The Transition From Multicultural to Intercultural Society

Globalisation and accompanying migrations have brought an array of people from various cultural backgrounds to Europe. We are continuously witnessing the mixing and merging of cultural traditions that not only reside side by side, but also influence each other. In order to explain the changing conditions in today’s society, two different but complementary terms were created: multiculturalism and interculturalism. In this blog post, we will dig into the differences between multiculturalism and interculturalism, and how they have both affected the world of art.

Mix nationalities and cultures portraits
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via EAD

What is Multiculturalism?

According to definitions, multiculturalism is a state of a society that encompasses multiple cultures and ethnic groups that exist side by side, but do not necessarily cooperate. Since multiculturalism doesn’t necessarily imply interactions between different cultures, but simply coexistence, many believe that it is an outdated and harmful concept. Multicultural societies, where cultures and ethnic groups don’t interact with each other can foster alienation and even segregation within the community. 


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The Difference Between Multiculturalism and Interculturalism

Interculturalism, on the other hand, indicates a society where different cultures not only exist, but also interact with each other. The concept of interculturalism implies promoting contact between cultures rather than separation.

In an intercultural society, there is a deep understanding and respect for all cultures. In order to develop strong relationships between different ethnic and cultural groups, intercultural societies promote and encourage intercultural communication, where ideas and cultural norms are exchanged and support each other. In a perfect intercultural society, no one is left behind since everyone learns from others how to understand each other’s culture, traditions, and values. 

By opening a debate over different cultures, interculturalism opposes the dangerous idea that only people from one culture can understand the perspective and the worldview of that particular cultural group. Unlike multiculturalism that describes a passive approach of accepting other people’s cultures, interculturalism implies an active approach, where every member of the society learns from all other members of the society. 

There are many ways to create an intercultural community, starting from the school curriculum that encourages learning about other cultures, to working in an intercultural international environment, where all parties are free to express and celebrate their culture, to sharing a life with a foreigner and learning about their heritage. Needless to say, art can serve as a tool for creating an intercultural society as well. 


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Join our online talk Multiculturalism for the Past and Interculturalism for the Future on December 15th

Interculturalism in Art

Interculturalism as a concept has left its mark in the world of art as well. More often than not interculturalism in art, refers to the practice of mixing or bringing together a diverse set of forms, techniques, and traditions to create a particular work of art, or even a completely new art genre. Interculturalism in art can also refer to art pieces that convey the values of various, dissimilar cultural traditions in one artwork. 

Combining different cultures can lead to unique artistic results. Intercultural art can be seen as a source of knowledge that will bond different ethnic groups and cultures together. The idea is to show how cultures can work together, rather than to separate minority cultures and see them as exotic products. 

Interculturalism in the world of art is not a novelty. We already discussed the way different cultural backgrounds combine to create outstanding, one-of-a-kind art pieces, when we talked about the works of Wifredo Lam, for example. The celebrated Cuban artist, combined Cuban, African, Indian, Chinese, and European heritage to create intercultural artworks that were unlike anything ever seen, and managed to powerfully portray the cultural plurality of Cuban society. 

Subway full of people of different backgrounds and cultures
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via Quora

Multiculturalism and Interculturalism in the British Society

The concept of interculturalism has appeared as a direct response to the shortcomings of multiculturalism. Multiculturalism as a concept failed to create an inclusive society, but rather divided it into an array of co-existing separate communities. That’s why, many people think that we should focus more on interculturalism than multiculturalism to create sustainable communities in the future. Interculturalism supports cross-cultural dialogue, promotes interaction, and overcomes segregation among different cultures in a society. 

To learn more about multiculturalism and interculturalism join our next event when we will focus on Great Britain as one of the most culturally diverse countries in Europe. According to the British government, over 40% of people who live in London identified as non-British. In her online talk Multiculturalism for the Past and Interculturalism for the Future taking place on December, 15th  Samantha Allen, our guest speaker, will discuss the meaning of interculturalism, its transformation over time, and its current use. She will show you how to use the idea of interculturalism as a sustainable way to create a more equitable and inclusive society, where different cultures can live in harmony and understanding.

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