As part of its FiDiPro programme, the Academy of Finland has funded a project at the University of Turku called Multiculturalism as a New Pathway to Incorporation. Peter Kivisto (Augustana College, Rock Island, IL) has been designated the Finland Distinguished Professor at the University of Turku, and in that capacity will serve as the key person responsible for creating a national and international research network on multiculturalism. This builds on and fits in with the University’s well-established research emphasis on cultural interaction and integration. The project is closely intertwined with the Network for Research on Multiculturalism and Societal Interaction (MCnet), which started its activities in the Fall of 2010 with strategic funding by the University of Turku.

The partners at the University of Turku are General History at the School of History, Culture and Arts Studies and the Department of Sociology. They will work in cooperation with the Department of Sociology at Åbo Akademi University and the Institute of Migration, both based in Turku. Part of the objective of the project is to bring these institutions into a cooperative relationship with international partners from Europe and North America.

Multiculturalism is a highly contested concept, both in academic discourse and in the public sphere. Only a few of the world’s liberal democracies have adopted official multicultural policies, but whether of not such policies exist, Kivisto has argued that in most of these nations there is considerable evidence of what he refers to as a “multicultural sensibility.” Understanding why this is the case is a primary motive underpinning this project. Recent theoretical work has sought to treat multiculturalism as a novel mode of incorporation of people heretofore excluded from full societal membership, which can include religious minorities, racial minorities, ethnonational groups, indigenous peoples, and recent immigrants. Multiculturalism as a New Pathway to Incorporation will build on this body of work, and in so doing will be critical of conservative critics and exponents of radical separatist versions of multiculturalism.

The research agenda will be conceived as a dialogue between sociology and history. The project’s goal is to advance our theoretical and empirical understanding of multiculturalism. The focus will be on developments in the world’s main liberal democracies during the past quarter of a century. As such, the work will be comparative in nature. In addition, it will frame these contemporary developments historically by offering comparative assessments of the past and present, concentrating in particular on the ways that immigrant receiving nations facilitated or impeded immigrant incorporation during the last great migratory waves.