Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Engaging Cultural Differences

Engaging Cultural Differences: The Multicultural Challenge in Liberal Democracies

Richard A. Shweder
Martha Minow
Hazel Rose Markus
Copyright Date: 2002
Published by: Russell Sage Foundation
Pages: 504
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Engaging Cultural Differences
    Book Description:

    Liberal democracies are based on principles of inclusion and tolerance. But how does the principle of tolerance work in practice in countries such as Germany, France, India, South Africa, and the United States, where an increasingly wide range of cultural groups holds often contradictory beliefs about appropriate social and family life practices? As these democracies expand to include peoples of vastly different cultural backgrounds, the limits of tolerance are being tested as never before.Engaging Cultural Differencesexplores how liberal democracies respond socially and legally to differences in the cultural and religious practices of their minority groups.

    Building on such examples, the contributors examine the role of tolerance in practical encounters between state officials and immigrants, and between members of longstanding majority groups and increasing numbers of minority groups. The volume also considers the theoretical implications of expanding the realm of tolerance. Some contributors are reluctant to broaden the scope of tolerance, while others insist that the notion of "tolerance" is itself potentially confining and demeaning and that modern nations should aspire to celebrate cultural differences.

    Coming to terms with ethnic diversity and cultural differences has become a major public policy concern in contemporary liberal democracies, as they struggle to adjust to burgeoning immigrant populations.Engaging Cultural Differencesprovides a compelling examination of the challenges of multiculturalism and reveals a deep understanding of the challenges democracies face as they seek to accommodate their citizens' diverse beliefs and practices.

    eISBN: 978-1-61044-500-9
    Subjects: Sociology, Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
  4. Contributors
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. Introduction Engaging Cultural Differences
    (pp. 1-16)
    Richard A. Shweder, Martha Minow and Hazel Rose Markus

    Toleranceoften appears in discussions of difference. Yet what does tolerance mean in liberal democracies such as the United States, Germany, France, India, Norway, and South Africa, where an increasingly wide range of diverse cultural groups hold contradictory beliefs about appropriate social and family life practices? How wide should be the scope of social and legal tolerance? Many emigrating women and men from African countries (notably, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Mali, Egypt, Ethiopia, the Sudan, and the Gambia), for example, take pride in the ritual practices of both female and male circumcision. Yet majority community sentiment and legal regulation in the...


    • Chapter 1 Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Assimilation but Were Afraid to Ask
      (pp. 19-42)
      Marcelo M. Suárez-Orozco

      As if by centennial design, the first and last decades of the twentieth century have been eras of large-scale immigration (see figures 1.1 and 1.2). During the first decade of the twentieth century, the United States saw the arrival of the largest wave of immigration in history when a total of 8,795,386 immigrants—the vast majority of them European peasants—entered the country. By the 1990s, the wave of new immigration (begun in 1965) peaked when about a million new immigrants were arriving in the United States each year. By 2000, the census bureau estimated the foreign-born immigrant population of...

    • Chapter 2 Living with Multiculturalism: Universalism and Particularism in an Indian Historical Context
      (pp. 43-62)
      Lloyd I. Rudolph and Susanne Hoeber Rudolph

      Modern India has provided a setting for the contest between legal pluralism and legal universalism. What do these rubrics mean?Legal pluralismrecognizes and legitimizes the personal law and group rights of India’s religious and caste communities.Legal universalismrecognizes and legitimizes the rights of unencumbered individuals, particularly of equal citizens. Legal pluralism plays an important part in identity politics, particularly those of cultural survival. Legal universalism defends and protects individual rights and freedom from state and group injustice and oppression. By modern India we mean the India of the East India Company (circa 1757 to 1857), the British raj...

    • Chapter 3 Legislating Religious Freedom: Muslim Challenges to the Relationship Between Church and State in Germany and France
      (pp. 63-80)
      Katherine Pratt Ewing

      For many Americans and other inhabitants of the modern world, the ideal of living under a democratic government includes the enjoyment of religious freedom. Americans tend to presume that religious freedom can only be ensured by the principle of the separation of church and state, as articulated in two clauses of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. . . .” The intent of this separation is to make religion a private matter, so that individuals may freely choose whether and how to practice...

