Publication Details

Dudek, D. L. (2011). Multicultural. In P. Nel & L. Paul (Eds.), Keywords for Children's Literature (pp. 155-160). New York: New York University Press.


The term "multicultural" and its associated "-ism" have been the focus of many debates in literary, educational, political, and sociological circles since the terms were coined. "Multicultural" first appeared in the New York Herald Tribune in 1941: "A fervent sermon against nationalism, national prejudice and behavior in favor of a 'multicultural' way of life" (Oxford English Dictionary [OED]). The second usage, in 1959 by the New York Times, both narrows and broadens the definition by connecting a culturally diverse city to cosmopolitanism. In 1965, the adjective "multiculturalism" expanded into the noun "multiculturalism" in the Preliminary Report of the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism: "The answer they often gave was 'multiculturalism' or, more elaborately, 'the Canadian mosaic" (OED). The first three usages of the term "multiculturalism" offered in the OED relate to North American society, but the fourth, from a 1973 edition of Scotland's Stornoway Gazette, demonstrates the term's potential to migrate into any society in which diversity is of primary importance to its cultural narrative: "A Gaelis Society that has outgrown its original meeting place in just a few short years and enabled the Gaels to meet the new and promising challenge of Multiculturalism". The final two usages represent some of the controversies associated with the term. A 1988 Courier-Mail (Brisbane) story cites "Professor Blainey's claim that multi-culturalism is another name for ethnic discrimination," and a 1990 Marxism Today article notes that the "policy of multiculturalism... had been widely adopted as a more tolerant way forward than full integration into a 'British way of life'."

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