Multiculturalism ›From Below‹: A Comparative-Historical Investigation of Its
Contributing Circumstances and Different Varieties
The subject of intense debate among social scientists during the last two decades, multiculturalism has been typically defined as ›the recognition of difference‹ within the public sphere of ›laws, policies, democratic discourses and the terms of a shared citizenship and national identity‹ (Modood 2007: 2). Understood as a phenomenon specific to the public sphere, multiculturalism has been mainly examined from the perspective of adequate or inadequate institutional arrangements and systems of political ideas, that is, in terms of macro-level societal (including political and cultural) structures. Without denying the obvious importance of public-sphere arrangements that facilitate or hinder the recognition of individual and group differences, I am interested, rather, in the thus far under-investigated issue of ›multiculturalism from below‹ as conceived and practiced by people in their everyday lives.
The current social-science debate about multiculturalism implicite holds this phenomenon to be the product of present-day globalization and the related revolution in communication and transportation technologies and mass-scale international
migration. My familiarity with European and Middle-Eastern history strongly suggests, however, that this representation is incorrect: multiculturalism is certainly not a new development, although its present forms and ›contents‹ obviously differ from those displayed in the past.
I have already conducted a preliminary comparative investigation of groundlevel multiculturalism in four contemporary locations: the city of Malmo, Sweden; the British retirement settlement in Costa del Sol, Spain; the Mission District in San Francisco; and the neighbourhood of Elmhurst in New York in the United States. I am currently gathering information about the past cities I would like to include in my investigation: worldly Alexandria under the Arab rule in the ninth and tenth centuries; pre-ghetto cosmopolitan Venice in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries; St. Petersburg in its so-called golden age in the second half of the nineteenth century; and Weltstadt Berlin at the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. During my stay at the Lichtenberg-Kolleg I intend to complete the readings for and begin writing a monograph devoted to a comparative-historical assessment of the displays of, and circumstances facilitating/hindering ground-level multiculturalism in these past and present locations.
Morawska, E. 2009, pbk 2011. Sociology of Immigration. (Re)Making Multifaceted America. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
Morawska. E. 2011. »Diaspora« Diasporas’ Representations of their Homeland: Exploring the Polymorph. Ethnic and Racial Studies 34 (6): 1029-48.
Morawska, E. 2011. Ethnicity as a Primordial-Situational-Constructed Experience: Different Times, Different Places, Different Constellations. Studies in Contemporary Jewry XXV: 3-25.
Morawska, E. 2011. »Studying International Migration in the Long(er) and Short(er) Duree: Contesting Some and Reconciling Other Disagreements Between the Structuration and Morphogenetic Approaches«. Oxford University/International Migration Institute Working Paper 44. Forthcoming in O. Bakewell (ed.): Theorizing International Migration. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Morawska, E. »Multiculturalism from Below: Reflections of an Immigrant Ethnographer.« Forthcoming in P. Kivisto (ed.): Challenges and Directions of Multiculturalism. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.