Keynote Speakers  




Dr Stephen May
Sociology Department, University of Bristol, UK

TOPIC:   Towards Critical Multiculturalism: Setting the Agenda for the 21st Century.

As we begin the 21st century, what are the challenges and possibilities confronting the movement that has come to be termed 'multiculturalism'? This paper will explore four key challenges currently facing multiculturalism, and by implication multicultural and anti-racist education. These challenges are:

  • the ongoing critique of multiculturalism from the Right;
  • the tendency of multiculturalism to concentrate on culture at the expense of structural concerns such as racism;
  • the challenges that postmodernist understandings of identity present for multiculturalism;
  • the urgent need to develop a multiculturalist paradigm that effectively addresses - and, where necessary, redresses - all of the above.

In this paper, I will first outline and then respond to each of these challenges, and will conclude by discussing the possible pedagogical implications of each. In so doing, I will argue that critical multiculturalism, as it has come to be known, provides the most promising way forward - both theoretically and pedagogically ­ for education in the multi-ethnic and multilingual world of the 21st century.

Brief Biography

Dr Stephen May teaches in the Sociology Department, University of Bristol, UK, where he has been since 1993. Prior to this, he was a secondary school teacher in multi-ethnic schools and, subsequently, a teacher educator in Aotearoa/New Zealand. He has written widely on multicultural and anti-racist education and, more recently, on the wider interconnections between language, education, minority rights and the organisation of modern nation-states. In addition, he has research interests in social theory (particularly, the work of Bourdieu), nationalism and ethnicity, sociolinguistics and language policy, indigenous education, and bilingualism and bilingual education. His major publications include Making Multicultural Education Work (Multilingual Matters, 1994); Critical Multiculturalism: rethinking multicultural and antiracist education. (Falmer Press, 1999); Indigenous Community-based Education (Multilingual Matters, 1999), and a major new book, Language, Education and Minority Rights: rethinking the nation-state (Longman) which is due to be published later this year. In 2001 he will be Visiting Professor in the Department of Theory and Policy Studies, OISE, University of Toronto.

3.30-5.00pm FRIDAY 7th JULY 2000


  • Dr Stephen May, Sociology Department, University of Bristol, UK, Towards Critical Multiculturalism: Setting the Agenda for the 21st Century.