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15. 12. 05
Ash Amin

Multiethnicity and the Idea of Europe

The idea of a shared European identity and belonging based on common origin and shared universal values have been part of European history since long. More recently this Idea of Europe is commonly reinvigorated as the indispensable foundation for the recent economic and political integration of European states. Such European unity is constituted around shared and mobilising cultural commons that arose from four universal virtues, the main pillars of European cultural development. However, the paper argues that the Idea of Europe woven around such unifying Euro-centric cultural heritage is inappropriate in an increasingly multicultural and multiethnic Europe. A sizable portion of the European population comes from non-European background, whose world views, multiple belongings and loyalties question the legitimacy of these unifying claims. Moreover, it also fails to mobilize loyalty within the majority population, who also become affected by an increasingly multicultural environment. In a world that is constantly in flux and where the old certainties of belonging disappear, more and more strive for security and simplicity. Difference and distinction are emphasized, while grand unifying projects appear less relevant. A defensive attitude to change and an intolerance to difference similarly arise as the apparent result of such fluidity and insecurity. In the paper an alternative Idea of Europe is suggested that works with the principles of hospitality and mutuality, through which an idea of Europe can be constructed dialogically and mutually on the basis of two-way empathy/engagement with the strangers. This would first and above require the abandonment of pre-given identities. Second, practical steps are needed in the European level such as the extension of universal rights and welfare assistance to the whole European population, that is on the basis of residence rather than on citizenship.

Amin, Professor Ash (2004) Multiethnicity and the idea of Europe. Theory, Culture and Society 21(2):1-24.

This article was originally published in Theory, Culture and Society by Sage Publications Ltd., all rights reserved © Theory, Culture & Society Ltd, 2004).

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