"Islam" In the Anti-Multicultural Rhetoric of Western European Politicians and Anthropologists: Congruence or Coincidence?

  • Marko Pišev Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology Faculty of Philosophy University of Belgrade
  • Miloš Milenković Department of Ethnology and Anthropology Faculty of Philosophy University of Belgrade
“the end of multiculturalism”, “the failure of multiculturalism”, anthropology, the concept of culture, culture in politics, anthropology of state and law, Europe, Islam


The recent rhetoric of the "end" or "failure" of multiculturalism in Europe and beyond came as no surprise to anthropologists. Moreover, the statements made by leading politicians of key European economies seem as though they are based on the decades old anthropological critique of the consequences of the failed implementation of multicultural policies in Europe and on the global level. It is as though the messages we have been getting over the course of the last few years – that multicultural policies are contraindicated, that they weaken the contacts between cultures, rob individuals of the right to change and chose their identities and strengthen intra-cultural mediators of power, with patriarchy, violence against women and children, leaving school, religious fundamentalism and even terrorism as main consequences – are being read by politicians from anthropological analyses of abuses of collective "cultural" rights. The paper considers the nature of this similarity between the discourse of politicians and anthropologists with a special emphasis on the status of "Islam" in them, and discusses whether it is congruence or mere coincidence of stances toward minorities, immigrants and cultural differences, as toward the regulations which were tasked with protecting this diversity as a fundamental European value which today, at least at the rhetorical level, seems to be fading.


Download data is not yet available.


