notes on dutch literature

Immigrant Nations

In Non-Fiction on December 16, 2012 at 6:47 PM

Immigrant Nations - Paul Scheffer
Immigrant Nations by Paul Scheffer is a reassessment of how immigration is changing our world. The policies of multiculturalism that were implemented in the wake of post-war immigration have, especially since 9/11, come under intense scrutiny, and the continuing flow of populations has helped to ensure that immigration remains the focus of intense social and political debate.

Based on his knowledge of the European and American experience, Scheffer shows how immigration entails the loss of familiar worlds, both for immigrants and for host societies. The conflict that accompanies all major migratory movements is not the result of a failure of integration, but is part of a search for new ways of living together. It prompts an intensive process of self-examination on all sides.

Immigrant Nations – a mix of reportage, memoir, analysis and history first published in Dutch in 2007 – is bursting with curiosity about the immigrant condition. Scheffer is a professor of urban studies at Amsterdam University but he brings a literary imagination to this vast subject, together with a psychological insight and aphoristic style not found in the academic tomes.

Immigrant Nations is an important, ambitious book. It rambles in places, and Scheffer ducks the big issue of what national identity should look like in open, rich societies. But as the revolt against mass immigration and multiculturalism shows no signs of weakening in Europe, it is timely to have a rational and liberal defence of the new scepticism that ranges with such confidence across so many countries – and is a damn good read too.

David Goodhart, The Financial Times

Immigrant Nations is published by Polity Press (2011) and is translated by Liz Waters.

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