Encyclopedia > Biculturalism

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A policy of biculturalism is typically adopted in nations that have emerged from a history of national or ethnic conflict in which neither side has gained complete victory. This condition usually arises as a consequence of colonial settlement. The resulting conflict may be either between colonisers and indigenous people or between rival groups of colonisers. The policy influences the structures and decisions of governments to ensure that political and economic power and influence are allocated equitably between people and/or corporations identified with the opposite sides of the cultural divide.

Examples include the conflicts between Anglophone and Francophone Canadians, between Maori and Pakehaa New Zealanders and between Anglophone White South Africans and Boers.

The term biculturalism was originally adopted in the Canadian context. Because biculturalism has the quality of suggesting, more or less explicitly, that only two cultures merit formal recognition, it has come to be seen as inadequately progressive when compared with the idea of multiculturalism (for which it formed a precedent).

In the context of deafness, the word biculturalism is used less controversially because the distinction (between spoken language and sign language) is commonly recognised as a genuine binary distinction transcending the distinctions between various spoken languages.

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