Multiculturalism has a number of different meanings. At one level the term means the appreciation, acceptance or promotion of multiple cultures, applied to the demographic make-up of a specific place, usually at the organizational level, e.g. schools, businesses, neighborhoods, cities or nations. In this sense multiculturalism approximates to respect for diversity.
The term may also describe people who have more than one culture in them (people who grew up with more than one cultural identity, also sometimes called bicultural).
In a political context the term has come to mean the advocacy of extending equitable status to distinct ethnic and religious groups without promoting any specific ethnic, religious, and/or cultural community values as central. Multiculturalism as cultural mosaic is often contrasted with the concepts assimilationism and social integration and has been described as a "salad bowl" rather than a melting pot.
In contemporary society, different understandings of the term has resulted in two different and seemingly inconsistent strategies:
* The first focuses on interaction and communication between different cultures. Interactions of cultures provide opportunities for the cultural differences to communicate and interact to create multiculturalism.
* The second centers on diversity and cultural uniqueness. Cultural isolation can protect the uniqueness of the local culture of a nation or area and also contribute to global cultural diversity. The policy Cultural exception introduced by France in General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) negotiations in 1993 was a precise example of protecting one's own cultural safety.
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