Polyculturalism is an ideological approach to the consequences of intercultural engagements within a geographical area which emphasises similarities between, and the enduring interconnectedness of, groups which self-identify as distinct, thus blurring the boundaries which may be perceived by members of those groups.[1]

The concept of polyculturalism was first proposed by Robin Kelley and Vijay Prashad.[2] It differs from multiculturalism which instead emphasises the separateness of the identities of self-identifying cultural groups with an aim of preserving and celebrating their differences in spite of interactions between them. Supporters of polyculturalism oppose multiculturalism, arguing that the latter's emphasis on difference and separateness is divisive[3][4] and harmful to social cohesion.[5]

Polyculturalism was the subject of the 2001 book Everybody Was Kung Fu Fighting: Afro-Asian Connections and the Myth of Cultural Purity by Vijay Prashad.[6]

Research has shown that belief in polyculturalism is linked to cultural intelligence (CQ) in Australia and China.[7]

Research shows that polyculturists are less likely to demonstrate sexist attitudes.[8]

Research has shown that polyculturalism has a positive relationship with cross-cultural attitudes in both the Philippines and the United States of America.[9]

Comparison of cultural ideologies

Like advocates of multiculturalism, proponents of polyculturalism encourage individuals to learn about different cultures, especially those they may come into contact with in their own areas.[10] However whereas multiculturalism advocates for toleration[11] between members of distinctly different cultures groups, polyculturalism is less rigid and acknowledges that individual shape their own identities and may choose to change[5] so as to express their culture in a different way to their own ancestors, either by adding elements of other cultures to it or by eliminating aspects of it.[10]

Polyculturalism rejects the concept of race as a social construct with no scientific basis,[10] however it recognises the concept of ethnicity,[12] considering ethno-nationalism a barrier which must be transcended in the pursuit of a dynamic community culture.

Critics of multiculturalism argue that it entrenches identity politics[13] while polyculturalism aims to forge a common new identity[4]

Polyculturalism acknowledges that cultures are dynamic, interactive and impure while multiculturalism treats them as static, isolated and complete.[14]

The following table presents an overview of some ideologies.

Comparison of ideological approaches to intercultural interactions
Issue Polyculturalism Multiculturalism Colorblindness Monoculturalism Segregation References
Existence of different races Denies Affirms Denies Affirms Affirms [10]
Attitude toward many races within a region Ignores Supportive Ignores Supportive Opposed
Attitude toward many races globally Ignores Supportive Ignores Supportive Supportive
Attitude toward miscegenation Ignores Generally supportive Ignores Generally supportive Opposed
Existence of different cultures Affirms Affirms Affirms Affirms Affirms
Attitude toward many cultures within a region Supportive to
Supportive Indifferent Opposed Generally opposed
Attitude toward many cultures globally Supportive to
Supportive Ignores Opposed to
Attitude toward the cultural assimilation of migrants Supportive to
Opposed Ignores Requires Generally supportive
Attitude toward cultural preservation Opposed Supportive Opposed Supportive Supportive
Existence of different ethnicities Affirms Affirms Denies Affirms Affirms [12]
Attitude towards many ethnicities within a region Supportive Supportive Ignores Varies Varies by race