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Prof. Marek Tamm: What unites us in Estonia? Or, how to build a multi- and transcultural society in Estonia?


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Integration conference "My home, our home: what unites us in a multicultural community" on 15th and 16th November in Tallinn, Estonia. Conference webpage:

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Prof. Marek Tamm: What unites us in Estonia? Or, how to build a multi- and transcultural society in Estonia?

  1. 1. What unites us in Estonia? Or, how to build a multi- and transcultural society in Estonia? Marek Tamm (Tallinn University)
  2. 2. RITA-RÄNNE project (2018–2020): Migration dependency and integration challenges for Estonia, employers, communities and educational system The aim of this project, financed by Estonian Research Council, is to develop intervention approaches for migration and integration in Estonia that would contribute to a more cohesive society.The project will (a) develop the fundamentals of innovative immigration policy for Estonia that takes into account both immediate labour market needs and long-term integration challenges; (b) develop a unique web based application for migration projections as well as (c) the cost-benefit model of migration within a longitudinal life-course perspective, (d) design a model of multicultural schools, together with tools and intervention mechanisms for preventing and solving integration related challenges in schools and communities.
  3. 3. RITA-RÄNNE project (2018–2020): Main arguments and research questions • Argument:The precondition for integration is the emergence of a unified Estonian-language based education system that valorises the linguistic and cultural diversity of Estonia. • Research question: How to integrate in the best possible way the Russian-speaking habitants and the new immigrants into Estonian society, taking into account, firstly, the employer’s needs for new employees and, on the other hand, the integration capacity of the arrivals, of the education system and of the local communities?
  4. 4. RITA-RÄNNE project (2018–2020): Work package 4: Cultural diversity in Estonia • The main objective of the research team is to develop a general theoretical and conceptual framework for the integration process in Estonia. More specifically, the work package addresses the development of multicultural values, competences and attitudes in both autochthonous and immigrant communities in Estonia. • Research team: Prof. Marek Tamm (head), Prof. Martin Ehala, Dr. Mare Oja, Prof. Rein Raud.
  5. 5. Integration and multiculturalism as normality in modern societies • Integration is a constitutive feature of human society, while being continuous and endless. Integration is an inevitable consequence of modern society characterized by orientation to differentiation. • Integration is not so much the eradication of various “deviations” or resolving “problems” of certain social groups, but a normal phenomenon resulting from the dynamics and development of modern complex societies. • Genuinely homogenous cultures do not exist, all modern societies are culturally hybrid.This multicultural reality is, however, conceptualized and addressed in different ways in different societies.
  6. 6. How to conceptualize culture? (Rein Raud) • Culture is the sum total of the resources available to people for making their lifeworld(s) meaningful. • Culture is a loosely integrated network of texts (transmissible clusters of meaning) and practices (repeatable meaningful actions). • Cultures do not have enduring essences, but change constantly. • Cultural communities do not pre-exist individuals, but emerge as real through the sharing of texts and practices.
  7. 7. How to conceptualize Estonian society in terms of collective identity? • Estonian society should be understood in terms of collective identity at two different levels: political and cultural identity. • Political identity refers to the relationship of the residents of the country to Estonian state, orientation in the principles of governance, knowledge and respect of laws, political symbols and practices, recognition of constitutional institutions, appreciation of the basic political values, etc. • Cultural identity is shaped by common texts and practices, or more specifically by common language, cultural traditions, historical experience (cultural memory) and the like. Cultural identity is borne and shaped by cultural communities. Cultural communities are dynamic, not fixed, self-propelled, not pre-given (as a result of joint activities of individuals interested in the preservation and development of their cultural identity).
  8. 8. How to conceptualize Estonian society in terms of multiculturalism? • A multicultural system is an arrangement of co-existence of several integrated communities on a shared territory, in which one culture is usually dominant. • Hegemonic is the culture that has provided the multicultural system with a critical mass of shared texts and practices, while leaving the carriers of subcultures (incl. minorities) free choice to share and practice anything else beside these. • Ideological is the dominant culture in a multicultural situation that tries to impose its own values, texts and practices on all minorities.
  9. 9. Multicultural Estonian society • In Estonia we should speak about hegemonic cultural identity, Estonian cultural identity, and the various cultural minority identities related to it.The hegemonic cultural identity is carried and shaped by the Estonian cultural community, which consists of people who consider themselves to be culturally Estonians. • Next to the Estonian cultural community, and to a certain extent embedded in it, communities of minority cultures are operating in Estonia – cultural communities that have historically developed but are in constant development. The emergence and organization of minority cultural communities take place from below, and if it is successful, then the state has to accept and support such a community.
  10. 10. Transcultural Estonian society • Cultural communities do not coincide with the territory of Estonia, but include also those people whose political identity is not necessarily related to Estonia (e.g. Estonians in abroad), but who are culturally related to Estonia.A cultural minority community may also be, to a certain extent, culturally linked to another cultural community in its “homeland” (e.g. Ukrainians to the Ukrainian cultural identity in Ukraine). • Transcultural communities are virtual by nature and the integration policy should support the digital infrastructure that makes transcultural communication easier and more efficient.
  11. 11. A simplified model of multi- and transcultural Estonian society The model is static and flat, but it must be considered dynamic and multidimensional; the boundaries of cultural communities are changing, the number and size of the communities are only illustrative and the overlapping between different communities can occur between more than two or three communities. Estonian cultural community (incl. Estonian transcultural community) (hegemonic culture) Russian cultural community Ukrainian cultural commu- nity X cultural community Y cultural community A cultural community ESTONIA D cultural commu- nity B cultural commu- nity C cultural community Z cultural community
  12. 12. What kind of integration do we need in Estonia? • Integration should be directed towards the consolidation and enhancement of a common political identity and the preservation and development of various cultural identities, while enhancing the cultural intersection of the people living in Estonia. • Integration is primarily the construction of society as a whole through learning, i.e., integration must aim at teaching the civic and cultural competences needed in Estonia and at ensuring the maximum common ground and good relations between different cultural communities in the country. • Integration can only be successful in two directional relational mode, i.e., the Estonian cultural community must learn to know the minority cultures, while the members of minority communities must learn to orient themselves in Estonian culture.The goal of integration is to strengthen the importance and value of multiple cultural identities in Estonia.
  13. 13. What should be the aims of integration policy in Estonia? • The state must promote the knowledge of Estonian language and culture among all the inhabitants of Estonia, while respecting the constitutional right of people to preserve their cultural identity. • The state must pay attention to the factors perpetuating the inequality (asymmetry) of perceived and actual socio-economic positions of minorities and develop a policy to reduce these factors. • The national education system must create conditions for young people to acquire Estonian cultural identity (next to their earlier cultural identity, if relevant) and be accepted as Estonians if they wish so.
  14. 14. What should be the aims of integration policy in Estonia? • In the integration policy, it must be taken into account that the acquisition of Estonian cultural or national identity does not require the abandonment of one’s other cultural identities. • In the educational system, one must recognize the wish of the pupils and their parents to preserve their cultural identity and to consider this as as an important cultural resource, not the lack of it. • The integration policy must be based on the activity-based approach (supporting the activities of people with various cultural identities in different life-practical situations) and on the bottom-up initiatives.
  15. 15. Concluding remarks: what needs to be done? • We need to separate in Estonia cultural and political identities that were strongly associated with each other in the process of nation- building. • It should be possible to be politically Estonian, but have a multiple cultural identity. • In Estonian society, there should be a hegemonic, not an ideological domination in the multicultural system.