Against Multiculturalism

The rise of illiberal national populist movements across Europe somehow find commonality, while at the same time being rooted in sentiments of superiority. Whether that superiority derives from an identity connected to Europe or an identity that differentiates itself from all other cultures, it inherently relies on the “othering” of perceived differences. The works of Dan Stone and Nilüfer Göle grappled with this very idea. They approached the topic from different angles, as Stone dealt with ‘collective memory,’ while Göle examined ‘chronotope’s’ in order to explain how perceptions of past events have the ability to influence present and future realities. They did so in through analyzing the treatment of Muslims in Europe. These two differing approaches are in fact quite complementary, and will be examined in greater detail to display their similarities.

Stone compared Europe’s experience with the Holocaust to the ongoing migrant crisis, and pointed to the differing national ‘collective memories’ to display the varying degrees of treatment that migrants experience across Europe. He articulated that the differing degrees of reception to migrants is possibly ingrained in the treatment of how each nation dealt with its past connections with fascism in the twentieth century. The more a nation has come to terms with its involvement, the more receptive they might be. However, for nations that have not done so, the Holocaust is only viewed as the defeat of the Nazi’s, and has neglected to reconcile their own involvement or complacency. While it is fair to criticize the differences between the two events, the risk is to yet again become complacent in responding to a true tragedy.

Unlike Stone, Göle focused on how events that occurred at the same time and space can be perceived entirely different through the use of ‘chronotopes.’ These chronotopes are socially constructed, and can be both complementary as well as contradictory. When they transcend cultural divides, they often oppose one another. She utilized the examples of laws against burka’s and Europe’s experience with Turkey to convey her point. For Europeans, burkas are frequently viewed as oppressive against women, however the very fact the Muslim woman were empowered to have the choice in these nations made the selection all the more powerful. Nonetheless, because these chronotopes interact in a social setting, nations such as France have placed a ban on face-covering veils. As for Turkey, it exemplified an Islamic nation that has been part of Europe’s history and adheres to its values, yet has been hotly contested when considering its entry into the European Union.

These two works display how differing interpretations of shared historical events give life to present day issues. The migrant crisis has undoubtably strained what constitutes not only European identity, but also national identities across Europe. The new illiberal national populist movements are relying on the ‘othering’ of Islam, along with other factors, in order to legitimize their very being. However, it is entirely possible that these issues derive from how these nations are treating their past.

One Reply to “Against Multiculturalism”

  1. This is a nice unpacking of Stone and Göle’s works. Putting the source in conversation with each other more could enrich your analysis here.

    The notion of confronting the past pushes the public consciousness into a space that is often uncomfortable to confront as it forces open ‘old wounds’ but more importantly it forces individuals to reconsider their positionality in context of the past. You have picked up on this second point in relation to the holocaust, expanding on your thoughts in this area and putting that in conversation with the fascist themes discussed in class i.e., fascisms sentiments and origins, would provide for a rich analysis.

    The chronotopes Göle wrote about offer a tool to reconfigure the past into an artificially different time and space, in addition to what you have indicated. history and memory then are an integral part of chronotopes and makes for an interesting discussion about our role as historians.

    In discussing migrants you wrote that “The more a nation has come to terms with its involvement, the more receptive they might be,” that is a very interesting sentiment that you may want to consider in relation to Gloria Wekker’s work on Zwarte Piet/Black Pete. Confronting of the past in this domain undermines the established order and forces a re-remembering to the past that may no longer favour the ‘proper’ populations.

    Thank you for your contribution.

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