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] 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[2][3] and harmful to social cohesion.[4]


The concept of polyculturalism was first proposed by Robin Kelley and Vijay Prashad.[5]

Research has shown that belief in polyculturalism is linked to cultural intelligence (CQ) in Australia and China.[6]

Research shows that polyculturists are less likely to demonstrate sexist attitudes.[7]

Research has shown that polyculturalism has a positive relationship with cross-cultural attitudes in both the Philippines and the United States of America.[8]

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.[9] However whereas multiculturalism advocates for toleration[10] between members of distictly different cultures groups, polyculturalism is less rigid and acknowledges that individual shape their own identities and may choose to change[4] 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.[9]

Polyculturalism rejects the concept of race as a social construct with no scientific basis,[9] however it recognises the concept of ethnicity[11], 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[12] while polyculturalism aims to forge a common new identity[3]

Polyculturalism acknowledges that cultures are dynamic, interactive and impure while multiculturalism treats them as static, isolated and complete.[13]

The following table presents an overview of some ideologies.

Comparison of Ideological Approaches to Intercultural Interactions
Existence of Different Human Races DeniesAffirmsDeniesAffirmsAffirms[9]
Attitude towards Many Races within a Region IgnoresSupportiveIgnoresSupportiveOpposed
Attitude towards Many Races Globally IgnoresSupportiveIgnoresSupportiveSupportive
Attitude towards Miscegenation IgnoresGenerally SupportiveIgnoresGenerally SupportiveOpposed
Existence of Different Cultures AffirmsAffirmsAffirmsAffirmsAffirms
Attitude towards Many Cultures within a Region Supportive to
SupportiveIndifferentOpposedGenerally Opposed
Attitude towards Many Cultures Globally Supportive to
SupportiveIgnoresOpposed to
Attitude towards the Cultural Assimilation of Migrants Supportive to
OpposedIgnoresRequiresGenerally Supportive
Attitude towards Cultural Preservation OpposedSupportiveOpposedSupportiveSupportive
Existence of Different Ethnicities AffirmsAffirmsDeniesAffirmsAffirms[11]
Attitude towards Many Ethnicities within a Region SupportiveSupportiveIgnoresVariesVaries by race

Academic Books

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.[14]


  1. Rosenthal, Lisa; Levy, Sheri R (2010). "The Colorblind, Multicultural, and Polycultural Ideological Approaches to Improving Intergroup Attitudes and Relations". Social Issues and Policy Review. 4: 215–246. doi:10.1111/j.1751-2409.2010.01022.x.
  2. "Polyculturalism".
  3. 1 2 "Latest News & Opinion on Culture & Social Affairs - SBS Life".
  4. 1 2 Podur, Justin; Albert, Michael (15 July 2003). "Revolutionizing Culture Part One". Podur ZMag. Archived from the original on 11 Jun 2008. Retrieved 17 Aug 2018.
  5. Haslam, Nick. "Cultures fuse and connect, so we should embrace polyculturalism".
  6. Bernardo, Allan B.I; Presbitero, Alfred (2017). "Belief in polyculturalism and cultural intelligence: Individual- and country-level differences". Personality and Individual Differences. 119: 307–310. doi:10.1016/j.paid.2017.08.006.
  7. Rosenthal, Lisa; Levy, Sheri R; Militano, Maria (2014). "Polyculturalism and Sexist Attitudes". Psychology of Women Quarterly. 38 (4): 519–534. doi:10.1177/0361684313510152. PMC 4266561. PMID 25530662.
  8. Bernardo, Allan B.I; Rosenthal, Lisa; Levy, Sheri R (2013). "Polyculturalism and attitudes towards people from other countries". International Journal of Intercultural Relations. 37 (3): 335–344. doi:10.1016/j.ijintrel.2012.12.005.
  9. 1 2 3 4 Korber, John. "Polyculturalism". One World One People. Archived from the original on 14 Oct 2008. Retrieved 17 Aug 2018.
  10. "Wayback Machine". 23 August 2004.
  11. 1 2 Gibbons, Andrea. "Vijay Prashad: Polyculturalism and Kung Fu".
  12. Rosenthal, Lisa; Levy, Sheri R (2012). "The relation between polyculturalism and intergroup attitudes among racially and ethnically diverse adults". Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology. 18 (1): 1–16. doi:10.1037/a0026490. PMID 22250894.
  13. Haslam, Nick (6 June 2017). "Cultures fuse and connect, so we should embrace polyculturalism". The Conversation. Retrieved 25 August 2018.
  14. "Everybody Was Kung Fu Fighting -- Afro-Asian Connections and the Myth of Cultural Purity -- Vijay Prashad". 23 August 2004.

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