Multiculturalism is a term that can be used to describe a society, but is also used to denote a broad policy approach that accommodates different cultural practices and recognised ethnic pluralism (Vertovec and Wessendorf, 2005). Multiculturalism has evoked both positive and negative images (Vertovec and Wessendorf, 2005). Positive images include notions of tolerance, attention to the rights of minority ethnic groups to maintain aspects of their cultural heritage and language, and notions of equality and participation (Vertovec and Wessendorf, 2005). On the other hand, negative images include threats to national values, erosion of national identity and breakdown of social cohesion (Vertovec and Wessendorf, 2005). Vasta (2007) claims that "Multiculturalism refers to the process of accommodating difference" (p32), and argues that, in response to the critique of multiculturalism, most European countries of immigration have not sufficiently engaged with ethnic diversity and multiculturalism. So, rather than abandoning multiculturalist policies, when immigrants are seen as threats, governments should really try and implement them fully.
Vertovec, S. and Wessendorf, S. (2005) Migration and cultural, religious and linguistic diversity in Europe: An overview of issues and trends. Working Paper, WP-05-18. Centre of Migration, Policy and Society, University of Oxford. www.compas.ox.ac.uk
Vasta, E. (2007) Accommodating diversity: Why current critiques of multiculturalism miss the point. Working Paper, WP-07-53. Centre of Migration, Policy and Society. University of Oxford. www.compas.ox.ac.uk
Related terms: Acculturation Citizenship Cultural competence Enculturation Globalisation Human Rights Intercultural dialogue Pluralism Social Cohesion Universalism