Research Themes

Challenges to Multiculturalism


Multiculturalism emerged as a concept and policy to accommodate ethnic and religious diversities in societies. In recent years, we are getting a chorus of voices, particularly from Europe, about the failure of multiculturalism. Yet, the reality is more complex and this narrative on the failure or death of multiculturalism is problematic. We live in the age of globalization, and more and more societies are becoming diverse and multi-ethnic because of increased mobility. While diversities should be celebrated, there is also need for societies to have an honest and open discussion on how to manage these diversities so that differences in cultural and religious beliefs can be accommodated while expanding the common space in society. Under this broad ambit of Multiculturalism, the CMM network will explore different sub-themes related to increasing diversities and polarization in societies in Europe and Southeast Asia and how states and governments should be framing the policy debates on pluralism and multiculturalism.

1. Migration and Multiculturalism
The CMM network will address the broad topic of migration which is a major contributor to diverse societies. It will aim to cover the different migrant groups made up of asylum seekers, refugees and economic migrants. It will examine the migration issue from the perspectives of societal and policy responses in EU and ASEAN member states. What are the lessons that can be learnt with regards to the integration of migrants and the management of different aspirations and expressions of identities of different migrant groups. The network will also look into the reasons and factors driving politicians and political leaders to frame migration as a security issue. Further issues to be investigated are racism and the rise of hate crimes against minority groups and/or foreigners. How do the public perceptions differ within nations and between countries? What are the impacts of the different concepts such as assimilation and integration?

2. Cultural Pluralism and Identity Politics
What is cultural pluralism and how is it different from multiculturalism? In Southeast Asia and Europe, cultural accommodation of different forms have allowed different groups to co-exist more or less peacefully. However, the rise of identity politics have threatened to unravel pluralistic societies. What new tools and instruments can be built for pluralistic societies to hold together. The CMM network will investigate and compare how European and Southeast Asian societies manage the rise of identity politics to preserve peace and prosperity.

3. Political Polarisation and Fragmentation
Diverse societies and the varying political responses have contributed to a political and social fragmentation. Therefore, the CMM network aims to shed light on the radicalisation of religious and political groups which is a worldwide phenomenon. The rise of far-right parties is just one of the many examples. Related to this would be issues around religious fundamentalism, politicisation of religion and an increased terror threat in Southeast Asia and Europe. Analysing this area will also raise questions of the implications on liberty and security related issues especially in the light of terrorism.

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