    • Chapter 4 Civilizing the Natives: Customary Marriage in Post-Apartheid South Africa
      (pp. 81-98)
      David L. Chambers

      For several hundred years whites ruled South Africa, systematically manipulating black people to the whites’ advantage. For the most part, however, colonial and settler governments tolerated the continuation within black communities of traditional marriage practices that the white Christians considered uncivilized. In 1994, South Africa changed governments. A black majority Parliament came to power, adopting a constitution dedicated to equality and human dignity. Four years later, the Parliament adopted a new marriage law that, though permitting some of the external trappings of the traditional marriage system to continue, eliminated by law much of the core of its male-centered rules.


    • Chapter 5 Immigrants, Agency, and Allegiance: Some Notes from Anthropology and from Law
      (pp. 99-127)
      Jane Maslow Cohen and Caroline Bledsoe

      Within the past decade, more than ten million people have legally immigrated to the United States, a number greater than ever before, within a similar span. Unlike prior immigrant waves, most of these recent arrivals are non-European and appreciably “foreign.” For one thing, many within this cohort do not speak any English. Their manifold languages derive from a vast array of linguistic families—entire language groups, in many instances, that have no etymological relationship to English at all. In the aggregate, these immigrants claim allegiance to an inestimable number of ethnic and other groups, many of which lay claim to...

    • Chapter 6 Citizenship on Trial: Nadia’s Case
      (pp. 128-144)
      Unni Wikan

      On October 3, 1997, Norwegians awoke to the news that Nadia, a Norwegian citizen, eighteen year old, had been kidnapped by her parents and brought to Morocco, where she was being held captive. The purpose reportedly was to have her married by force. It was Nadia herself who managed to sound an alarm by way of a phone call to a fellow employee at a store where she worked and had failed to show up on Monday, September 1, giving no notice. She was in a terrible state, telling how she had been drugged, beaten, and forced into a van...


    • Chapter 7 Accommodation and Coherence: In Search of a General Theory for Adjudicating Claims of Faith, Conscience, and Culture
      (pp. 147-164)
      Arthur N. Eisenberg

      The promise of American life, at least in its idealized form, embraces a commitment to pluralism. Yet the precise contours of this commitment remain unresolved and in some instances, deeply contested. We celebrate our history as a nation of immigrants. We extol the remarkable richness and diversity provided by a broad array of individuals and groups with divergent religious beliefs and practices and with varied cultural and ethnic backgrounds and customs. Yet the social and political response to such diversity has been decidedly mixed.

      Unconditional acceptance of diversity has been tempered in part by an assimilationist conception of America as...

    • Chapter 8 The Free Exercise of Culture: Some Doubts and Distinctions
      (pp. 165-176)
      Lawrence G. Sager

      The reference is to the free exercise of religion: in the hands of some of its most ardent advocates, the constitutional ideal offree exercisemeans that it is a matter of considerable regret whenever a person is thwarted in the pursuit of that which is required by his or her religious beliefs. On this view, religiously motivated persons have a presumptive right to disobey otherwise valid laws—a right that can be defeated only on a showing that a very important governmental interest requires that they, like other citizens, be required to obey the law in question. Given the...

    • Chapter 9 The Culture of Property
      (pp. 177-193)
      Nomi Stolzenberg

      In the long, strained relationship between liberalism and community, property occupies a curious place. Many people have viewed private property as an agent of cultural disintegration and atomization, and for good reason. Private property seems to epitomize individual rights. At the same time, it bespeaks a basic commitment to capitalism—an economy organized around the principles of the market, made up of contractual exchanges among property owners, and thus characterized by the exercise of the quintessentially individual rights of private ownership and freedom of contract. The oft-noted shift from Gemeinschaft to Gesellschaft has long been associated with the rise of...

