This Handbook seeks to inform and educate youth, to help them understand diversity and talk about it using a common set of terms.
At a time of financial and economic crisis in Europe and elsewhere, students may feel the stress of their parents coupled with rising economic and social insecurity. For many there is also a sense of powerlessness and of things being ‘out of control’ – the financial markets seem more powerful than national governments, the welfare state seems at risk, many people wonder whether they will ever get a pension, others are unemployed. On top of these anxieties there is also a fear that ‘unwanted’ migration or minorities place additional strains on the system. Such anxieties are not new however.
Europe has experienced increasing tensions between national majorities and ethnic or religious minorities, more particularly with marginalised Muslim communities during the last decade. Such conflicts have included the violence in northern England between native British and Asian Muslim youth (2001); the civil unrest amongst France’s disadvantaged youth of immigrant origin (2005); and the Danish cartoon crisis in the same year following the publication of pictures of the prophet Muhammad. Muslim communities have also come under intense scrutiny in the wake of the terrorist events in the United States (2001), Spain (2004) and Britain (2005), and there is growing scepticism amongst European governments with regard to the possible accession of Turkey into the EU, a country which is socio-culturally and religiously different from the present EU-27. Tensions are also exemplified in local mosque building controversies in Italy, Greece, Germany or France in the minaret building controversy in Switzerland (2009) and the ban of the full veil (the burqa) in Belgium and France most recently implemented as of 2011.
During this first decade of the 21st century, politicians and academics have been intensively debating the reasons underlying such tensions and what should be done to enhance societal cohesion in European societies. The question that is being posed (sometimes in more and others in less politically correct terms) is: What kind of cultural diversity can be accommodated within liberal and secular democracies and how? A number of thinkers and politicians have advanced the claim that it is almost impossible to accommodate certain minority groups - notably Muslims or the Roma - in European countries, asserting that their cultural traditions and religious faith are incompatible with secular democratic governance. Others have argued that Muslims can be accommodated in the socio-political order of European societies provided they adhere to a set of civic values that lie at the heart of European democratic traditions and that reflect the secular nature of society and politics in Europe.
At the turn of the decade, the summer 2011 massacre in Norway and the racially motivated killings in the city of Florence, Italy in December 2011 are a shocking indication of how desperately fearful some people are of social change.
This Handbook seeks to inform and educate youth, to help them understand diversity and talk about it using a common set of terms. It aims to give young people the tools to resolve dilemmas that they may face in their everyday lives and in the future.
Geared toward teacher-trainers, this Handbook is intended primarily for use in programmes that prepare teachers to serve in high schools in Europe. While it could be beneficial for teachers of any subject, the Handbook may be most useful to those who are preparing to deliver courses on European civics and citizenship education. The Handbook’s targeted readers are high school students and undergraduate University students between 17 and 23 years of age.
The main purpose of this Handbook is to clarify terms commonly used to talk about diversity. Many terms (such as nationality, national identity or citizenship) have different meanings in different languages, and people regularly talk about them without knowing exactly what they mean. Does nation, for example, refer to the citizens of a given country or only to those who are of the same national origin? Does race refer to the colour of one’s skin or some other physical trait? Or does it refer to a whole set of supposed psychological or mental traits (e.g. ‘Indians are clever,’ ‘Black people are good at sports’, ‘The Japanese are shy’)? Race is often confused with religion, and members of certain religious faiths are frequently characterized as stereotypes (e.g. ‘Muslims are cunning’, ‘Jews are stingy’). Indeed, many of these terms are closely linked to negative stereotypes of minority groups. Some concepts such as integration, multiculturalism and intercultural dialogue are contested, and there is little agreement on what they stand for and how they relate to one another. This Handbook’s first objective, then, is to define these terms and, by doing so, to give adolescents the tools needed to better understand the reality that surrounds them.
Secondly, the Handbook introduces the concepts and phenomena underpinning fear of diversity. It seeks to help adolescents understand the nature of negative behaviours towards diversity, enabling them to distinguish between beliefs and actions that are xenophobic and those that are genuinely racist. By clarifying such terms and giving appropriate examples, the book tries to foster an understanding of why xenophobia, racism and prejudice have more to do with our own fears rather than the differences of others. Finally, the Handbook proposes answers to the challenges of ethnic and religious diversity in everyday life. Terms like integration are often employed to describe very different things, thus resulting in confusion. Integration may mean finding a job (integrating in the labour market), going to school, learning the language of a country, adopting a certain lifestyle or a code of dress (social integration), or indeed voting in elections (political integration). The meaning of the term often gets confused, as some people use it to argue that minorities and immigrants should completely mould into the way of life of the majority.
Others understand integration to mean that people should adapt to their new environment without giving up their own language or traditions. Taken as a whole, this Handbook seeks both to clarify important terms associated with its subject matter and to clearly articulate the principles that should guide democratic life in European societies.
Drawing on examples of conflicts, dilemmas and solutions from different European countries, it provides insights into religious and ethnic diversity at school, at work and in public spaces. Seeking to help students grasp the terms and definitions in the context of real life problems, we hope the Handbook will prove helpful in preparing youth to be the European citizens of tomorrow.
This Handbook was prepared under the auspices of the ACCEPT PLURALISM research project ‘Tolerance, Pluralism and Social Cohesion: Responding to the Challenges of the 21st Century in Europe’ funded by the European Commission, DG Research and Innovation, Seventh Framework Programme, Socio-Economic Sciences and Humanities (grant no. 243837). The examples from the specific countries cited in this Handbook were selected from a wider set of diversity challenges and good practice examples sent in by the ACCEPT PLURALISM project partners. Although all examples were interesting, only some could be inserted in the text. I would like to sincerely thank all partners for their contribution to the Handbook. A special thanks goes to two people without whom this Handbook would not have taken its present form: journalist Terry Martin for carefully editing the original text and making it accessible to a wider non-academic public, and graphic artist Nina Papaioannou for her patience and ideas in creating and revising the layout several times! I would also like to thank Hara Kouki for her assistance in identifying the sources of the selected photos and for sending in more ideas on how to illustrate the Handbook and Louisa Anastopoulou, scientific officer at the European Commission, DG research, responsible for the ACCEPT PLURALISM project for valuable input on earlier versions of the text. Naturally all errors and omissions are my responsibility. Florence, 23 February 2012
Anna Triandafyllidou, European University Institute
2012/02. 2. Concepts and Theories. Handbook
European University Institute, Florence
Robert Schuman Centre For Advanced Studies
ACCEPT PLURALISM Research Project, Tolerance, Pluralism and Social Cohesion: Responding to the Challenges of the 21st Century in Europe
European Commission, DG Research, Seventh Framework Programme, Social Sciences and Humanities grant agreement no. 243837
Available from the EUI institutional repository CADMUS
Scientific Coordinator of the ACCEPT PLURALISM Research Project
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