Immigration discourses and their impact on multiculturalism: A discursive and experimental study


Correspondence should be addressed to Dr Maykel Verkyten, Faculty of Social Sciences, Utrecht University, Heidelberglaan 2, 3584 CS Utrecht, The Netherlands (e-mail:


The present research examines discourses about immigration and their consequences for the evaluation of multiculturalism. It discusses two studies that were conducted among native Dutch people. The first study uses interviews and examines the discursive construction of categories of immigrants, and the rhetorical consequences of these constructions for the way people evaluate cultural diversity and the assimilation of immigrants. Immigration was found to be defined in relation to the repertoires of ‘personal choice’ or ‘lack of choice’, and the distinction between these repertoires provided the ideological arguments about rights and responsibilities. Furthermore, and for the participants themselves, an interpretative framework in terms of ‘personal choice’ involved a plea in the direction of assimilation, whereas ‘lack of choice’ involved arguments for cultural diversity. These consequences were examined further in a second experimental study. In this study, the endorsement of multiculturalism was found to depend on whether the notion of ‘personal choice’ or that of ‘lack of choice’ was elicited. The endorsement of multiculturalism was greater in the latter condition than in the former. By using different methods, the research tries to combine different theoretical approaches to social psychology.