This international and interdisciplinary conference concludes the year-long research group "E Pluribus Unum?: Ethnic Identities in Transnational Integration Processes in the Americas," while also serving as the founding meeting of an international network of Inter-American Studies. Conducted in English and Spanish, the conference will critically examine the concept of "multiculturalism" as a social, political, and cultural paradigm in the Americas today and explore current developments that go beyond multicultural approaches.
Multiculturalism has shaped identity politics in the Americas over the past decades, as illustrated by politics of recognition, affirmative action, and increasing numbers of internationally recognized cultural productions by members of ethnic minorities. Multiculturalism has also served as a driving force behind social movements in the Americas.
But multiculturalism is not uncontested. For example, Barack Obama did not run for president on a platform of ethnic recognition in a system of affirmative action but as a cosmopolitan, un-raced intellectual. At the same time, Ecuador's indigenous movement canceled a broad multicultural development program and now supports president Rafael Correa's project of national integration.
And what comes after multiculturalism? Some observers expect – in the heyday of transnationalization processes – a global cultural homogenization. Also, current cosmopolitanism may be seen as the expression of a post-essentialist approach to cultural convergence. Other approaches highlight the dimension of mixture and promote concepts like hybridization, transculturation, creolization, and a relational perspective on cross-cultural exchange. Still others foreground isolated and rivaling (local, ethnic, linguistic, religious, etc.) group identities. Instead of integration and mutual recognition according to the motto “e pluribus unum,” they highlight conflicting parallel societies, ghettoization, and inter-communal conflicts.
In exploring the manifold dimensions of these issues in the context of the Americas we will focus on three main areas:
Politics of Multiculturalism
- How do national politics and international organizations use cultural identity in dealing with ethniziced populations (in terms of self-government, cultural citizenship, multicultural recognition etc.)?
- How do multicultural policies address questions of redistribution vis à vis an increasing socio-economic impoverishment of many ethnic communities in the Americas?
- How are changing notions of ethnicity and multiculturalism influencing political campaigns, the role of public intellectuals, or social movements?
- How do literature, film, art, music, and the media engage in discussions of (post-)multiculturalism, cultural hybridity, belonging, and inter-cultural conflict in the Americas?
- In what ways (and for what reasons) do concepts of "multiculturalism," "cultural difference," and "hybridity" have divergent meanings and connotations in different parts of the Americas?
- Have postcolonial and ethnic cultural production become a commodity in the cultural markets, and if so, what are the consequences?
- How do individuals and groups accommodate a multiplicity of identity markers in their everyday lives in terms of language use, gender, class, age, political leaning?
- How is multiculturalism experienced and performed in everyday life and how are state policies and strategies “from above” translated into the life worlds and tactics “from below”?
- How do multicultural life worlds change due to the emergence of diasporas, transnational social spaces, and cosmopolitan global cities?
The conference will take place at the Center for Interdisciplinary Research at Bielefeld University, from 22-25 July 2009.
Please send paper titles and abstracts (100-300 words) for a 30-minute presentation in English or Spanish to firstname.lastname@example.org by January 15, 2009.
Conference participants may apply for partial funding of travel and accommodation expenses.
Dr. Olaf Kaltmeier, Bielefeld University
Prof. Dr. Josef Raab, University of Duisburg-Essen
Junior Prof. Dr. Sebastian Thies, Bielefeld University
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