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The 3rd of ESREA Network On Migration, Ethnicity, Racism and Xenophobia

“Multiculturalism” today: aspirations, realities and crisis debates

13th – 15th May 2014




ESREA 2014 Conference Schedule

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Conference theme and the announcement

The 3rd conference of the ESREA Migration, Ethnicity, Racism and Xenophobia Network

“Multiculturalism” today: aspirations, realities and crisis debates

Faculty of Education, University of Lower Silesia, Wrocław, Poland

13th –15th  May 2014


The current debates and concerns across Europe about multiculturalism are of particular relevance to adult educators and raise significant challenges. Posing questions concerning the current state of affairs requires consideration of a number of dimensions.


Firstly, there is an objective fact of coexistence or mere contact between people from diverse countries, regions, ethnicities, cultural/religious traditions. This results from transnational migrations structured by core–periphery relations, reflecting the logic of neoliberal global economy and politics, dynamics of social inequalities, polarization and tensions, transnational flows of information and ideas, as well as cultural hybridization. These continue to follow patterns of Western/Northern hegemony rather than offer more balanced and egalitarian multidirectional cultural exchange.


Secondly, there is the question of how this coexistence-in-difference is organized through legal-institutional or policy means and how is it perceived, imagined, solidified and reproduced through education, media discourses and narratives in popular culture. Of equal importance seems the matter of how difference is practiced in less institutionalized daily contacts, such as community/neighbourhood relations, inter/intra-family experiences and personal interactions.


Thirdly, there remains the issue of more systematic theoretical reflection on the very notion of multiculturalism and assessment of its usefulness to grasp these realities and provide viable descriptions, interpretations and explications of the contemporary processes. In this context, one cannot ignore voices, which by now have formed a discourse on the “crisis of multiculturalism.” This seemingly “critical” perspective has continued to gain certain media attention and academic prominence in discussions on immigration, integration and cultural diversity, on both left and right of the political spectrum, particularly in the aftermath of terrorist murders in Norway of July 2011, although in some countries the “crisis of multiculturalism” discourse was present long before those events. At the same time the semantics of “multiculturalism” seems to fit interests of some players in neoliberal capitalism: “cultural diversity” can be commodified or used in corporate public relations strategies, while it may also serve well to cover structural socioeconomic problems linked to exploitation and deteriorating conditions of labour, class inequalities and poverty.


The fourth aspect concerns reflection on practical challenges related to the recent growth in social and political tendencies closely related to this anti-multicultural backlash. Today critiques of multiculturalism often serve as a pretext for promoting authoritarian policies, violating human rights, disseminating new (or not so new) racist and xenophobic imagery in concealed forms that have replaced “race” with “culture” or “civilization,” and shifted from the “race supremacy” calls towards postulates based on alternative: either assimilation to dominant standards of “majority” or “separation of cultures” understood as their confinement in “natural boundaries.” Among examples in contemporary Europe we may mention wide-spread Islamophobia, intensification of anti-Semitic tendencies, campaigns against immigrants as well as anti-Roma policies and violence in some countries. These tendencies interplay with ambivalent attitudes towards other issues, such as women’s rights or emancipation of sexual minorities. The ever stronger presence of neo-Fascist parties all over Europe, from Greece to Scandinavia, with international links in other countries, pose a challenge to procedures and institutions of liberal democracy as well as to organizations and movements focused on human rights, tolerance and egalitarian developments towards society free of racism and other forms of chauvinism. As repressive immigration policies continue on local, state-national and international or transnational (especially the European Union) levels, anti-multicultural backlash finds home among not only parties and movements of the populist far right, but also among some centre-liberal or left-leaning political circles and sectors of public opinion.


The purpose of the third conference of ESREA Migration, Ethnicity, Racism and Xenophobia Network is to examine the above issues with special focus on, but not limited to, the role of adult learning and education. We welcome academics, educators, civil society activists and others concerned with multiculturalism both as an aspect of contemporary globalized human condition as well as a discursive field. Scholarly research and theoretical reflections are invited from a range of areas including: media and politics, community and family, educational institutions and civil society groups and organizations countering racism and working towards integration, dialogue and social justice.We welcome papers approaching these issues from perspectives of theoretical debates, field research, teaching/learning experiences and other kinds of reflection and practice whether on local or national or transnational levels. We intend to pose questions around how this multicultural condition can be best understood, practiced and developed; what are the opportunities and aspirations, as well as the failures, dangers and traps in various ways of thinking on the subject and practice within this area; how various categories, such as gender, class, ethnicity, nationality, legal  status, age, sexuality etc. intersect in discourses and debates on multiculturalism; how identity, difference and conflict can be best grasped to develop reliable ways of understanding the changing conditions and envision a more inclusive future for all.

Conference venue

The conference will take place at University of Lower Silesia, Wrocław, Poland

which is located at Strzegomska 55 Street.  More information is available here

City map of Wroclaw (ULS Campus)