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Multiculturalism is a term which is used to describe the social condition of diversity among a specific population evident through various spatial formations, but particularly seen through the spatial lens of nation states and cities. In particular, it refers to the existence of differences among a population in terms of racial, ethnic, religious, and other cultural characteristics. Based upon this recognition of social and cultural diversity, multiculturalism is also a version of political integration which acknowledges the rights and needs of minority groups within the political mainstream, the practical adoption of which varies considerably between places and nations. While multiculturalism emerged as a popular way of dealing with the challenges of social and cultural diversity including inequality and racism, many nations who originally adopted this stance are currently beginning to shift back toward an assimilationist agenda. This has called into question the manner in which diversity should be managed, how issues of multicultural inclusion should be approached, but also how notions of personal and collective identity may be conceptualized and defined in a context of globalisation and postcolonialism.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationInternational Encyclopedia of Human Geography
EditorsRob Kitchin, Nigel Thrift
Place of PublicationLondon
ISBN (Print)978-0-08-044910-4
Publication statusPublished - 2009


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