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Not a Backlash, but a Multicultural Implosion from Within: Uncertainty and Crisis in the Case of South Tyrol's "Multiculturalism"

Abstract
This paper considers a case in which a regime commonly identified as "multicultural", locally entrenched and stringently defended by hegemonic politics, is nonetheless undergoing crisis and uncertainty. In the autonomous province of South Tyrol (Italy), there is a heavy social, economic, legal and discursive investment in "multiculturalism", offering a case that is often celebrated as a model of social co-existence and minority protection, and even serving as a selling point in provincial self-representations. Due to the area's peculiar history—previously belonging to the Austrian-Hungarian Empire but annexed to Italy a century ago—a "separate-but-equal" system developed as a means of defending the rights of German and Ladin linguistic minorities within the Italian state, largely as a response to the severe forms of cultural repression experienced by these groups historically. The resulting accretion of a divided society deemed "multicultural" bears within it alternative forms of multicultural coexistence. In recent years, moreover, the increasing presence of migrants has exerted new stresses on the status quo: a form of neo-assimilationist backlash on the national level, exemplified in new Italian language requirements for immigrant long-term stay permits, has provoked uncertainty and fear among some stalwart "multiculturalists" within the German-language minority, as do the growing numbers of students with a migratory background within the "multicultural" provincial school system. It remains to be seen whether or not some calls for reformulating the current regime might lead to different, and perhaps more effective, forms of "multiculturalism".
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2012-01-01
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