n Literator : Journal of Literary Criticism, Comparative Linguistics and Literary Studies - The modern city : a symbolic space of memory and a crucible for multiculturalism? : research article

Volume 23, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 0258-2279
  • E-ISSN: 2219-8237



This article highlights some critical remarks concerning the use of the terms and in various currents of contemporary discourse. The focus will be on the modern metropolis Brussels which will serve as a case study. Brussels is the capital of Belgium and of the European Union and is one of the most distinctly international and multiethnic cities in Europe. In this , characterized by the coexistence of groups with different linguistic and cultural traditions, the phenomenon of , i.e. the fact that individuals simultaneously take part in several social subsystems, may neutralize and even overrule cultural or ethnic differences. When it comes to the access of relatively prominent social positions, social differences appear to be of more importance than cultural or ethnic-cultural differences. The question thus remains how to cope with the notion of . Second- and third-generation immigrants raising the issue of cultural identity, generally refer to contrastive markers. Culture is conceived of as a package: the differences are articulated as culture, while what is shared with 'outsiders' (especially material culture, science, technology and daily routines) seems to be irrelevant. The builds a cultural superstructure submitted to an uninterrupted process of change. The ethnic factor is very attractive because people want to experience a community to which they "really" belong and where they can express themselves. The younger generations, however, gradually step out of the strategies of self-protective isolation and advance towards a moderate cultural relativism. In this respect the irrational and affective dimensions of culture, as well as the spatial and social urban fabric, constitute elements of major importance for a close analysis of ethnic-cultural diversity and inequalities.

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