The Equality-Difference Paradox: National policies on cultural pluralism

Name of applicant

Séamus A. Power


University of Copenhagen


DKK 4,993,097



Type of grant

Semper Ardens: Accelerate


Migration from non-western countries into western liberal democracies challenge the moral sensibilities of governments and citizens in host nations. Governments in western liberal democracies have attempted to respond to these cultural collisions with a suite of policies ranging from the accommodation of diverse cultural differences (based on a "different and equal" moral principle) to a melting away of these diverse cultural differences (based on a "different and unequal" moral principle). Behind both individual moral judgments about, and national policies to manage, cultural pluralism is reasoning grounded in deeply held, historically ingrained, culturally widespread, values. This project aims to illuminate this reasoning, and to map its consequences.


The project is important because it will provide social scientific evidence to answer three pressing, and interrelated questions, of fundamental global importance: 1. How do governments, via their laws and policies, open up, or close down, space for accommodating cultural pluralism? 2. How do different groups of citizens think and feel about the national policies governing the integration of migrants? 3. And how do people in western liberal democracies experience and make-meaning of being a non-western migrant and hosting them?


I will hire three postdoctoral researchers to conduct three inter-related multi-method qualitative studies in each of three different western liberal democracies: Denmark, the United States, and Ireland. These countries are chosen as sites because they have adopted different policies to integrate non-western migrants, ranging from assimilation to multiculturalism. Comparative qualitative analyses between these three countries will reveal the scopes and limits of tolerance for cultural pluralism, defense of liberal values from illiberal lifestyles and practices, and how this is grounded in the different national histories and approaches of each context, and the effects this has on migrants in each host nation, and possibilities for future generations to think differently about diversity.

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