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The focus of the volume is multiculturalism’s evolution on both sides of the Atlantic after the events of 9/11.This is important since political theorists involved in discussions of multiculturalism so far have tended to ignore the role of 9/11 and have studied it as uninterrupted.However, it seems that he misses the point when he argues for a “heroic representation that encourages cross-racial, cross-gendered and collective action” (102) since such a representation would still legitimize the so-called war on terror.
What the essays in this section reveal as a whole is how multiculturalism has been discredited to a lesser or greater extend after the events of 9/11, or rather after these events were usurped by right-wing ploys in an attempt to unite the nation against a so-called common enemy.
The four articles in the last section of the book open up, as its title very successfully suggests, transatlantic dialogues as they discuss the fate of multiculturalism on both sides of the Atlantic after 9/11.
However, the fact that multiculturalism, to use the editors’ words, “became enlisted in the political and academic discourses about the presence of Muslims within western societies” (“Introduction” 8) explains why the events of 9/11 are directly related to the changing nature of multiculturalist debates in these societies.
As the editors also admit, multiculturalism has always been a contested term but became even more contested after 9/11 especially in Europe where its effectiveness was compromised by the rising of nationalism as a reaction to the prospect of “Eurabia.” The volume is divided into three sections moving from a discussion of theoretical aspects of transatlantic multiculturalism in the first section to an examination of the impact of 9/11 on American multiculturalism in the second and on both American and European multiculturalism in the third section.
As he predicts, the next two decades will witness unprecedented minority mobility as social boundaries will weaken due to demographic changes.
Finally, Ed Jonker’s article provides a useful genealogy of debates relating to theories of social and cultural identity arguing that 9/11 has not essentially changed the framework of multicultural discourses.The prohibition of the islamic burqa in European countries can be seen as a symptom of a return to nationalism, in itself a reaction to the growing fear of a possible Muslim increase exacerbated after 9/11 in America, the Fortuyn and Van Gogh murders in Netherlands and the terrorist attacks in Spain and England.Thus, despite the undeniable progress that multiculturalists have made in both Europe and America in our days events like 9/11 –or at least the manipulation of them by conservative politics– undermine multicultural efforts for coexistence and foster instead assimilation and monoculturalism.Connor becomes more caustic in his exposure of right-wing policies that tried to cover up Pat Tillman’s death in Iraq in order to present it as a heroic sacrifice that would legitimate the war on terror.The exclusion from the sacrifice discourse of people of color and of poor people at home that suffer due to the money allocated to the war is for Connor problematic.There are two different models of multiculturalism at play in the two continents, says Patrick Hyder Patterson.Obviously in favor of the American model in its approach of religious pluralism which ensues from a clear-cut distinction between church and state, Patterson prophetically says that after 9/11 even in Europe “some are considering the possible benefits of disengaging the state from religion” (160).The politicization of 9/11 is once again evident in the next essay by Mathilde Roza who discusses Baraka’s controversial poem “Somebody Blew Up America” as an example of the racial divisions that sprung up despite the attempt to present America as a unitary whole against terrorism.According to Roza, the “United We Stand,” national moto was but a façade that suppressed the divisions and differences of the nation, revealing at the same time how the 9/11 attack inflicted a major trauma not only on people’s psyche but also on the definition of the nation and on multiculturalism in the long run.Lauter’s article is not randomly placed first, for it essentially sets the ground for some of the questions and concerns voiced in the rest of the book.Indeed, Richard Alba’s essay that follows focuses on issues of immigration and assimilation by examining the incorporation of immigrant groups in the US, France and Germany in order to prove how multiculturalism was not essentially affected in America in contrast to European societies.