Melting Pot, Multiculturalism, and Interculturalism

The Making of Majority-Minority Relations in the United States

Melting Pot, Multiculturalism, and Interculturalism
Alfredo Montalvo-Barbot
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This book examines multiculturalism, interculturalism, and the melting pot metaphor and explores how they emerged, evolved, and were implemented throughout American history. Alfredo Montalvo-Barbot analyzes how these ideologies have been legitimized, institutionalized, and challenged by activists, politicians, and intellectuals and studies how modern interculturalism offers a new model for bridging the cultural divide and for overcoming the limitations of previous state-sponsored multicultural policies and programs.
For centuries, scholars and commentators have sought to explain the character of America and American identity, a discourse Montalvo-Barbot (Emporia State Univ. ) skillfully traces in this text. In 1782, the writer St. Jean de Crevecoeur first invoked the idea of "individuals of all nations . . . melted into a new race of men" (p. 5), germinating the idea of America as a melting pot. Israel Zangwill further popularized the melting pot theme in his play of the same name in 1908. By WW I, however, critics feared that the new immigrants from southern and eastern Europe were unfit, unassimilable, and "unmeltable. " Other voices advocated cultural pluralism instead of the erasure of culture in the melting pot. Later, in his famous text An American Dilemma (1944), Gunner Myrdal brought attention to the failure of American democracy to provide equal rights and treatment to African Americans. By the 1960s racial minorities would contest assimilation and push for multiculturalism and the development of ethnic studies. Today an "intercultural" movement seeks the "open and respectful exchange of views among people from different backgrounds" (p. 94). The American experiment, it seems, is open-ended and ever evolving. Summing Up: Highly recommended. General readers through faculty; professionals. * CHOICE * As Montalvo-Barbot concisely chronicles, the history of American national identity has always entailed contestation between inclusionary and exclusionary forces and intense debates about the terms of incorporation. His linking of theorizing about assimilation, pluralism, multiculturalism, and interculturalism to public policy provides readers with a cogent understanding of our past, which is valuable in making sense of the current reactionary backlash to diversity. -- Peter Kivisto, Augustana College and University of Helsinki Melting Pot, Multiculturalism, and Interculturalism is a thorough examination of the ideas and policy decisions that led to multicultural education, as well as the ideas about education and policy that have succeeded multiculturalism. This careful consideration of interethnic relations focuses primarily on the twentieth century history of education, including the rise of college Ethnic Studies programs during the 1970s and multiculturalism during the 1980s and 1990s. Always careful to articulate the arguments of those who disagree with multicultural education, Dr. Montalvo-Barbot writes convincingly about the multicultural educational movement and its shift to interculturalism, making clear that the possibility and promise of interethnic and intercultural learning and competency is alive and well. -- Leslie Lewis, professor of English, Goucher College
Alfredo Montalvo-Barbot is associate professor of sociology and department chair at Emporia State University in Kansas.