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American Multiculturalism after 9/11

American Multiculturalism after 9/11: Transatlantic Perspectives

Derek Rubin
Jaap Verheul
Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 224
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  • Book Info
    American Multiculturalism after 9/11
    Book Description:

    This groundbreaking volume explores the multicultural debate that has evolved in the United States and Europe since the cataclysmic events of 9/11. Instead of suggesting closure by presenting a unified narrative about cultural diversity, national identity, and social stratification, the essays in this well-balanced collection present a variety of perspectives, each highlighting the undiminished relevance of key issues such as immigration, assimilation, and citizenship, while also pointing to unresolved conflicts over universalism, religion, and tolerance. Most importantly, this volume shows that the struggle over multiculturalism is not limited to the political domain, but also has profound cultural implications. American Multiculturalism after 9/11: Transatlantic Perspectives is an invaluable, thought-provoking addition to the debate about multiculturalism as central to the study of the United States in a global context. This title is available in the OAPEN Library -

    eISBN: 978-90-485-1075-7
    Subjects: Sociology, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. 1-4)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. 5-6)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. 7-20)
    Derek Rubin and Jaap Verheul

    Within a month after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Lynne Cheney, the wife of the Vice-President and former chairwoman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, publicly attacked educators who had sought to promote multicultural teaching and internationalism as a response to rising anti-Americanism. The notion that Americans needed to learn more about other cultures in the world, she argued, was tantamount to admitting “that the events of September 11th were our fault, that it was our failure to understand Islam that led to so many deaths and so much destruction.” Instead of teaching diversity and tolerance, teachers...

  4. Multicultural Boundary Crossings

    • Multiculturalism and Immigration
      (pp. 23-34)
      Paul Lauter

      Would this book exist if September 11, the train bombings in London and Madrid, the attacks in Mumbai, and the murders of Pim Fortuyn and Theo van Gogh had not happened? Probably not. All the same, I am going to argue that the acts of terrorism like September 11 only amplified the sound of a tectonic shift in global economic and social structures that has been gaining strength since World War II. That shift is currently focused, in the United States and elsewhere – especially Western Europe and Japan so far – on the questions of immigration: how much, how...

    • Native-Immigrant Boundaries and Ethnic and Racial Inequalities
      (pp. 35-50)
      Richard Alba

      On the surface, 9/11 may seem to have damaged multiculturalism throughout Western societies, because of fears that tolerance for cultural difference will allow radical Islam to proselytize further among immigrant populations. However, a more thoroughgoing examination leads, I believe, to the conclusion that the fate of multiculturalism is variable from one society to another, because it is tied to the ways cultural difference is articulated by the construction of native-immigrant boundaries. Multiculturalism, as will be apparent from the argument below, has been especially at risk since 9/11 wherever Muslims form a large portion of the low-status immigrant population, and thus...

    • Coherence, Difference, and Citizenship: A Genealogy of Multiculturalism
      (pp. 51-64)
      Ed Jonker

      Debates on social and cultural identity have a long, rich, and diverse history. Theories of multiculturalism and social pluralism are fairly recent additions to a longstanding dispute on the nature of culture and society. The most vehement polemics developed during the twentieth century, while the roots of these conflicting theories go back to the nineteenth, and even the eighteenth century. The conflicting interpretations offered by Enlightenment and Romanticism, often characterized as “human” universalism versus “cultural” particularism, opened up discussions of political loyalties and cultural preferences that preoccupy many Western countries to the present day.

      The framework of this discourse has...

  5. Cultural Reflections of the Unthinkable

    • Indecent Exposure: Picturing the Horror of 9/11
      (pp. 67-80)
      Rob Kroes

      In the wake of the terrorist onslaught of 9/11, there might have been more of an ethnic backlash than in fact occurred. Among the many historical parallels that came to people’s minds, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor was one. Yet the aftermath of that event, the “relocation” of all people of Japanese origin from the Pacific Coast states to internment camps, was never suggested as a model for the treatment of Arab or Muslim minorities in the United States after 9/11. Indeed, there were a few nasty incidents, but if anything, the official response, from the White House on...

    • “The Dead Are Our Redeemers”: Culture, Belief, and United 93
      (pp. 81-92)
      Phillip E. Wegner

      It has become something of a commonplace to suggest that one of the fatalities of 9/11 – alongside the US Constitution, democratic institutions, procedural justice, and civil liberties – has been multiculturalism, especially in the form of broad tolerance for diverse cultures and their practices. In no way do I want to deny the fact that in the weeks and months following 9/11 there was a marked upsurge in xenophobia and its accompanying violence.¹ Moreover, even the most superficial of web searches will yield evidence of a continued virulent loathing of multiculturalism on the part of radical religious conservatives.² In...