Akbar, Ahmed S. 1991. Postmodernist Perceptions of Islam: Observing the Observer. Asian Survey 31 (3): 213-231.
Asad, Talal. 1998. ed. Anthropology and the Colonial Encounter. New York: Academic Books.
Barry, Brian. 2001. Culture and Equality: An Egalitarian Critique of Multiculturalism. Cambridge: Blackwell Publishing.
Bielefeldt, Heiner. 2000. 'Western' versus 'Islamic' Human Rights Conceptions?: A Critique of Cultural Essentialism in the Discussion of Human Rights. Political Theory 28 (1): 90-121.
Bilgrami, Akeel. 2006. Occidentalism, the Very Idea: An Essay on Enlightenment and Enchantment. Critical Inquiry 32 (3): 381-411.
Brunner, Claudia. 2007. Occidentalism Meets the Female Suicide Bomber: A Critical Reflection on Recent Terrorism Debates; A Review Essay. Signs 32 (4): 957-971.
Buruma, Ian and Avishai Margalit. 2005. Occidentalism: The West in the Eyes of Its Enemies. London: Penguin Books.
Coronil, Fernando. 1996. Beyond Occidentalism: Toward Nonimperial Geohistorical Categories. Cultural Anthropology 11 (1): 51-87.
Eriksen, Thomas Hylland. 1993. In Which Sense Do Cultural Islands Exist? Social Anthropology 1 (1): 133-147.
Faqir, Fadia. 2001. Intrafamily Femicide in Defence of Honour: The Case of Jordan. Third World Quarterly 22 (1): 65-82.
Friedman, Jonathan. 1992. The past in the future: history and the politics of identity. American anthropologist 94 (4): 837-859.
Friedman, Jonathan. 1993. Will the real Hawaiian please stand: anthropologists and natives in the global struggle for identity. Bijdragen tot de taal-, land-en volkenkunde 149 (4): 737-767.
Gellner, Ernest. 2000. Postmodernizam, razum i religija. Zagreb: Naklada Jesenski i Turk.
Gill, Sam. 1994. “Mother Earth: An American myth,” U: The invented Indian: Cultural fictions and government policies, J. Clifton (ed.), 129–44. London: Transaction Publishers.
Grillo, Ralph D. 2003. Cultural essentialism and cultural anxiety. Anthropological Theory 3 (2): 157-173.
Gupta, Akhil and James Ferguson. 1992. "Beyond “culture”: Space, identity, and the politics of difference. Cultural Anthropology 7 (1): 6-23.
Hale, Charles R. 1997. Cultural politics of identity in Latin America. Annual Review of Anthropology 26: 567-590.
Hobart, Mark. 2000. After culture: Anthropology as radical metaphysical critique. Duta Wacana University Press, Indonesia
Kuper, Adam. 1988. The invention of primitive society: Transformations of an illusion. London: Routledge.
Kuper, Adam. 1994. Culture, identity and the project of a cosmopolitan anthropology. Man 29 (3): 537-554.
Kuper, Adam. 2003. The Return of the Native. Current Anthropology 44 (3): 389-402.
Milenković, Miloš. 2003. Problem etnografski stvarnog: polemika o Samoi u krizi etnografskog realizma (Etnološka biblioteka, knj. 12). Beograd: Srpski genealoški centar.
Milenković, Miloš. 2005. „Postkulturna antropologija i multikulturne politike”. U: Kovač Senka (ur.) Problemi kulturnog identiteta stanovništva savremene Srbije. Beograd: Filozofski fakultet, 67-69.
Milenković, Miloš. 2007 a. Istorija postmoderne antropologije: Teorija etnografije (Etnološka biblioteka, knj. 24). Beograd: Srpski genealoški centar: Odeljenje za etnologiju i antropologiju Filozofskog fakulteta Univerziteta u Beogradu.
Milenković, Miloš. 2007 b. Istorija postmoderne antropologije, Posle postmodernizma, (Etnološka biblioteka, knj. 27). Beograd: Srpski genealoški centar: Odeljenje za etnologiju i antropologiju Filozofskog fakulteta.
Milenković, Miloš. 2007 c. Paradoks postkulturne antropologije: postmoderna teorija etnografije kao teorija kulture. Antropologija 3: 121-143.
Milenković, Miloš. 2008. Problemi konstitucionalizacije multikulturalizma - pogled iz antropologije. Deo prvi: o "očuvanju identiteta". Etnoantropološki problemi 3 (2): 45-57.
Mir-Hosseini, Ziba and Vanja Hamzić. 2010. Control and Sexuality. The revival of Zina laws in Muslim Contexts. London: WLUML.
Mutman, Mahmut. 1992-1993. Under the Sign of Orientalism: The West vs. Islam. Cultural Critique 23: 165-197
Ning, Wang. 1997. Orientalism versus Occidentalism? New Literary History 28 (1): 57-67.
Pišev, Marko. 2008. Gelnerova kritika postmodernizma: relativizam, postmodernizam i politika antropologije. Etnološko-antropološke sveske 12: 33-65.
Pišev, Marko. 2011. Antropologija na obali reke Stiks: Kratak vodič za razumevanje "ljudske bombe" u savremenim interpretacijama islamskog samoubilačkog terorizma. Antropologija 11 (2): 189-213.
Pišev, Marko. 2013. Bodež i veo: Teorijski okvir za kulturno relativističko tumačenje islamskog feminizma. Etnološko-antropološke sveske 21: 143-153.
Price, Daniel E. 1999. Islamic Political Cutlure, Democracy, and Human Rights: A Comparative Study. Westport: Praeger.
Rabasa, Angel. 2009. Radical Islam in East Africa. Santa Monica: Rand.
Rapport, Nigel. 2003. 'Culture is no excuse'. Critiquing multicultural essentialism and identifying the anthropological concrete. Social Anthropology 11(3): 373-384.
Said, Edvard. 2008. Orijentalizam. Beograd: Biblioteka XX vek.
Samiei, Mohammad. 2010. Neo-Orientalism? The relationship between the West and Islam in our globalised world. Third World Quarterly. 31 (7): 1145-1160.
Smedley, Audrey. 1998. "Race" and the Construction of Human Identity. American Anthropologist 100 (3): 690-702.
Stolcke, Verena. 1995. Talking Culture: New Boundaries, New Rhetorics of Exclusion in Europe. Current Anthropology 36 (1): 1-24.
Tamadonfar, Mehran. 2001. Islam, Law, and Political Control in Contemporary Iran. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion. 40 (2): 205-219.
Tibi, Bassam. 2001. Islam between Culture and Politics. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
Wade, Peter. 1993. ‘Race’, Nature and Culture. Man 28 (1): 17-34.
Wagner, Roy. 1981. The Invention of Culture. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Wikan, Unni. 1999. Culture: A New Concept of Race. Social Anthropology 7 (1): 57–64.
Wolf, Eric. 1984. Culture: Panacea or Problem? American Antiquity 49 (2): 393-400.
Wolf, Eric. 1988. Inventing Society. American Ethnologist 15 (4):752-61.
Wolf, Eric. 1994. Perilous Ideas: Race, Culture, People. Current Anthropology 35 (1): 1-12.
Wolf, Eric. 1997. Europe and the People Without History. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Wright, Susan. 1998. The politicization of 'culture'. Anthropology today 14 (1): 7-15.
Zubaida, Sami. 2001. Islam and the Politics of Community and Citizenship. Middle East Report. 221: 20-27.

