Mosaics and Melting Pots

Mosaics and Melting Pots

Debates about ethnic diversity are now a common feature of the political landscape. The term “multiculturalism” enjoys currency among those who welcome, or are resigned to, a decline in the type of cultural homogeneity usually associated with the classic nation-state. The fashionable American conception of multiculturalism emphasizes fluid identities and boundaries. In the Fall 1998 issue of Dissent, Will Kymlicka (“American Multiculturalism in the International Arena”) argues that this American notion does not travel well to countries with large, territorially based “national minorities”—groups that have, usually by conquest, been incorporated against their will into a multinational state. Even the United States, he points out here and in his book Multicultural Citizenship, has national minorities and has acknowledged their limited sovereignty with collective rights unavailable to immigrants—in effect, firming up their identities and boundaries.

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Lima