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Developing a Paradigm for Describing Diversity and Multiculturalism in Modern America

14 Pages Posted: 20 Oct 2009  

Mary Beth Leidman

Indiana University of Pennsylvania

Bradley Wiggins

Indiana University of Pennsylvania

Date Written: October 13, 2009


The purpose of this discussion is to redirect contemporary academic discourse regarding multiculturalism. The field needs well-defined paradigms to accurately describe contemporary American cultural experience and reality in the United States. In recent decades there has been an opening up of the society but not to the extent that the pundits might assume. This discussion focuses on the idea that American society has not become multicultural although there is diversity in the public sphere of American society. In reality multiculturalism is a misnomer. The idea of self-contained cultural neighborhoods with all the inherent characteristics remains valid, with few exceptions. A paradigm/model has been designed to graphically display a theoretical construct of these which illustrates and offers further explanation concerning the oft utilized terms of diversity and multiculturalism. The proposed paradigm represents in visual terms that diversity is two-dimensional and multiculturalism is three-dimensional. The dimensions of diversity include a superficial even if sincere sharing of more outward cultural expressions. Multiculturalism represents a deeper sharing of cultural expressions. There must be the existence of a slightly permeable membrane that exists between cultures for the multicultural experience to exist. This membrane allows for interaction among visitors and residents, but does not permit the meaningful sharing of language, customs, food, or cultural traditions outside the perceived confines of the specific insular cultural group. The notion of polycentric multiculturalism, posited to provide a way in which to make multiculturalism more accessible on global terms, serves to differentiate itself from liberal pluralism. It achieves this by embracing a radical reformulation of urban and community structures at the level of neighborhood and nation-state (Stam, 2000; Bodziany, 2008; Aldrige, 2007). Defining Intracultural Traits (DITS) define the cultural neighborhood and include (1) unity of language characteristics (2) similarity in food (3) participation in church, religion or other ideologically based behavior and, (4) comfort level within the customs of a specific group. The paradigm shows a unique perspective pertaining to the relationship of societal diversity to actual multiculturalism. Future study will include an empirical and qualitative assessment of the paradigm’s authenticity.

Keywords: Multiculturalism, Diversity, Paradigm, Cultural Neighborhoods, American

JEL Classification: Z10

Suggested Citation

Leidman, Mary Beth and Wiggins, Bradley, Developing a Paradigm for Describing Diversity and Multiculturalism in Modern America (October 13, 2009). Available at SSRN: or

Mary Beth Leidman (Contact Author)

Indiana University of Pennsylvania ( email )

Indiana, PA 15705
United States
724-357-2492 (Phone)

Bradley E. Wiggins

Indiana University of Pennsylvania ( email )

Indiana, PA 15705
United States

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