Reconciling Diversity and Democracy


Wednesday, March 30, 2011, 4:10pm to 5:30pm


Pop Center, 9 Bow Street, Cambridge, MA

Irene BloemraadThe Process and Policies of Immigrant Political Incorporation
Irene Bloemraad, University of California, Berkeley

About the Seminar
Attacking multiculturalism has become a political cliché, from German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s proclamation in October 2010 that a multicultural approach had “utterly failed” in Germany, to David Cameron’s speech in February 2011 implying that such policies might foster terrorism. The alternative, for many politicians of the right and left, is stronger integration policies and greater normative emphasis on common citizenship, an argument also advanced by academics. This juxtaposition – between multiculturalism on one hand and common citizenship on the other – implies that there is a zero-sum trade-off between the two. Can democracy and immigrant-driven diversity be reconciled? And if so, in what ways – through policies of assimilation, multiculturalism. or something else?

This talk takes as its starting point critiques of multicultural policy and ideology, and the arguments of the political theorists who defend a multicultural approach. Using evidence on immigrants’ naturalization, their success in gaining office and indicators of trust and civic participation from various Western democracies, Dr. Bloemraad will show that immigrants tend to be more politically integrated in countries identified as more multicultural. She will draw on a comparison of the United States and Canada to discuss some of the reasons why this might be the case.

About Irene Bloemraad
Irene Bloemraad is associate professor in sociology at the University of California, Berkeley and a scholar with the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research. Her work examines the intersection of immigration and politics, with emphasis on citizenship, immigrants’ political and civic participation, and multiculturalism. Her research has appeared in academic journals spanning the fields of sociology, history, political science, and ethnic studies. Her books include Rallying for Immigrant Rights: The Fight for Inclusion in 21st Century America (edited with Kim Voss, University of California Press, 2011), Civic Hopes and Political Realities: Immigrants, Community Organizations, and Political Engagement (edited with Karthick Ramakrishnan, Russell Sage Foundation Press, 2008) and Becoming a Citizen: Incorporating Immigrants and Refugees in the United States and Canada (University of California Press, 2006), which won an honorable mention for the Thomas & Znaniecki Best Book Award from the American Sociological Association’s International Migration section. Professor Bloemraad believes that excellence in research and teaching go hand-in-hand, so she was very honored to be awarded the University’s Sarlo Distinguished Mentoring Award for her work with graduate students in 2008.

Democracy Seminar Series
The Democracy Seminar Series brings distinguished speakers to Harvard Kennedy School for the academic year to address critical challenges facing democratic governance.