Academic Workshop: Debating Multiculturalism 2 [Dialogue Society]

May, 2012

The Dialogue Society has organised two academic workshops on the theme of ‘Debating Multiculturalism’ to take place in spring 2012. This publication comprises the papers accepted for ‘Debating Multiculturalism 2’, to take place in Istanbul at the beginning of May.

The Dialogue Society is organising this second workshop through its Birmingham Branch in partnership with Keele University and Fatih University, Istanbul. It is very grateful for the support of its two partners and to Fatih University for hosting the event. The first workshop, held in April, in Konya, was organised by the Dialogue Society’s Leeds Branch in partnership with Leeds Metropolitan University and Mevlana University. While the first workshop focused primarily on the UK context this second workshop looks at multiculturalism across Europe as well as in the UK. Each workshop balances the perspectives of academics with those of practitioners concerned with intercultural relations.

The acute contemporary relevance of the topic of these workshops hardly requires introduction. Since the Second World War, European societies have increasingly experienced ‘multiculturalism’ in the sense of people of diverse cultural backgrounds living side by side. The ‘state multiculturalism’ publicly criticised last year in David Cameron’s Munich Speech was a UK example of European government policies embodying a concern to ensure acceptance and respect for the cultural and religious identities of minorities. Cameron is one of a number of prominent voices in the European political mainstream, including also German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who claim that multiculturalism has failed to counteract fragmentation and extremism. Meanwhile, proponents of multiculturalism continue to stress its achievements in terms of reduced discrimination and progress towards inclusive, sustainable national identities. They urge that to abandon multiculturalism would be to abandon an achievable future of genuine equality, mutual respect and creative intercultural symbiosis. Whether multiculturalism should be jettisoned as a failure or defended as the path to a flourishing diversity is a crucial and pressing question for our time.

Istanbul, Turkey’s largest city, is a stimulating location for discussions of multiculturalism in Europe. Turkey’s recent record of combining political stability with economic growth and human rights reforms is concentrating minds on the capacity of the present European model of multiculturalism to cope with the eventual accession of Turkey to the EU. There is strong interest in the country in the so-called “Anglo-Saxon” practice of secularism as a framework for the ongoing evolution of multiculturalism. The city of Istanbul boasts a fascinating history of intercultural encounter, powerfully reflected in the Christian mosaics and Islamic calligraphy juxtaposed in the magnificent Hagia Sofia.

Naturally the views expressed in the papers are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the position and views of the Dialogue Society. The papers presented here are draft papers submitted and printed in advance of the workshop. A further volume of selected papers taken from the two workshops will be published in due course.

The Dialogue Society extends heartfelt thanks to the organising committee and especially our editors for the second workshop, Dr Steve Garner and Mr Seref Kavak.

For more details and the workshop paper please visit: Dialogue Society

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