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The possibilities of tolerance : intercultural dialogue in a multicultural Europe.

Wilson, Helen F. (2014) 'The possibilities of tolerance : intercultural dialogue in a multicultural Europe.', Environment and planning D : society and space., 32 (5). pp. 852-868.


Tolerance is everywhere. The Council of Europe endeavours to build it, schools are required to teach it, and neighbours are asked to extend it. It features in citizenship ceremonies, city-marketing campaigns, and religious texts and is attached to a variety of different objects, people, and behaviours. Yet despite its ubiquitous circulation as a moral good, critiques of tolerance as a way of relating have called for its rejection in favour of alternative projects such as respect and equality. In this paper I contextualise recent critiques and ask what possibilities remain for a politics of tolerance in multicultural Europe. In so doing, I argue that critiques are insufficiently attuned to the different contexts in which tolerance becomes productive and offer a starting point for further empirical research on its embodied practice. Using an example of dialogue, I argue that tolerance can be intrinsic to the development of alternative relations when positioned as part of an ongoing struggle to multiply ways of thinking and acting. I finish by reflecting on the relationship between tolerance, agonism, and dialogue, to outline a more pragmatic politics of difference, arguing that it is not enough to call for alternative projects without attending to the difficult and incremental learning that such projects demand.

Item Type:Article
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Publisher statement:This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License ( which permits any use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access page (
Date accepted:04 February 2014
Date deposited:07 November 2017
Date of first online publication:10 September 2014
Date first made open access:No date available

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