    • Chapter 10 In Defense of Culture in the Courtroom
      (pp. 194-215)
      Alison Dundes Renteln

      The police arrested Mr. Partap Singh, a Sikh priest, who was wearing his kirpan, a ceremonial dagger, as he stood waiting for a train in the New York City subway. When he was prosecuted for violating a law that prohibited the carrying of an exposed knife blade in a public place, the judge ruled that his right to religious freedom did not afford him protection because it applied to beliefs but not actions.¹ Nevertheless, the judge decided to dismiss the case, as it would be against the interests of justice to proceed with the prosecution (People v. Singh 1987).²


    • Chapter 11 “What About Female Genital Mutilation?” and Why Understanding Culture Matters in the First Place
      (pp. 216-251)
      Richard A. Shweder

      On November 18, 1999, Fuambai Ahmadu, a young African scholar who grew up in the United States, delivered a paper at the American Anthropological Association Meetings in Chicago that should be deeply troubling to all liberal free-thinking people who value democratic pluralism and the toleration of differences and who care about the accuracy of cultural representations in our public policy debates.¹ Ms. Ahmadu (2000, 283) began her paper with these words:

      I also share with feminist scholars and activists campaigning against the practice [of female circumcision] a concern for women’s physical, psychological and sexual well-being, as well as with the...

    • Chapter 12 About Women, About Culture: About Them, About Us
      (pp. 252-268)
      Martha Minow

      Why do so many public and scholarly discussions of cultural conflict and cultural defenses focus on women? Consider the intense debates over how much a particular industrialized society should accommodate minority members who participate in cultural practices at odds with the majority. Common examples are female genital cutting, capturing young women to force compliance with arranged marriages, cultural defenses after the murder of a wife or daughter, traditional membership and property rules that disadvantage women, and the veil or scarf worn under religious compulsion by females (Okin 1999a; Resnik 1989, 671; Shachar 2000). These are also the frequent examples in...


    • Chapter 13 Between Nationalism and Feminism: Indigenous Women, Community, and State
      (pp. 271-287)
      Maivân Clech Lâm

      The Fourth World Conference on Women was held in Beijing from September 4 to 15, 1995. The host of the conference, the government of the People’s Republic of China, segregated the deliberations of official state delegations to the conference from those of representatives of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). The latter consequently met, not in Beijing, but in the nearby location of Huairou, from August 30 through September 8, 1995. Some 110 indigenous women, representing almost as many indigenous organizations based in 26 different countries, participated in the NGO Forum section of the conference. Dissatisfied with the joint Draft Platform for Action...

    • Chapter 14 Neither Victim Nor Rebel: Feminism and the Morality of Gender and Family Life in a Hindu Temple Town
      (pp. 288-308)
      Usha Menon

      This chapter attempts to answer a question that appears to puzzle and trouble many feminist activists working in India today. Why, feminists ask, have they been relatively ineffective so far in mobilizing Hindu women both to protest gender injustices and directly fight them? Moreover (and this is a bitter pill to swallow), why has “politicized religion” (Jeffrey and Basu 1998) been so much more successful in motivating Hindu women to take to the streets in defense of a variety of religious causes?¹ As the feminist scholar Patricia Jeffrey (1998, 221) acknowledges, “ Feminists can surely derive little satisfaction, for instance,...

    • Chapter 15 Circumcision Debates and Asylum Cases: Intersecting Arenas, Contested Values, and Tangled Webs
      (pp. 309-343)
      Corinne A. Kratz

      Cultural pluralism often entails situations where interests and values conflict, raising questions and debates about the judgments inevitably made about the practices, people, and communities that clothe abstract values in daily experience. When such disputes land in the courts, decisions must define new issues in terms of existing legal principles and precedents, though they might also set other precedents that limit pluralism and tolerance. Case studies provide critical ways to understand conflicting values and norms from the diverse perspectives of those involved, tracing social processes over time to determine how and when such contradictions arise.

      This chapter focuses on debates...