Izvori /Sources

Ashtana, Anushka. 2010. Why did multiculturalism become a dirty word? It made me who I am. http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2010/dec/19/anushka-asthana-multiculturalism-good
BBC Europe. 2010. Merkel Says German Multicultural Society has failed. BBC. October 2010, news sec. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-11559451.
BBC Europe. 2011. State Multiculturalism Has Failed, Says David Cameron. BBC. February 2011, news sec. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-12371994.
BBC News Europe. 2011. Viewpoints: Anti-Muslim prejudice in Europe. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-12240433
Crossan, Andrea. 2012. Breivik Trial: How Multicultural is Norway? The World. April 17, world sec. http://www.theworld.org/2012/04/breivik-trial-how-multicultural-is-norway/.
Erlanger, Steven. 2011. France Enforces Ban on Full-Face Veils in Public. The New York Times. April 2011, world sec. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/12/world/europe/12france.html?ref=weekinreview.
FRANCE24. 2009. http://www.france24.com/en/20091206-sarkozy-besson-national-identity-debate-immigration-controversy-france-frenchness.
Gilbert, Marie. 2011. France’s ‘Battle of the Veil.’ http://www.geopoliticalmonitor.com/frances-battle-of-the-veil-4348/.
Guillam, Peter. 2011. The Multiculturasim Debate is Not About Culture. The Guardian. April 26, news sec. http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/apr/26/multiculturalism-debate-british-values-culture.
Hannan, Daniel. 2012. Multiculturalism? Nonsense. The Olympics are a Victory for Patriotism and Common British Values. Mail Online. August 6, news sec. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-2184689/Multiculturalism-Nonsense-The-Olympics-victory-patriotism-common-British-values.html.
Henegan, Tom. 2012. French Muslims demand group ban after attack on mosque. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/french-muslims-demand-group-ban-after-attack-on-mosque/article4629276/
Jacobs, Luke. 2012. Newham Council ‘Considering Next Steps’ Over West Ham ‘Mega-mosque.’ Newham Recorder. June 28, news sec. http://www.newhamrecorder.co.uk/news/newham_council_considering_next_steps_over_west_ham_mega_mosque_1_1424696.
Mega Mosque No Thanx. 2009. Tablighi Jamaat. http://www.megamosquenothanks.com/evidence/tablighi-jamaat-summary.
Murphy, Caryle. 2009. Behind the Veil: Why Islam’s Most Visible Symbol is Spreading. http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Middle-East/2009/1213/Behind-the-veil-Why-Islam-s-most-visible-symbol-is-spreading/%28page%29/4.
Mustafa, Abid. 2012. Breivik and the Death of Multiculturalism. Bikyamasr. April 28, world sec. http://www.bikyamasr.com/67473/breivik-and-the-death-of-multiculturalism/
Ramdani, Nabila. 2010. Laïcité and the French veil debate. The Guardian. May 23, world sec. http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/belief/2010/may/23/france-veil-ban-burqa.
Russia Today. 2012. ‘Islamist terrorism is the biggest threat in Europe. http://rt.com/news/islam-radicalization-terrorism-europe-826/.
Spiegel Online International. 2010. http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/the-man-who-divided-germany-why-sarrazin-s-integration-demagoguery-has-many-followers-a-715876-2.html
Spiegel Online International. 2012. Book Excerpt from 'We New Germans': My Home, No Home http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/excerpt-from-we-new-germans-a-858622.html
The Guardian. 2010. Immigration: France sees tensions rise five years on from Paris riots. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2010/nov/16/france-racism-immigration-sarkozy
The Independent. 2013. France: Huge gay marriage protest turns violent in Paris. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/france-huge-gay-marriage-protest-turns-violent-in-paris-8632878.html
The Observer, Editorial. 2011. Multiculturalism: Mr Cameron's crude caricature solves no problems. http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2011/feb/06/observer-editorial-multiculturalism-david-cameron
The Telegraph, Comment. 2007. Enoch Powell's 'Rivers of Blood' speech. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/3643823/Enoch-Powells-Rivers-of-Blood-speech.html
How to Cite
Pišev, Marko, and Miloš Milenković. 2013. “"Islam" In the Anti-Multicultural Rhetoric of Western European Politicians and Anthropologists: Congruence or Coincidence?”. Issues in Ethnology and Anthropology 8 (4), 965-85. https://doi.org/https://doi.org/10.21301/eap.v8i4.4.

Most read articles by the same author(s)

1 2 3 > >>