Saturday, December 20, 2014

France: Can a New Book Help France Embrace Its Multicultural Side?

Source: Open Society Foundations
Can a New Book Help France Embrace Its Multicultural Side?
by Marc Cheb Sun

If you find yourself in Paris’s National Museum for the History of Immigration, you may notice a poster proclaiming: “One Out of Four French Are of Migrant Background.”

The poster is part of the museum’s awareness-raising campaign on diversity in France, a country with a long and stubborn history of skepticism toward multiculturalism. But France is indeed a multicultural society, even if it refuses to officially acknowledge it; although counting people by ethnicity was banned in 1978, it is now possible to do so if certain safeguards are respected.

Though France has made progress in recognizing the multiple faces of its society over the past few years, the country’s current discourse on integration continues to treat multiculturalism as a problem rather than an opportunity.

In our new book D’Ailleurs et d’ici! (roughly, From Abroad and Here), produced by MultiKulti Média with support from the Open Society Foundations, we put faces and stories to France’s ethnic demographics, providing an alternate narrative to the country’s restrictive definition of national identity. This book is a testament to multiculturalism and its virtues. It pays tribute to the contributions—cultural, economic, and historic—of French ethnic and religious minorities, and promotes a creative, diverse, and forward-looking France.

Like French society, D’Ailleurs et d’ici! is a true mix—a mix of stories, voices, styles, and perspectives. We brought together journalists, writers, artists, academics, and photographers from all these communities to share their stories and perspectives. The result is a collection of words, pictures, surveys, news, and fictional stories that we invite you to explore.

Marc Cheb Sun is in charge of developing projects and new media for MultiKulti Média, a grantee of the Open Society Foundations.