Realities, Discourses, Practices

by Augie Fleras (Author)
©2019 Monographs XVI, 310 Pages


Postmulticulturalism: Realities, Discourses, Practices looks to analyze and assess the current salience and future prospects of Canada’s official multiculturalism by recasting the understanding of its past, present, and future through the prism of a postmulticulturalism lens. This book begins with the observation of a messy postmulticultural world of transnationality, cosmopolitanism, postethnicity, and multiversality, rather than an ordered multicultural world of homogeneity, centrality, and clarity. However durable and popular as a diversity governance model, Canada’s official multiculturalism is no longer theoretically attuned to the realities and demands of this rapidly changing, deeply networked, and diversely complex era. In what is arguably the first book on postmulticulturalism as diversity governance, Postmulticulturalism proposes a new governance mindset that conceptually engages the principles and dynamics of a postmulticultural world as a discursive framework for living together with/in/through a complexity of differences. This book also contends that any move beyond multiculturalism as diversity governance is not about rejection or retreat, but more accurately it’s about building on its positives while moving positively forward in ways theoretically aligned to 21st-century challenges.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • List of Tables
  • Preface
  • Part One: Diversity Governances in Disarray
  • Chapter One: Postmulticulturalism: A Governance Mindset Whose Time Has Come
  • Part Two: Canada’s Official Multiculturalism: Integrating Migrants, Accommodating Minorities
  • Chapter Two: Multiculturalism as Diversity Governance: Theoretical Perspectives, Global Expressions
  • Chapter Three: Theorizing Canada’s Official Multiculturalism
  • Chapter Four: Multiculturalism in Crisis, the Failure of Multiculturalism? A Transatlantic Divide
  • Part Three: Beyond Multiculturalism, Toward Postmulticulturalism
  • Chapter Five: An Emergent Postmulticultural World of Complex Diversities
  • Chapter Six: Conceptualizing Postmulticulturalism: A Governance Mindset
  • Chapter Seven: Interculturalism as Postmulticultural Governance
  • Chapter Eight: Accommodating Religious Diversity in a Postmulticultural Canada
  • Part Four: Rethinking Multicultural Governance in a Postnational Canada
  • Chapter Nine: Postmulticulturalism in a Postnational Canada
  • Index

| vii →


Table 2.1. Multicultural Models of Diversity Governance.

Table 4.1. Deconstructing the Dimensions of Canada’s Multiculturalism Regime.

Table 5.1. Comparing a Multicultural World With a Postmulticultural World.

Table 8.1. Religious Diversities in Canada, 2001 and 2017.

Table 9.1. Diversity Governance Models: Monoculturalism, Multiculturalism, Postmulticulturalism.

Table 9.2. Societal Models and Diversity Governance: National vs. Postnational.

| ix →


That multiculturalism as a diversity governance is increasingly rebuked and widely revoked should come as no surprise. Narratives predicting the end of multiculturalism, or announcing its limits, while speculating on what will replace it, are now routine in academic discussions, political debates, and national imaginaries (Bradley 2013). Reference to a multiculturalism in crisis applies across the board, including its expression in Europe, Australia and, to a lesser extent, Canada (Gozdecka, Ercan and Kmak 2014). As proof, consider the following word association exercise that equates multiculturalism with a host of doomsday scenarios: “death,” “under siege,” “run its course,” “plague,” “exhausted itself,” “serious trouble,” “demise,” “retreat,” “failure,” “failed social experiment,” “erasure,” “backlash,” “beyond rescue,” “radical overhaul,” “profound reconstruction,” “crossroads,” “end,” “burial,” and “limits.” This litany of dismissals and disapprovals is not without consequences. Many believe we no longer live in a multicultural world, if by that we mean a societal mosaic of thick ethnic communities, both bounded and homogeneous as well as deterministic and essentializing. The world we now inhabit resonates with the upendedness of an evolving and contested world of fluidity, multicentricity, and instability, involving a confluence of factors from internal drivers to external dynamics that transform our understanding of reality from a space of places to a network of flows. The centrifugal forces of globalization, transnational mobility patterns, and the internationalization of human rights are eroding ← ix | x → the legitimacy of the nation-state; in turn, the centripetal forces of increasingly complex diversities disrupts the homogenizing gaze of a state-centric multiculturalism (Moon 2010; Ang 2010). The governance of diversity management increasingly resembles a fluid and flexible process, both open ended and complex as well as sharply contested yet uncertain, voluntaristic in commitment rather than imposed from above and enforced from within, and less dogmatic than ever about the placement of boundaries, identity and membership (Hollinger 2005). Of particular note in moving beyond the one-size-fits-all logic of a multicultural regime is the prospect of differently accommodating a diversity of diversities at the level of government policy, institutional adjustment, and peoples’ lived experiences. That a tired and dated multiculturalism is now yielding discursive space to a new governance mindset more theoretically attuned to the complex realities of an evolving postmulticultural world should come as relief. That reaction to a shift of such magnitude encounters resistance or indifference speaks volumes of those polite fictions and uncomfortable truths—not to mention entrenched interests—that refuse to be toppled.

