Debating Diversity: Analysing the Discourse of Tolerance by Jan Blommaert

By Jan Blommaert

Immigration, racism and nationalism became hotly debated concerns within the Western global. This hugely unique and debatable paintings makes a speciality of the language utilized by the overwhelming majority who regard themselves as being open to a multi-cultural society.Using Belgium as a case learn and drawing parallels with the united kingdom, US, Europe and the previous Yugoslavia, the authors examine this language and exhibit a outstanding consistency among those liberal voices, corresponding to in news-reporting, and the language utilized by radical racist and nationalist teams.

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Belgian policy-makers, journalists and experts often refer to the situation in other EU member states in order to motivate their own preferences, or to emphasize either the positive or the negative of the Belgian situation —depending on which strategy is most suitable for the purpose at hand. In addition to highlighting these sources for the new discourses, a few remarks have to be made about the precise historical period in which our data are to be situated. There was discourse on immigration in Belgium, very similar to the type we shall investigate, produced long before today’s typical immigrants entered the scene.

In the case of discourse about ‘others’ there are additional complications on top of the tendency to be led by stereotypes, implicit norms and patterns of expectation. If we consciously try to avoid generalizations and to orient ourselves towards direct observation and personal experience, we are still stuck with the question of how not to corrupt our ‘knowledge of the other’ with our own projections. Moreover, even in cases where there is direct personal contact, we may only know the ‘other’ as he or she is manifest in relation to us.

This particular historical source also accounts for some small differences in policy development between Flanders and Wallonia, the culturalist orientation being more outspoken in Flanders (see Marco Martiniello 1994). A second, more specific, source is cultural anthropology. Given the culturalist orientation and the impact of academic experts on the debate, the discourse on migrants draws extensively on vulgarized anthropology. The most widespread definitions of ‘culture’ stress the deep-rooted values, customs and traditions of the people, and advocate cultural relativism or particularism as solutions to practical problems in education, counselling, administration, health care, and so on.

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