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What is multiculturalism and what does it mean to have a multicultural perspective?

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Multiculturalism refers to an appreciation for the arts, values, traditions, and other aspects of other cultures. Applied to the academic realm, it refers to the idea that other cultures are worthy of study and that they are not inferior to Western culture. In this view, different cultures play an important role in fostering and contributing to society.

As the eNotes page on multiculturalism in literature notes, multicultural perspectives do not regard the American society as a "melting pot" into which different groups have assimilated by becoming part of what has traditionally been the dominant white culture. Instead, the multicultural perspective values the unique contributions of different cultures and views these cultures on their own terms, rather than only in comparison to what has been the dominant culture. Other cultures are regarded as worthy of study and as having made and continuing to make vital contributions to American (or other) societies. Having a multicultural perspective means acknowledging the biases that have caused people to regard white, Anglo-Saxon culture as in some way superior or more correct and being open to other ways of thinking, being, speaking, and writing.

Literature is often a route by which people can appreciate multiculturalism and gain more of a multicultural perspective. This type of literature captures the experiences of people who live outside the mainstream culture because they are different from that culture based on race, religion, sexuality, socio-economic status, or because they have a disability or another features that makes them different. Recently, different groups have had greater voices in the literature of our country. An example of multicultural literature (there are many such examples) is the novel Americanah by Adichie, which portrays the experience of a Nigerian female protagonist in the U.S.

To cultivate a multicultural perspective, one must leave behind the idea of absolutes and instead embrace a system in which different sub-cultures are not regarded as inferior or superior but as making vital and vibrant contributions to the larger culture. You might have other examples of multicultural literature or ways to foster a multicultural perspective based on your experiences and studies.

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