On Friday 25 January, an audience of 75 people gathered in Bournemouth University’s Executive Business Centre’s airy 2nd floor lecture theatre to hear a distinguished panel of speakers offer their thoughts on social cohesion in Britain, and on whether the idea of ‘multiculturalism’, which has underpinned much policy and practice in recent years, has had its day.
Critics of multiculturalism argue that it has impeded integration and increased tensions between different cultural groups. The first speaker, Professor Ted Cantle of the iCoCo Foundation and the University of Nottingham, argued that a new vision – of interculturalism – was necessary, with more emphasis on transnational identities and on social cohesion.
Professor Ann Phoenix of the Institute of Education agreed, while also stressing our capacity for switching between identities across different sectors of life.
Jamie Bartlett of the thinktank Demos reported on research into politics and community relations online, where exchanges between different groups seem to lead to greater polarisation.
Jasvinder Sanghera of the national charity KarmaNirvana argued that multiculturalism’s tolerance of some cultural values had brought a failure to challenge oppressive practices such as forced marriage.
David Aaronovitch of The Times advised careful use of the word ‘multiculturalism’, which has a multiplicity of definitions, and saw greater interaction between groups as the best way to promote social cohesion. The half-day event ended with a lively and rich discussion between audience and panelists.
The event was organised by Professor Barry Richards, chaired by Stephen Jukes, Dean of the Media School, and supported by the BU Public Engagement Unit and the School’s Politics and Media Research Group.
The Leveson Inquiry & The Future of the Media
Another Media School event was held at the Executive Business Centre in February 2013, dealing with the major socio-political issue of the Leveson Inquiry and the future of the media. In the wake of phone hacking scandals: how far should the press be allowed to operate, what defines ‘in the public interest’ and how will journalism’s ethics and guidelines need to be revised or reconsidered in the future?
The event was primarily a public engagement one, open to the public, and the audience included a good mix of people from local authorities, the voluntary sector and the police as well as BU academics and students from three Academic Schools.
It was also linked to a Media School research agenda on political extremism being pursued by Professor Barry Richards and Dr. Roman Gerodimos. They are examining whether levels of extremist activity are linked inversely to those of cultural integration and social cohesion.
It was an example of how BU can create spaces for its own staff and students to engage in debates about the key societal issues of the day.