Distuinghed Lecture: Mode of Integration, Multiculturalism and National Identity by Prof. Tariq Modood

Distuinghed lecture on Mode of Integration, Multiculturalism and National Identity was delivered by Prof. Tariq Modood, Professor of Sociology, Politics and Public Policy, and the founding director of the Centre for the Study of Ethnicity and Citizenship at the University of Bristol. The session was chaired by Prof. Tanweer Fazal, a professor at the Department of Sociology, University of Hyderabad. 

To begin with, Prof. Modood established that his discussion would be centred around multiculturalism and its various modes of integration to National identities. He launched into the discussion by discussing how integration presupposes ‘difference’. This was done by elaborating on the relationship not just between citizens but between citizens and their polity, citizens and their state, and citizens and their country, as well. Following this, Prof. Modood reasoned why an understanding of identity is essential for multiculturalism. He also expressed the need to understand identity in two dimensions: ‘from the outside in’ and ‘from the inside out’. Prof. Modood then moved on to the principal point of his discussion – multiculturalism – and how it is a political movement that is built on recognition from the inside out. 

Modood explores integration at three levels: everyday cultural encounters, sectoral/ Legal, macro – symbolic integration. While all of these levels are interdependent and important, he wants to emphasise the third level, the macro-symbolic level, which he believes is often neglected by policymakers, researchers and sociologists. He insisted that one needs to get the third level right first to make sure that the other two levels work effectively. 

Next, Prof. Modood illustrated the four modes of integration in detail: Assimilation, Individualist – Integration, Cosmopolitanism, and Multiculturalism. In order to ensure an easy comprehension of the four modes, he provided a table of the four modes of integration concerning the Objects of Policy, Liberty, Equality and Fraternity. Each mode of integration goes a bit beyond the previous one regarding national integration. Nevertheless, for Prof. Modood, multiculturalism is when “Citizenship and national identity must be remade to include group identities that are important to minorities as well as majorities; the relationship between groups should be dialogical rather than one of domination or uniformity”. He argues that this is the kind of multiculturalism appropriate for our situation and sees it as a coherent political idea in its own right.

Additionally, he explained why group and collective identities are problematic – because they are restrictive and do not allow the space for individual identities. Moreover, he insisted that multiculturalism has no problem being a numerically dominant culture, as it is commonly misunderstood. Instead, it only has a problem when dominant cultures stand in the way of minorities and are restrictive. As he explained earlier, his understanding of multiculturalism is about including group identities and not dissolving group identities like the cosmopolitan view usually does. Put differently, his theorisation of multiculturalism is in the context of liberal and democratic rights. 

Following this, the discussion moved on to the relationship between multiculturalism and the National. More specifically, Prof. Modood focused on how multiculturalism does not accept the possibility of a liberal state cultural neutrality and instead works with the idea of multi-level governance or rights. This is because while the liberal state aspires to be culturally neutral. At its heart, the liberal state says that everyone is free to live according to their culture as long as they do not use it to impose that on others. However, most multiculturalists do not agree with this since cultural neutrality for the state is an impossible idea. 

The lecture explained why we must value our citizenship and how it should be about our sense of belonging. Prof. Modood said that “we belong to our citizens, and we belong to our co-citizens”. Multiculturalism, therefore, cannot succeed without people valuing their citizenship. It retells the national story/ history so that minorities can be included in it and wants the story to be inclusive, plural, and multicultural while ensuring that these stories are narrated so that they are not stigmatising. He asserts,” to have multiculturalism, the public sphere must accommodate the presence of new group identities.” Public educational institutions and political organisations should work as the machines of reformation retelling the plural stories of the nation.

Drifting from the unilateral meanings constructed by the privileged groups, Modood says,” In a multinational state, multiculturalism really should be discouraging mononationalism, in the same way, that it is discouraging monoculturalism.” His politics, temperament and experience bind him to the optimistic thought that this idea of having a multinational state is not a Utopian idea, as he has witnessed the progress society has made in the past. He concludes by stating that dialogue, negotiation, mutual respect, and reciprocity of respect are required to remake the national identity where all can have a sense of belonging.

The session concluded with a series of questions posed by Prof. Fazal, interns and attendees of the meeting. 

The report is prepared by Research Interns at CSPS: Meera S Menon from NIT, Tiruchirappalli Aiswarya TS and Sweta Rath from Central University of Andhra Pradesh

Watch the lecture