Secularism, Assimilation and the Crisis of Multiculturalism

French Modernist Legacies

Yolande Jansen

Secularism, Assimilation and the Crisis of Multiculturalism

Yolande Jansen

Distributed for Amsterdam University Press

336 pages | 6 x 9
Paper $49.95 ISBN: 9789089645968 Published February 2014 For sale only in the United States, its dependencies, the Philippines, and Canada
In this timely study, Yolande Jansen critiques efforts to assimilate religious minorities into a secular and supposedly neutral public sphere. Such efforts, she ably demonstrates, can create and perpetuate the very distinctions they aim to overcome.

Her sophisticated analyses draw on literature that depicts the paradoxes of assimilation as experienced by French Jews in the late nineteenth century. Paying particular attention to Marcel Proust’s In Search of Lost Time, she ultimately argues for dynamic, critical multiculturalism as an alternative to secularism, assimilation, and integration.

Chapter one. The crisis of multiculturalism, new assimilationism and secularism

Chapter two. Assimilation in the French sociology of incorporation from a multicultural perspective             Introduction: Why reintroduce assimilation?

1. Gérard Noiriel. Writing the history of power in the context of migration

2. A multicultural perspective: I been in the right place, but it must have been the wrong       time

Chapter three. The new liberal sociology of assimilation and its transnationalist alternatives

Introduction: The international sociological debate about assimilation and its normative implications

1. Critique of postnationalism, multiculturalism and integration        

2. The alternatives proposed by the ‘liberal assimilationists’  

3. Complications for a diagnosis: ‘On their turf’     

4. Alternatives       

5. Against the new discourses of assimilation           

Transit I: To the Proustian pluriverse or Proust as a witness of assimilation in nineteenth19th-century France

Europe; initial connections with the secularism-religion framework

Chapter four. Alfred Bloch’s personal integration test at the threshold of the protagonist’s family’s home

1. ‘And what’s the name of this friend of yours who is coming this evening?’            

2. The Revolution’s conditions of Emancipation   

3. Bloch coping with paradox


Chapter five. Stuck in a revolving door. Cultural memory, assimilation and secularisation

Introduction: Assimilation, cultural memory and metaphor

1. Bloch and his family being ‘picturesque rather than pleasing’ at the beach

2. Hannah Arendt reads Proust; from Judaism to Jewishness         

3. Scratching the surface; Zygmunt Bauman and the paradoxes of assimilation        

4. ‘A consubstantial malaise of republican society’ 

Transit II: Laïcité and assimilation in the Third Republic and today

Chapter six. Elements for a critique of the laïcité¬-religion framework        

Introduction: Towards a genealogy of the laïcité¬-religion framework

1. Laïcité and neo-Kantian liberalism       

2. Kant at school; Durkheim and Buisson

3. The genealogy of the religious ‘sign’ with a French twist towards ordre public

Chapter seven. Secularism, sociology, security           
Introduction: The sociology of secularisation and the normative concept of laïcité

1. The Stasir Report: Un rapport sans médiation

2. Secularism or democratic multiculturalism?

Chapter eight. The highly precarious structure of assimilation: modernist philosophical schemes, memory and the Proustian narrative     
Introduction: The invention of tense pasts ‘after’ assimilation
1. Adorno and Benjamin on assimilation and the rejection of Swann

2. Public and private Dreyfusism

3. The social discipline of forgetting


Democratic memory   

1. The assimilation of the French Jews as a memory for today

2. Getting stuck in a revolving door in the early twenty-first21st century

3. Problematising the laïcité-religion framework instead of defining a better laicité   

4. Multicultural alternatives         

Review Quotes
John R. Bowen | Washington University in St. Louis
“Jansen has given us a brilliant and thorough philosophical reading of current writings on assimilation, multiculturalism, and secularism, weaving together a rereading of Proust on Jewish experiences of the paradoxes of assimilation with current debates about the situation of Muslims in Europe. She seeks no less than to reposition these debates in a renewed sense of multiculturalism as a critique of modernist assumptions about liberalism and assimilation.”
Rainer Bauboeck | European University Institute
“Jansen’s book shows how even the most sophisticated academic views defending secularism and assimilation remain rooted in unexamined ‘modernist dichotomies’ inherited from French (and to some extent, European) modernism.”
Rim-Sarah Alouane | Université Toulouse I-Capitole
“A must read. Not just another book on multiculturalism or laïcité: Yolande Jansen’s work is a hard-hitting and back to basics reminder of multiculturalism fundamentals. It also offers a brilliant, pragmatic and insightful analysis of what secularism makes invisible about the position of Muslims in France today. The subtle and delicate reference to Marcel Proust’s A la recherche du Temps Perdu makes Jansen’s work unique, brave and  powerful.”
Brian Klug | University of Oxford
"For anyone who seeks to understand the roots of the ‘deepening crisis of multiculturalism’ in Europe, Yolande Jansen’s book is required reading. Jansen’s brilliant and insightful analysis draws on a variety of fields and lucidly shows how the crisis is a crisis in modernity.  Subtly weaving Proust into the argument, she brings a dry subject to life."
For more information, or to order this book, please visit
Google preview here

Chicago Manual of Style

RSS Feed

RSS feed of the latest books from Amsterdam University Press. RSS Feed