    • Chapter 16 From Skepticism to Embrace: Human Rights and the American Anthropological Association from 1947 to 1999
      (pp. 344-362)
      Karen Engle

      In 1947, the executive board of the American Anthropological Association (AAA) submitted its Statement on Human Rights to the United Nations. Anthropologists have been embarrassed ever since. In the late 1940s, anthropologists saw the Statement as limiting tolerance. In recent years, embarrassment has come from a sense that the document refused to place a limit on tolerance.

      Anthropologists have recently returned to the Statement in recent years as part of a resurgence in interest in minority rights, and a debate over the extent to which such rights might conflict with universal human rights. This debate has taken place in many...


    • Chapter 17 Cultural Models of Diversity in America: The Psychology of Difference and Inclusion
      (pp. 365-395)
      Victoria C. Plaut

      How are Americans thinking about the growing diversity of their workplaces? How are they grappling with issues of difference and inclusion in an increasingly diverse society? To find some answers to these questions, a series of interviews was conducted at the world headquarters of a large American commercial bank.¹ Of interest was the nature of intergroup relations among employees at this highly demographically diverse organization. The first interviews came from the international client services department, composed of about one hundred employees who represented twenty-five countries and who together spoke approximately forty languages. Dan—a white, middle-aged male—was the manager...

    • Chapter 18 The Micropolitics of Identity-Difference: Recognition and Accommodation in Everyday Life
      (pp. 396-416)
      Austin Sarat

      In its January 20, 1992, issue,Peopleran a story entitled “Die, My Daughter, Die!” that described the murder of Tina Isa, sixteen-year-old daughter of Palestinian emigrés Zein and Maria Isa who, with their seven children, came to the United States from the West Bank in 1985. While the other Isa children consistently adhered to the strict, traditional values of their Palestinian parents, Tina quickly began to assimilate to the anything but traditional values of American adolescence. Tina as well as her brothers and sisters all had been forbidden to go on school trips, to concerts, to visit friends on...

    • Chapter 19 Plural Society and Interethnic Relations in Guinea-Bissau
      (pp. 417-431)
      Joanna Davidson

      In June 1999, several weeks after the popular military victory over João Bernardo “Nino” Vieira’s nineteen-year presidential career in Guinea-Bissau, young soldiers supposedly representing the Muslim-led junta military, now occupying the capital city of Bissau, raided the central market and rounded up youth wearing trendy or immodest clothing, such as miniskirts, tight shirts, platform shoes, and hip-hop garb. Once identified, these youth were publicly intimidated and castigated (some physically) by their peers in the military. The point seemed clear: in the newly established moral order, such promiscuous habits would have to go. Miniskirts were out, the new representatives of state...

    • Chapter 20 Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Silence: An Analysis of Talking as a Cultural Practice
      (pp. 432-452)
      Heejung S. Kim and Hazel Rose Markus

      A long article (Lubman 1998) appearing recently in theSan Jose Mercury Newsdescribed a problem that California educators are struggling to solve. According to the report, colleges and universities with large numbers of East Asian and East Asian American students are concerned that although many of these students earn very high grades, they do not participate actively in the academic community. The problem, in the eyes of some faculty and administrators, is that East Asian students often do not talk in class and this is a pressing concern because students “need to express themselves” to become “independent thinkers.” The...

    • Chapter 21 Color Blindness as a Barrier to Inclusion: Assimilation and Nonimmigrant Minorities
      (pp. 453-472)
      Hazel Rose Markus, Claude M. Steele and Dorothy M. Steele

      The successful assimilation of millions of immigrants from strikingly different worlds into one society is a compelling American story. In the shadow of this story is another story: the struggle to include millions of nonimmigrant minorities—African Americans, American Indians, Latinos—within the mainstream of society. The first story is a celebration of difference that reveals America as a haven for religious, cultural, and political difference. The second story tells of an ongoing struggle with difference—in this case, a difference not of religion or cultural values but in social, racial, and ethnic status. This story turns on how to...

  10. Index
    (pp. 473-485)