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Pluralistic Societies: Challenges and opportunities of cultural diversity in liberal democracies.

Link to shareable Conference PDF

Link to shareable Conference Program 

In an age of increasing globalization, rapid communication of ideas, and movement of people across historical boundaries of place and identity, both societies and individuals themselves seem to be becoming more diverse. Diversity brings opportunities and challenges. Awareness of diversity can open people up to new ways of thinking and being, but can also create resistance when those new ways clash with taken-for-granted social and moral assumptions and valued cultural traditions. At a more local level, the movement of people across boundaries changes the character of local spaces, neighbourhoods, and cities in ways that might prompt people to feel ‘out-of-place’ where they were formerly ‘at home’.


The various challenges of diversity can be seen in the debates surrounding migrants and refugees currently occurring in many western liberal democracies: how can western liberal values of individual autonomy be balanced against the reality of diverse cultural practices, some of which may seem strange or disturbing, in the eyes of the cultural majority? It can also be seen in tensions between equality and difference that is often amplified by globalization and economic change. As societies become more diverse, they also tend to become more unequal. Diverse societies can therefore test and strain the values of those who aspire to social equality, and raise questions about how these things can be balanced – both in terms of social policy but also in the minds of citizens themselves.


A Call for Papers:

We invite contributions for a two-day small group meeting at the University of Copenhagen exploring issues of cultural diversity, pluralism, and social cohesion, through the lens of different disciplinary, theoretical, and methodological standpoints, using multiple forms of data. We aim to create a space within which both junior and senior researchers feel free to debate and discuss the tensions and possibilities within pluralistic societies. To anchor discussions, we have confirmed two keynote speakers:



Jolanda Jetten

Professor of Social Psychology University of Queensland


Richard Shweder

Harold H. Swift Distinguished Service Professor of Comparative Human Development

University of Chicago



Meeting Location:

The meeting will be situated in central Copenhagen, the capital of Denmark. Like many western European countries, issues surrounding diversity, and the balance between equality and difference, play out vividly here also. Traditionally, Denmark has been relatively ethnically, culturally, and linguistically homogenous. Yet recent migration and the increasing visibility of ethnic groups in specific areas has triggered multiple responses. Politicians and citizens are currently debating questions of whether and how this new diversity should be accommodated, what expectations or requirements should apply to new arrivals, and how minority groups can form communities and live out their identities in their new home.


Copenhagen is friendly, safe, and relaxed – regularly topping lists of the world’s most liveable cities. The conference coincides with the beginning of the northern summer in which the beauty and vibrancy of Copenhagen will be on full display. The long summer evenings will give plenty of time to enjoy the city’s waterways, squares, and parks, as well as Copenhagen’s famous dining scene.



Thanks to generous support from the Carlsberg Foundation, we are able to offer up to 5 bursaries to support the travel and accommodation costs of junior scholars (i.e., PhDs, postdocs, early career researchers without an ongoing academic contract) who wish to present at the small group meeting. Bursaries are worth 3500DKK (approximately €500) each and will be allocated competitively, based on quality of submission and fit to theme, but also to ensure diverse representation among attendees and speakers. Please indicate in your submission your eligibility for a bursary and whether your attendance would be dependent on receiving this. 


Expressions of interest:

If you are interested in attending this meeting, please send an abstract (between 100-200 words) to Séamus Power ( and Thomas Morton (, with ‘Pluralistic Societies’ as the subject line of your email.


There will be no attendance fee. Attendees will be expected to cover travel and accommodation costs (unless they are the recipient of a bursary). Invited participants will be competitively selected. We will strike a balance between senior and junior researchers.  


Conference dates: Wednesday & Thursday, June 7th & 8th, 2023.


Submission deadline: 1st March 2023.

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