The relationship between national identity and hybrid identities facilitated by migration in western multicultural societies

Term Paper 2008 8 Pages

Politics - International Politics - Topic: Globalization, Political Economics


1. Introduction

Nowadays it is easy and cheap for Europeans to travel around the world and even to migrate to a new country. On these trips we can gather a lot of experiences and impressions from different cultures which can have an impact on our identities and values. But we don't need to travel far away to recognize that moving and migrating is possible and happening. Especially our western multicultural societies are attracting people from all over the world to work and live here. These migrants also gather experiences and maybe shift their values and build up a hybrid identity. But not all people want to give up their identity. They want to stay in line with the values of their home country. The question is, whether a hybrid identity can also be a national one, or if a conflict is unavoidable.

In this paper I will argue, that there are tensions between the two types of identities. To show this, I will first explain multiculturalism and hybrid identities. By introducing nationalism and accordingly national identities in the second paragraph I will explain the points of conflict between the concepts. At the end there is a conclusion.

2. Multiculturalism and Hybrid Identities

Hybrid identities have a strong connection to multiculturalism, because both take place and are rooted in societies that amongst others consist of different cultural groups like migrants. Joppke and Lukes define multiculturalism as “(...) a critique of Western universalism and liberalism, with affinities to post-structuralism and communitarianism. Ontologically, it posits the group over the individual.”(Joppke, 1999, p. 5). Multiculturalism is against dominant cultural groups and wants to expose the artificial universalism of this groups. Instead, the oppressed groups should become more important.

In often polemical debates it is said, that multiculturalism attacks the maxims of liberalism, like universalism, nationhood, citizenship and individual rights. By analyzing the work of some scholars we will see if this is true. The term multiculturalism first appeared in the 1970s in Canada and Australia. These countries were thinking of themselves as “multiple cultures coexisting under the roof of a neutral state.” (Joppke, 1999, p. 3) This was the case, according to Joppke and Lukes, because they have no history of “independent nation-founding” and no breaks with their colonial past. However, in the USA, the “(...) strong sense of political nationhood and centripetal melting-pot ideology could only clash with multiculturalism's ethnicizing and centrifugal thrust.” (Joppke, 1999, p. 3).

Multiculturalism refers to multiple cultures, not to a single one. But an explicit culture is one in the singular. It is as a product of symbols. However, multiculturalism is pluralistic, relativistic, anti-élitist and comprehensive regarding cultures. It accompanies many approaches and values under one roof. (Joppke, 1999, p. 3).

Joppke and Lukes introduce two kinds of kinds of multiculturalism, which are opposites: “Hodgepodge” is “(...) the intermingling and fusion of cultures, even within the same individual (...)” while “(...) mosaic is about the coexistence of distinct cultures held by separate groups.” (Joppke, 1999, p. 3). In the mosaic the individual is only connected to the larger society and the state, through a membership in a cultural group. Accordingly there is a disuniting social fragmentation of national societies (Joppke, 1999, p. 8). It redirects loyalties from nation to cultural groups, while not providing an organizational alternative. Kymlicka argues in favor of mosaic multiculturalism as a supplementary, not an opposite to citizenship. He says, that states promote some culture identities and disadvantages others. He claims, that “individuals, however need stable cultural identities in order to make meaningful choices.” (Joppke, 1999, p. 9). The problem is, that cultures without a territory, like gays, lesbians and even migrants, have no room in the kind of mosaic Kymlicka describes (Joppke, 1999, p. 9). Furthermore, the homogeneous cultures that individuals need to make good choices, do not exist (Joppke, 1999, p. 10). Accordingly “mosaic multiculturalism, which equates culture with territory, is a wholly inaccurate account of and inappropriate response to this mixed-up world.”(Joppke, 1999, p. 9).

Hodgepodge is the “cosmopolitan alternative” and says, that people need “culture” and “community” to make meaningful choices. Hodgepodge has the advantage that it is taking culture at it is: “always in flux, impure, and hybrid.” (Joppke, 1999, p. 9). There is no need to have a homogeneous culture, because “Meaningful options may come to us as items or fragments from a variety of cultural sources.” (Joppke, 1999, p. 9). Hodgepodge is more an aesthetic phenomenon describing the “real-life”, rather than state politics. But to get rights and benefits from the state it has to be an identifiable group, like the ones in mosaic multiculturalism.

(Joppke, 1999, p. 11)





Title: The relationship between national identity and hybrid identities facilitated by migration in western multicultural societies