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Secularism, Assimilation and the Crisis of Multiculturalism

Secularism, Assimilation and the Crisis of Multiculturalism: French Modernist Legacies

Yolande Jansen
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 339
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  • Book Info
    Secularism, Assimilation and the Crisis of Multiculturalism
    Book Description:

    In this timely study, Yolande Jansen critiques efforts to assimilate religious minorities into a secular and supposedly neutral public sphere. Such efforts, she ably demonstrates, can create and perpetuate the very distinctions they aim to overcome.Her sophisticated analyses draw on literature that depicts the paradoxes of assimilation as experienced by French Jews in the late nineteenth century. Paying particular attention to Marcel Proust'sIn Search of Lost Time, she ultimately argues for dynamic, critical multiculturalism as an alternative to secularism, assimilation, and integration.

    eISBN: 978-90-485-2213-2
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. 1-4)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. 5-8)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. 9-12)
  4. CHAPTER 1 Introduction The crisis of multiculturalism, new assimilationism and secularism
    (pp. 13-58)

    This book is the result of my reflections on the deepening crisis of multiculturalism that has been developing across the Euro-Atlantic region, in European countries in particular since the turn of the millennium. I critically evaluate multiculturalism’s contemporary alternatives in terms of secularism, assimilation and (civic) integration, while also tracing the interconnections between these. I furthermore examine why these alternatives are problematic, not only from the standpoint of the migrants and minorities concerned, but also because these notions stem from, and will increasingly lead to, nationalist, Eurocentric and insufficiently democratic conceptions and practices of citizenship. This book, finally, sketches the...

  5. CHAPTER 2 Assimilation in the French sociology of incorporation from a multicultural perspective
    (pp. 59-82)

    Assimilation is a rather unfriendly concept when used in a social context. In French, it generally means an act of the mind that considers (something) as similar (to something else). A relevant secondary meaning is the action of making (something) similar (to something else) by integration or absorption. This meaning has existed in physiology since 1495. Around 1840, the concept was related to social processes for the first time, as the act of assimilating persons and peoples; the process through which these persons, these peoples, assimilate (themselves). This connotation incorporates terms like ‘Americanisation’ and ‘Frenchisation’. The older physiological connotation shines...

  6. CHAPTER 3 The liberal sociology of assimilation and citizenship and its transnationalist alternatives
    (pp. 83-116)

    This chapter critically discusses two central contributions to the recently-developed position in migration studies, here called a ‘liberal sociology of assimilation’, which tends to be critical of multiculturalism. The first is Joppke and Morawska’s (2003) programmatic introduction toToward Assimilation and Citizenship: Immigrants in Liberal Nation-States. The second is Brubaker’s (2001) reconceptualisation of assimilation, on which Joppke and Morawska’s reintroduction of the concept is founded. Brubaker’s article, entitled ‘The Return of Assimilation? Changing Perspectives on Immigration and Its Sequels in France, Germany and the United States’, summarises a reconceptualisation of assimilation in American sociology without explicitly linking it to a...

  7. TRANSIT I Proust as a witness of assimilation in 19th-century France
    (pp. 117-136)

    The following chapters are founded on the idea that a critical rethinking of Jewish assimilation in 19th-century France – or the process which has been interpreted as such – is important for an assessment of the moral legitimacy and practical wisdom of (re)introducing liberal-assimilationist discourses and practices in the European context. Rethinking Jewish assimilation will also help us trace assimilation’s connections to secularisation in the France of the Third Republic. This will facilitate our understanding of the connections between secularism and assimilationism today. I try to contribute to such a rethinking of assimilation by scrutinising the ways in which assimilation’s practical and...

  8. CHAPTER 4 Alfred Bloch’s personal integration test at the threshold of his friend’s home
    (pp. 137-164)

    In the first volume ofIn Search of Lost Time, the initial part of which is calledCombrayafter the village where the protagonist’s family has a country house and spends its holidays, the narrator tells us about his friendship as an adolescent with his Jewish schoolmate Alfred Bloch.¹ We read the narrator’s account of Bloch’s visits to his family as a literary reflection on crucial elements in the process of Jewish assimilation in France.

