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This week’s front page editor


Adam Bychawski is an editorial assistant at openDemocracy.

Constitutional conventions: best practice

What does multiculturalism mean? We encounter difference every day, from big ideas to our choice of socks. The Strange career of multiculturalism charts the evolution, use and abuse of multiculturalism in theory, culture and politics. At the border takes encounters with difference close-up, with stories of the difficult and unexpected, and Untranslatable words explores worlds within words that do not translate into English.

Play your part in shaping the debate, by giving a glimpse of life on your street, and joining the discussions.

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This debate is a co-production between openDemocracy and Counterpoint, the cultural relations think-tank of the British Council.

The individualisation of radical Islam in Britain

Presenting “British values” as the antidote to Islamic fundamentalism misunderstands the process of radicalisation and what should be done to stem it.

Migration and craft: reimagining the city

Through creative social enterprise, migrant and refugee women in Britain's second largest city have found a way to celebrate diversity and speak above and beyond the 'hostile' headlines, says Emma Daker.

The missing migration component of Turkey-Africa relations

Turkey needs to come to terms with the immigration responsibilities that come with increased trade links with Africa.

Becoming Pakistani

As a small child, Maruf Khwaja’s life was transformed by the carving of his mother country into two nations, India and Pakistan. He recalls a time of terror, and a journey to survival.

(This article was first published on 19 August 2004)

Multiculturalism at work

London is often hailed as a true multicultural city, where global citizens thrive, travel and work side by side. But in the shadows of this multi-coloured carnival lurks a cast-iron ethnic division of labour.

Diversity in question

2005 has been a bad year for multiculturalism. Does it need to be reformed or replaced? Reena Bhavnani, Max Farrar, Judith Squires, and Sami Zubaida joined an openDemocracy / Open University panel to discuss living with difference. Sarah Lindon summarises a rich discussion which you can watch by webcast.

'They do not vilify our ideas, they vilify us' : a reply to Salman Rushdie

The right to blasphemy is not the right to religious hate. Shakira Hussein draws on her own multi-religious background to challenge her childhood hero, Salman Rushdie.

The many cities of Buenos Aires

Mariano Aguirre, revisiting his native Argentina after thirty years' absence, discovers a capital city trapped in the contradictions of globalisation.  

Turkey and Shakespeare

From the late Ottoman era to the modern republic, Turks have found their passions, longings and even their politics mirrored in the work of England’s greatest playwright. Gönül Bakay tracks an enduring friendship.

Multiculturalism in medieval Islam

Islam, so often seen as the west’s “other” and depicted as a monocultural and intolerant religion, itself has centuries of experience of hosting and regulating a diverse cultural mosaic. Nushin Arbabzadah gazes through history’s mirror.

Selecta at the door

On the door of SO36 in Berlin, the intricacies of managing diversity and creating spaces of freedom are all in a night’s work. Kira Kosnick explores getting the mix right at Gayhane HomOriental Clubnights.


Being “tubli” in a “tubli” country is not as easy as it sounds. Ülle Allsalu on small beginnings and high expectations in Estonia.

After tolerance

The murder of filmmaker Theo van Gogh has left the Netherlands in turmoil and its reputation for tolerance in tatters. What does the second political murder in thirty months mean for the Dutch multiculturalist model? The strategist and author Theo Veenkamp looks back and thinks forward.


Serbs’ history has taught them stubbornness in the face of the world – and even of their own best interests.

America underneath New York

In the New York subway, Mariano Aguirre sees into the divided, lonely heart of America – but glimpses fertile seeds in the post-election landscape.

India's model: faith, secularism and democracy

Western variants of multiculturalism and secularism are being challenged by religious demands for public recognition of faith. Instead of reinventing the wheel, the world should learn from India, says Rajeev Bhargava.

Divided city: the crisis of London

The contemporary city, London especially, was supposed to be the model for the workable, cosmopolitan multicultural future. But neo–liberal globalisation and its disastrous consequences are reproducing in the city the growing inequalities of the world, argues the foremost analyst of multiculture.

In an article written in 2000 I posed what I called ‘the Multicultural question’.


The clandestine culture of illegal homosexuality in Britain generated a creative linguistic response. Tom Wicker traces a hidden history.

Mapping London's multiculture

Sarah Lindon reports on openDemocracy’s event in September, exploring how London's diversity can contribute to an understanding of multiculture

Canada: multiculturalism's broken home

An immigrant to Canada traces official multiculturalism’s origins and finds an idea that is dead from the roots.


The Poles perfected the art of survival under communism, and reinvented their language in the process; but at what cost to their soul?

New Labour, new assimilationism

The current of anxiety among Britain’s centre–left establishment about race, diversity and national unity reflects a shift away from the post–1960s multicultural model. But is the recent demand for members of minority communities to “assimilate” based on reason or prejudice? And is the most visible signifier of diversity, Islam, the new black?


Ratchada Chitrada considers being considerate in Thai

Beyond the multicultural ghetto

Multiculturalism distorts the past, deforms the present, and diminishes the future. The best of America, says Ali Hossaini, shows the world a better route to a free, unified society: its name is assimilation.

Race in the anti-society

The American high–security prison is a primitive and violent world that encourages a retreat to racial bonding as one of the few guarantees of security. At the borders of white, Hispanic and black gang affiliation, between a criminal past and the hope of a future on the outside, long–term inmate Michael Santos takes us inside a multicultural battleground.

The space of multiculturalism

Is multiculturalism a description of the existing world or a bridge to a better one? David Theo Goldberg, one of the foremost thinkers on issues of race, examines how ideas of nation, purity, and power are being challenged by new spatial understandings of the multicultural city.

Black: theatres of African American memory

The many streams of one great river, African American experience, are retrieved and reimagined in the work of the historian and photographer Deborah Willis.

The man with odd socks

The population in and around New Haven includes chickens, suburban neighbours and Yale students. Vron Ware observes how people's movements through the city reflect American patterns of social segregation and fear of difference

Multiculturalism or anti-racism?

The multiculturalist model that elevates difference to a social principle is under attack. People committed to creating a world of justice and equal rights should not waste time defending it, says Alana Lentin.

From multiculturalism to where?

The concept of multiculturalism, and the policies that stem from it, have played an important role in displacing the imperial ideal of assimilation, but in its fatal linkage with hard notions of ethnicity it is deeply conservative and increasingly obsolete. The challenge now is to develop a “post-hybridity” politics based on common human nature.

Melancholia and multiculture

In the first of a series tracing “the strange career of multiculturalism”, Paul Gilroy – leading thinker on race and racism, and currently chair of African American studies at Yale University – surveys the current debate in Britain, and calls for an end to its entrapment by “the problem of assimilation”.

Contemporary discussions of multiculturalism, such as the recent debate in Britain triggered by editor of Prospect magazine David Goodhart, have been horribly disto

Israel and me: enigmas of departure

Elia Zureik – born Palestine, left Israel, lives Canada – is stopped in transit through Tel Aviv airport, and under the interrogator’s gaze discovers how deep and complex is the Israeli state’s ambition to define him.


Welsh poet Menna Elfyn looks through “glas”.

Untranslatable words

There are worlds within words. Welsh, Japanese, Hungarian, Albanian, Persian – each language contains a unique inner life: histories, pleasures, sensibilities, associations, literatures. In this series, people explore the imaginative life of words written on their tongue.

Translating difference: a debate about multiculturalism

Why “multiculturalism”? Why now? The British Council’s Martin Rose and openDemocracy’s Caspar Melville introduce a debate whose global character and focus on human experience connect it to the world’s conflicting passions.

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