcome changes that mean that people can now begin to see across boundaries, interact and empathise with others. Insistence on singular forms, with hard boundaries, is what has caused a ‘them and us’ world of divisions, based on stereotypes and prejudice.
Link to press release and survey details europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-13-462_en.htm