Postmulticulturalism: Realities, Discourses, Practices is themed around the poli-tics and possibilities of living together with/in/through complex diversities in a world of “posts,” “trans,” and “isms.” To one side, it’s generally assumed that we have reached the limits of multiculturalism as diversity governance in addressing the newer challenges and complex demands of a hyperdiverse world. Discomfort is growing over a standard issue multicultural model that emphasizes uniformity at the expense of diversity, a tolerant coexistence instead of cooperative inter-existence, and an inward-looking parochialism over a more global (“cosmopolitan”) outlook. To the other side, many believe we have entered a postmulticultural zone in principle and practices, despite a dearth of agreement over what this means, how it works, or to where it’s going (Bradley 2013; Zapata-Barrero 2017). To the extent that a commitment to postmulticulturalism bridges the domain of a local/national/global nexus—at least in theory if not in practice—the transition from a multicultural world to a postmulticultural world raises a perplexing question. Why do the principles of state-sponsored multiculturalism no longer resonate with the same authority as they once did, even in a Canada that many regard as the planet’s quintessential multicultural regime? A multicultural commitment to accommodating minorities and integrating migrants as diversity management may have once prevailed in bolstering the Canada-building project during its most recent nationalist phase. But an official multiculturalism no longer delivers the diversity governance goods (if it ever did according to Randall Hansen [2017]) in a Canada that claims to be a postnationality in the making. Bluntly put, it’s one thing to be accommodative of minorities under the multicultural umbrella of a national ← x | xi → building enterprise (Kuropjatnik and Kuropjatnik 2017). It’s an entirely different endeavour to constructively engage and differently accommodate the complexity of diversities around the postmulticulturality of a postnational context. Or consider how living together with differences under a multicultural canopy entails one set of outlooks (namely, a passive coexistence). By contrast, living together in and through complex diversities requires a fundamentally different mindset, one that advocates the principle of an active inter-existence (Antonsich 2014). Such an assessment suggests it’s time to move positively beyond a multicultural model as diversity governance, not by rejecting it out of hand, but by folding its positives into a postmulticultural space.

The contents of this book are timely and topical. Reference to postmulticulturalism as governance mindset provides a point of departure for a new analytic framework that informs—and is informed by—the micro-politics of identity and belonging within a changing and contested world, both cosmopolitan and transnational as well as complex and hyperdiverse. Unlike a multicultural world that craves order, stability, and unity, a postmulticultural world reflects a messy and contested reality of unruliness, instability, and inconsistencies. The paradoxes of a postmulticultural world are exposed by the dynamics of such a fluid and contested milieu. Consider how a commitment to the postmulticultural as governance is shaped and constrained by social structure, yet remains a social construct; its endorsement plays a role in reproducing society while simultaneously transforming it, in part by de-stigmatizing ethnicity in defining who gets what; subscribes to the principle of a muscular integration yet concedes the importance of differently accommodating a complexity of intragroup differences; it’s not just additive but reconstitutive of people’s lived experiences; functions as a mode of political indoctrination and ideological practice while contesting relationships of power (see also Puett 2013); and serves as an apparatus of containment and state control (Mitchell 2004) without reneging on its promise as a platform for the historically excluded (Kymlicka 2012). In other words, while many believe the multiculturalism in a postmulticultural world is at a crossroads, it also embodies a crossroad of ideas and ideals that are conflicted, complex, and fraught with ambiguity (Hartmann 2015:624).

In seeking to untangle the politics of diversity governance in a complex, contested, and changing world, this book makes it abundantly clear. We no longer live in a multicultural world of bounded ethnic groups, stuck and static identities, essentializing cultures, and standardized accommodation patterns. Ours increasingly is a postmulticultural world of diverse complexities whose evolving realities, shifting discourse, and emergent practices signal an overhaul in how we think, talk, and engage a complexity of diversities (Kraus 2011). And yet, despite these ← xi | xii → transformational shifts in diversity governance, we neither have the vocabulary nor possess the conceptual tool kit with which to parse these changes. Nowhere is this more evident than in the futility and failure of a state multiculturalism to address the hyperdiversities of a transnational and postmulticultural world (Cantle 2016). The limits of multiculturalism as a national governance model are now widely conceded in a world where the primacy of the nation-state is reeling under pressure because of the global mobilities of money, technology, information, people, and ideas (Ang 2010). Yet a question mark prevails over what should follow as a replacement model (Bradley 2013; Kymlicka, 2010). Reference to postmulticulturalism as interpretative lens, a discursive shift, and a governance mindset points in an innovative direction. It provides a conceptual starting point for rethinking the basis of living together with/in/through diverse complexities, of differently accommodating a multiversal world of minorities-within-minorities, and of negotiating the governance of intra-group differences across an increasingly postnational terrain. A secondary but key argument pivots around the centrality of multiculturalism as a platform for advancing a postmulticultural world. An official multiculturalism may have been right for its time in endorsing a narrative of social harmony, minority rights, and peaceful coexistence. But the homogenizing logic of a state multiculturalism is now dismissed as ill-equipped in micro-engaging the nuances of complex differences, especially since a multiculturalism embedded within the framework of a monocultural state is inherently antithetical to a world of “cultural manyness” (Pinder 2010: 123). Nevertheless, despite its many flaws and foibles, not all is lost. A multicultural attachment to the principles of tolerance, inclusion and equality provides a necessary if insufficient prerequisite for exploring new ways of differently living together.