    The first two things we learn about the friendship between the protagonist and Bloch is that it is founded on long and high-flown discussions about...

  9. CHAPTER 5 Stuck in a revolving door Cultural memory, assimilation and secularisation
    (pp. 165-194)

    Let me now further explore the semi-public, semi-private cultural realm of unspeakable ‘otherness’ connected to expectations about assimilation introduced in the previous chapter. I will trace how this realm, in 19th-century France, was connected to the idea that assimilation implied secularisation in terms of the transformation of ethno-religious culture into privatised ‘religion’. By exploring this cultural realm throughIn Search of Lost Timewe will be able to trace how it hosts a specific kind of ethno-religious difference in which othering and secrecy, shame and the cultural memory of religious and cultural difference, intermingle and sometimes clash.

    My interpretation takes...

  10. TRANSIT II Laïcité and assimilation in the Third Republic and today
    (pp. 195-202)

    The struggles for recognition by minorities in the 1990s acquired a particular sensitivity in France, where the myth of Republican, universal and difference-blind citizenship was less corroded than in many other Western countries, a phenomenon that was also experienced by, for example, sexual and gender minorities, and that has delayed the introduction of postcolonial studies and multiculturalism in France (Nordmann & Vidal 2004). Nordmann and Vidal aptly summarise the central problem:

    All questioning of the universalism of the national/social, (post)colonial and heterosexist State, automatically incurs the accusation ofcommunautarisme… And yet, if there is communitarianism, wouldn’t it rather be...

  11. CHAPTER 6 Elements of a critique of the laïcité-religion framework
    (pp. 203-224)

    This chapter traces the historical particularity of thelaïcité-religion framework to its intellectual, political and cultural backgrounds in the early French Third Republic (1870-1914). This is the same period of time that formed the background to the Dreyfus Affair. I concentrate on the occurrence of several neo-Kantian and modernist schemes in French political culture in the early Third Republic. I analyse four political cartoons from the time of the installation of the separation between Church and State in 1905 and further scrutinise the ways in which the relation between modernity, secularity and religion appears in the work of neo-Kantian scholars...

  12. CHAPTER 7 Secularism, sociology and security
    (pp. 225-252)

    This chapter first examines the Stasi report (2003), which imparted to the French government the crucial recommendation to issue a law prohibiting the wearing of conspicuous religious signs in public schools. The report provides a lengthy analysis of the actuality oflaïcité. The final recommendation about the conspicuous religious signs forms only a small part of this document, which redefineslaïcitéin several regards. I relate my reading of the report to the views of multiculturalists who have concentrated on secularism such as Brahm Levey and Bader, focusing especially on the report’s reiteration of the modernist dichotomies discussed in the...

  13. CHAPTER 8 The highly precarious structure of assimilation Modernist philosophical schemes, memory and the Proustian narrative
    (pp. 253-274)

    The previous two chapters have argued that a critique oflaïcitéinvites a critique of the underlying concept of secularisation, and of the ways in which this is related to lingering traces of modernist concepts of the subject, of citizenship, and of modernity. I raised critical questions about the expectation that the conceptual separation of religion from visible, plural, polysemic cultural practices that are suffused with habit, custom,ethos, and, in addition, withothersand power, will prove capable of contributing much to stability, fairness or democracy in multicultural societies. Moreover, I argued that the paradoxes of assimilation as they...

  14. CHAPTER 9 Concluding remarks
    (pp. 275-296)

    In this concluding chapter, I bring together four issues that seem essential in looking back on this study. Firstly, I reflect on some uses and abuses of referring today to the memory of Jewish assimilation in 19th-century France. Secondly, I specify lessons that can be learned from reading Marcel Proust’sIn Search of Lost Timein the context of today’s questions surrounding the position of ethnic and religious minorities in Europe. Thirdly, I briefly summarise why I problematise the secularism-religion framework instead of trying to define a ‘better’laïcité. Fourthly, I address the question of what alternatives could be developed,...

  15. Notes
    (pp. 297-310)
  16. Works cited
    (pp. 311-332)
  17. Index
    (pp. 333-340)
  18. Back Matter
    (pp. 341-344)