Magazine article The Brown Journal of World Affairs

A Multicultural Nationalism?

Magazine article The Brown Journal of World Affairs

A Multicultural Nationalism?

Article excerpt

Today's "new nationalism" marks merely the latest iteration of yesterday's old nationalism.1 I refer here to the majoritarian nationalism that seems to be the rising or dominant politics in many parts of the world today-Russia, China, India, the United States, many Muslim-majority countries, and central and eastern Europe. Yet, what is genuinely new is the identity-based nationalism of the center-left-sometimes called "liberal nationalism" or "progressive patriotism"-that is appearing in Anglophone countries. In a recent study covering Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States, India, South Africa, and Peru, Raymond Taras expresses the novelty of his empirical findings as a move toward "nationhood." He sees this as "enlarging the nation so that it consists of different integrated ethnic parts" and describes it as "a characteristically British way of viewing a political society."2 I present here a view that falls into this category, which I shall call "multicultural nationalism."3 I argue that multiculturalism is a mode of integration that does not just emphasize the centrality of minority group identities, but rather proves incomplete without the re-making of national identity so that all citizens have a sense of belonging. In this respect, multiculturalist approaches to national belonging have some relation to liberal nationalism and majoritarian interculturalism, making not only individual rights but, also minority accommodation a feature of acceptable nationalism. Unlike cosmopolitanism, multiculturalist approaches are nationally-focused and not against immigration controls (subject to certain conditions).

For these reasons, multicultural nationalism unites the concerns of some of those currently sympathetic to majoritarian nationalism and those who are pro-diversity and minority accommodation in the way that liberal nationalism (with its emphasis on individualism and majoritarianism) or cosmopolitanism (with its disavowal of national belonging and championing of open borders) does not. Multicultural nationalism, therefore, offers a feasible alternative political idea to monocultural nationalism.

Modes of Integration

Multiculturalism is the idea that equality in the context of "difference" cannot be achieved by individual rights or equality as sameness, but has to be extended to include the positive inclusion of marginalized groups marked by race and their own sense of ethnocultural identities. The latter is reinforced by exclusion but may also indicate a form of belonging to many individuals. Multiculturalism thereby grows from an initial commitment to racial equality into a perspective that allows minorities to publicly oppose negative images of themselves in favor of positive self-definitions and institutional accommodations.

If we unpack the idea of integration, we can appreciate that multiculturalism is a mode of integration.4 The need for integration arises when an established society is faced with some people who are perceived and treated unfavorably by standard members of that society (and typically the former also perceive of themselves as different, though not necessarily in a negative way). This may relate to various areas of society and policy, such as employment, education, and housing.

However, integration also has a subjective and symbolic dimension, which has a more general or macro character-how a minority is perceived by the rest of the country and how members of a minority perceive their relationship to society as a whole.5 Partial integration, even when achieved in a number of spheres, is not full integration without some degree of subjective identification with the society or country as a whole-what the Commission on Multi-Ethnic Britain called "a sense of belonging"-and with the acceptance by the majority that you are a full member of society with the right to feel that you belong.6 Hence, a commission on these topics in Quebec has rightly said that "the symbolic framework of integration (identity, religion, perception of the Other, collective memory, and so on) is no less important than its functional or material framework. …

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