From around the early nineteenth century, the quest for social and cultural homogenization and the elimination of internal differences became high priorities among the nations of North America and Western Europe. In the United States, for example, succeeding generations strove to create a common citizenry in a society of immigrants and claimed success through the so-called American melting pot. After World War II, a countertrend opposed homogenization, exalted difference, and abandoned the idea of the melting pot. In the United States, the second trend helped create the civil rights movements and resulted in the movement called multiculturalism. The process had many parallels in Western Europe. The emphasis on centralization in Napoleonic France epitomized the trend toward homogenization. Currently, the goals of Basque, Catalan, or Scottish separatists embody the reverse.

The five long essays in this book, mostly written by Mónica Quijada, are an...

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