Multiculturalism in Sociology: Definition, Examples & Criticism

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  • 0:03 Multicultural Pros and Cons
  • 1:05 A Definition of…
  • 2:31 Multiculturalism Criticisms
  • 3:39 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Gaines Arnold
People within a society view multiculturalism in many different ways. This lesson looks at the concept of multiculturalism in how it is defined, the examples prevalent in society, and how it is viewed by critics of the process.

Multicultural Pros and Cons

Sonya liked going to school. She had interesting teachers, fun friends, and she always learned something on field trips. Another great thing about school was that she got to know so many different varieties of people. One friend's mom wore flowing dresses she called saris and made something called curry that was very good (with some of the spices left out for Sonya). Another friend could speak Spanish and another had a pleasant accent he called Australian. She knew people from a lot of different countries, and it helped her learn about the way people lived outside the United States.

Her parents liked all the people she knew, but her dad sometimes grumbled about this or that family. He said that they were not becoming Americans; they were living in their own little groups, and it worried him. He thought they should keep some of the elements from their cultures, but assimilate at the same time, meaning to absorb into the host country's culture . He said the word multiculturalism in such a way that it sometimes sounded like a curse word.

A Definition of Multiculturalism

The world's societies are becoming increasingly more global. With the ease of international travel and, especially, access to first-hand information about people around the world via electronic media, people have a greater understanding and acceptance of cultures other than their own. The ease of travel and the reality of people emigrating means more neighborhoods have an increasingly global presence.

When people from other countries come to the United States, they often want to maintain their cultural identity, which creates a society composed of a greater number of cultures. This is the basic idea behind multiculturalism, which can be defined as many individual cultures existing within one country.

Examples of this type of multiculturalism exist in Canada, which has both French and English speaking populations, and some European countries that have multiple official languages and different ethnic groups throughout the country. That is what Sonya from the introduction saw as multiculturalism, but that definition, the demographic side, is only one type of multiculturalism.

Sonya's dad disliked being forced to accept different immigrants, either by the government or society. He believed that immigrants should be made to assimilate rather than integrate, or maintain their own distinct cultures. People who have become accustomed to a specific culture may resist either political or public pressure that seems to enforce multiculturalism as policy.

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