What is Multiculturalism?

What Does Multiculturalism Mean

We explain what multiculturalism is, characteristics and examples. In addition, interculturality, multiculturalism and transculturality.

Multiculturalism implies that different cultures coexist preserving their differences.

What is multiculturalism?

In a broad sense, multiculturalism or multiculturalism points to the presence of multiple cultural traditions coexisting in the same society , without having to sacrifice their respective identities for it ; that is to say, to a friendly ethnic and cultural pluralism. However, the strict meaning of the concept is complex and depends on the specific field in which it is used, such as sociology , political philosophy or colloquial language .

The idea of multiculturalism arises in the context of western liberal democracies , whose societies have gradually absorbed a migratory flow from the rest of the planet, initially as a consequence of European colonialism , and later as a properly global phenomenon.

Thus, people of different ethnic, religious and linguistic origin live in nations founded on a stricter national identity . This, obviously, is the ideal setting for tensions and rivalries, but also for a significant enrichment of the host culture .

Multiculturalism can be understood as an alternative to the concept of the “ melting pot ”, according to which multiethnic societies end up being culturally homogeneous, throughout a process of assimilation in which the dominant culture predominates (although not unpolluted).

A multicultural society, on the other hand, allows integration without sacrificing the identity of minority cultures in the process , proposing a space for them to exist as equals in every sense.

These minorities are not always of migrant origin, however. On many occasions they are the descendants of the original settlers of territories colonized by the European powers , which were more or less forcibly assimilated to a modern state founded according to the Western perspective.

In that sense, multiculturalism is part of a much larger political movement that advocates for the inclusion of marginalized groups in society, such as the LGBTQ population, people with disabilities, and so on.

See also: Cultural diversity

Characteristics of multiculturalism

Broadly speaking, multiculturalism can be characterized as follows:

  • The term may have a political or ideological use, according to which it consists of the necessary inclusion as equals of the ethnic and cultural minority sectors of a society, allowing them to preserve their cultural identity . At the same time, it can have a descriptive use, applicable to those societies that, due to their historical origin, include diverse ethnic groups , religions and cultures.
  • In general, the multicultural perspective proposes that the inhabitants of a country coexist peacefully in the difference, without it being necessary to sacrifice their cultural identity in favor of a dominant one.
  • It is considered by its followers as a more just, comprehensive and tolerant social model , which allows people to express who they really are.
  • On the other hand, he is criticized because his approach is somehow unattainable : the mere coexistence between different cultures leads to an integration on different terms, and it is questionable whether cultures must necessarily be conserved in a state of "purity", given that they are organisms living and changing over time.
  • Another source of tension for multiculturalism is the points of philosophical or legal conflict between different cultures , on issues of social importance such as discrimination, the place of women in society or some traditional practices.

Examples of multiculturalism

Bolivian society is made up of 36 different groups of indigenous people.

A couple of current examples of multiculturalism are as follows:

  • The Plurinational State of Bolivia . Bolivian society is composed from its origins by 36 different groups of indigenous settlers, among which the Aymara and Quechua predominate, as well as the mestizo people, fruit of the Spanish colonization . This led in recent times to the State's approach in multicultural terms: for example, the country's constitution recognizes 36 official languages other than Spanish.
  • Canadian society . Considered among the most progressive and diverse in the Western world, Canadian society has been governed by the values of multiculturalism since the 1970s and 1980s. In fact, its proposal for a diverse and equitable society is regarded as a model to be followed internationally, and is the reason behind its massive acceptance of migrants.

Interculturality, multiculturalism and transculturality

Other concepts related to the complex processes of cultural integration are those of interculturality, multiculturalism and transculturality, which deserve to be seen each one separately:

  • Pluriculturality . The multicultural perspective differs from the multicultural in that it does not defend unique cultural identities, but rather understands them as a cluster of cultural trends and traditions of different origins, which coexist within a society or even within the same individual. Thus, identity would not be something static, but multiple, and each person has a multicultural capacity that allows them to integrate into different cultural environments at the same time.
  • Interculturality . Interculturality, on the other hand, is similar to multiculturalism in its idea that cultural integration should take place on equal terms, without dominating one culture over the other, but through dialogue and agreement. This allows conflicts inherent to cultural contrast to be resolved peacefully, horizontally and synergistically, fostering the meeting of cultures and the necessary hybridization that allows and encourages coexistence.
  • Transculturality . For its part, the idea of transculturality raises the possibility that cultural identity is deeply nourished by different traditions and origins, adding elements in a complex way to produce new customs and new forms of culture. In this sense, more than a cultural integration, it is a more or less chaotic hybridization, the first result of globalist labor, economic and commercial trends. In this sense, cultural identities would be, at best, transitory and ever-changing.

Follows with: Personal identity

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