    • Real American Heroes: Attacking Multiculturalism through the Discourse of Heroic Sacrifice
      (pp. 93-104)
      Michan Andrew Connor

      One of the most significant popular cultural outcomes of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, was the elevation of a set of national heroes. New York’s firefighters became symbolic embodiments of American courage and self-sacrifice in the face of danger, and thus models of ideal citizenship. While this imagery of heroism was opportunistically used to justify imperial projects of war, I argue that it was also harnessed to serve the ongoing domestic right-wing cultural agenda of defending the privileged cultural, political, and economic standing of white men, though these projects are closely intertwined. The ease with which post-9/11 heroism...

    • “America under Attack”: Unity and Division after 9/11
      (pp. 105-118)
      Mathilde Roza

      The calculated, meticulously planned and precisely executed attacks on the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center were horrific. Creating vast damage and deadly destruction through a heretofore unimaginable application of rationality, technology, and science, the attacks constituted a terrifying display of hubris, power, and control. The fact that the pilots had received their facilitatory training on American soil and had used American planes as their chosen weapons of mass destruction only exacerbated Americans’ feeling of profound humiliation. The shared feelings of deep vulnerability, rage, and grief which the events aroused could not help but unite the people affected by...

    • “This Godless Democracy”: Terrorism, Multiculturalism, and American Self-Criticism in John Updike
      (pp. 119-132)
      John-Paul Colgan

      The description of America as “this godless democracy” comes from John Updike’s short story, “Varieties of Religious Experience,” first published inThe Atlanticin November 2002. One of the first works of fiction by an established American writer to attempt a representation of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the story takes the form of a series of brief episodes, each providing different perspectives on 9/11. It features, for example, a section focusing on an office worker trapped in one of the World Trade Center towers, one describing the crisis of faith experienced by another man who watches from a rooftop in...

    • Multiculturalism in American History Textbooks before and after 9/11
      (pp. 133-144)
      Rachel Hutchins-Viroux

      History textbooks for public schools construct and transmit an official version of a nation’s past. In the United States, in the absence of a national system of education, these books act as a sort ofde factonational curriculum. Owing to the power they wield, both real and symbolic, they are highly contested terrain, with many pressure groups from both the right and left trying to influence their content. The teaching of history in the public schools was a primary battleground in the initial rounds of the “culture wars” in the 1980s and 1990s, and it remains at the center...

  6. Transatlantic Dialogues

    • A Kinder, Gentler Europe? Islam, Christianity, and the Divergent Multiculturalisms of the New West
      (pp. 147-164)
      Patrick Hyder Patterson

      Multiculturalism is a many-splintered thing. With multiple, transitory, and contested meanings, the concept resists straightforward definition. In both its interpretation and its effects, it frustrates even as it seeks to pacify. To complicate matters, America’s multiculturalism is not Europe’s multiculturalism. The histories are not the same, the origins and intentions are not the same, the present practices are not the same, and the futures may not be the same, either. Like certain other great “isms” of the modern period, most notably “liberalism” and “nationalism,” the concept has had a meaning for Americans very different from that commonly held by Europeans....

    • Slavery, Memory, and Citizenship in Transatlantic Perspective
      (pp. 165-180)
      Johanna C. Kardux

      One point of contention in which debates about multiculturalism have taken shape in the United States and the Netherlands is the public memory of slavery. Since the early 1990s, numerous people of African descent in these and other former slave-holding and slave-trading nations have mobilized around commemorations of slavery and the transatlantic slave trade. The two memorial projects I will discuss in this essay – the African Burial Ground in New York and the Netherlands National Slavery Monument in Amsterdam – and the public debates they have sparked provide insight into the ways in which multiculturalism functions in these two...

    • Are We All Americans? 9/11 and Discourses of Multiculturalism in the Netherlands
      (pp. 181-190)
      Jaap Kooijman

      The “multicultural drama” has become the catchphrase in the Dutch political discourse on multiculturalism and the alleged failure of ethnic integration policy. The term was coined by the Dutch leftwing publicist Paul Scheffer in an influential essay of the same name, published in January 2000.¹ Scheffer argues that the Dutch policy of multiculturalism has resulted in ethnic segregation and the exclusion of ethnic minorities from a collective Dutch history and identity. Although written before the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the events of 9/11 reinforced the essay’s political urgency. Moreover, the assassinations of the popular rightwing politician Pim Fortuyn...

    • “How could this have happened in Holland?” American Perceptions of Dutch Multiculturalism after 9/11
      (pp. 191-206)
      Jaap Verheul

      “Something sad and terrible is happening to the Netherlands, long one of Europe’s most tolerant, decent and multicultural societies.” With these ominous words, the editorial of theNew York Timesstarted its analysis of the “deadly hatreds” that had seemingly engulfed the Netherlands after two political assassinations in 2002 and 2004.¹ What had happened in the Netherlands was, without a doubt, dramatic enough to justify an epic narrative. On May 6, 2002, Pim Fortuyn, the leader of a Dutch anti-immigrant party, was fatally shot just days before a national election in which he was predicted to score a massive victory....

  7. About the Contributors
    (pp. 207-212)
  8. Index
    (pp. 213-224)