The central theme of this book is encapsulated around a core question. How should ostensibly neutral governments that commit to the principles of tolerance, inclusion, and equality address the governance of complex diversities and conflicting demands in a messy and changing world of mobilities, connectedness, and contestation (also Karademir 2018)? The assumptions, concepts, and theories that inform a multicultural governance are neither responsive to the complex realities and diverse expectations of a postmulticultural world (a descriptive statement of what is) nor are they conversant with the principles of postmulticulturalism (a normative principle of what should be). And while postmulticulturalism as a governance mindset may mark the onset of a new era in debating diversity, integration, and citizenship (Kuti 2017), there is no dearth of questions to jump-start the discussion about the what, who, why, and how. What is meant by the expression, ‘we no longer live in a multicultural world but a postmulticultural world’? ‘Who says so, and on what grounds’? ‘How do the principles of postmulticulturalism ← xii | xiii → as a governance orientation differ from the logic of monoculturalism and multiculturalism’? ‘Why are multiculturalism and postmulticulturalism as projects and discourses differently expressed in Canada and Europe’? ‘What is the nature of the relationship between postmulticultualism and interculturalism as governance models—complementary or competitive’? A consensus of responses is difficult to come by. Agreement falters over the basics of meaning, characteristics, or worth of a postmulticulturalism, in addition to disagreement over its relevance as a replacement governance model for improving migrant integration and minority accommodation consistent with peoples’ lived realities rather than majoritarian interests (Gozdecka, Ercan, and Kmak 2014; Kymlicka 2015; Mansouri and Muraca 2014). Such a lacunae in our knowledge makes it more imperative than ever to deconstruct the domain of postmulticulturalism (including the prefix “post”) if only to demonstrate its heuristic value as an interpretive lens, explanatory framework, and governance mindset for differently and equitably living together in a shared space.

The content of Postmulticulturalism is organized around the reality of an emergent postmulticultural world with its promise of postmulticulturalism as a conceptually responsive governance model. The book theorizes the concept of postmulticulturalism at different analytical levels—including postmulticulturalism as fact (‘reality’), narrative (‘mindset’ and ‘discourse’), and governance (‘practice’)—without ever taking our eyes off the grand prize: the possibility of a multiculturally inspired postmulticultural Canada as a template for living together differently yet equitably. Such a diversity governance is not only doable and preferable provided, of course, the appropriate arrangements are in place; it’s also a necessity in light of the demands imposed by emergent realities, evolving practices, and shifting discourses. With these caveats and challenges in mind, the book begins by analyzing Canada’s official multiculturalism as a relatively successful if somewhat imperfect governance model, yet one tottering on the precipice of a legitimacy crisis because of a governance logic inconsistent with the realities and demands of a postmulticultural world. The concept of the postmulticulturalism is examined next, both as a discursive framework and interpretive lens that’s more conceptually responsive to the governance of complex diversities. The book proceeds by demonstrating how postmulticulturalism as a governance model and mindset differs in theory and practice from the modalities of monoculturalism and multiculturalism as diversity governances. Attention is drawn to the pending crisis of Canada’s multiculturalism/immigration agenda in response to the dynamics of cosmopolitanism (“universal personhood”), transnationality (“transmigrants”), postnationality (as “notionhood”), multiversality (“multiple universes-within-universes”) and inclusivity (“differential accommodation”). The postmulticultural expressions of interculturalism in Europe and Quebec are shown to offer yet more ← xiii | xiv → intriguing responses to the question of what comes after multiculturalism. Yet another set of challenges linked to a postmulticultural world points to the politics and paradoxes of accommodating religious pluralism in a (post)secular Canada. The linking of the postmulticultural with references to Canada as a postnational society whose commitment to the ideals of notionhood also creates a context for diversity governance that transcends the limits of nationhood. The book concludes accordingly. Misgivings and misunderstandings, notwithstanding, a commitment to the principles of postmulticulturalism may well offer a model and a mindset for living together with/in/through complex differences that augers well in the rebranding of Canada in an emergent postmulticultural world.


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XVI, 310
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2019 (May)
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Oxford, Wien, 2019. XVI, 310 pp., 6 tables

Biographical notes

Augie Fleras (Author)

Augie Fleras is an adjunct professor of sociology at the University of Waterloo. He earned his PhD in Maori studies and social anthropology from Victoria University of Wellington (New Zealand). Fleras received a lifetime achievement award from the Canadian Ethnic Studies Association for longstanding contributions.


Title: Postmulticulturalism