The rhetoric of acculturation: When integration means assimilation


Correspondence should be addressed to Mr Matt Bowskill, Social Psychology European Research Institute (SPERI), Department of Psychology, University of Surrey, Guildford, Surrey, GU2 7XH, UK (e-mail:


Viewing traditional acculturation literature through a social constructionist lens, the present paper identifies a number of limitations with this research. A discourse analytic approach to acculturation is offered as a means of addressing some of these issues. Drawing on examples taken from British print media debate surrounding the issue of faith schooling in the UK, an analysis is presented which illustrates the manner in which, though optimally positioned within acculturative moral hierarchies directed towards the legitimization of both pro- and anti-faith schooling debates, integration rhetoric often conceals the (re-)production of a more implicit assimilationism. Findings are discussed in terms of their implications for hegemonically structured acculturative power relations. This exploratory analysis provides the basis for reflection on the benefits of a discursive approach to acculturation. Moreover, the dependence of integrationist discourse on a series of socio-spatial resources is considered and, following on from Dixon and Durrheim's (2000) discursive re-conceptualization of place-identity, is taken to signify the need for a more environmentally ‘grounded’ approach to acculturation.