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Multiculturalism refers to the historical evolution of cultural diversity within a jurisdiction, incarnated by its selection policies and institutionalized by its settlement policies. As a descriptive term, multiculturalism refers to the selection policies that formed the demographic incarnation of a specific place, which may have come about endogenously through the conjunction of two or more ethnic groups into one jurisdiction (eg Canada) or exogenously through immigration from different jurisdictions around the world (eg Australia). As a prescriptive term, multiculturalism refers to one type of settlement policy that promotes the institutionalization of cultural diversity. This is often contrasted to other settlement policies such as social integration, cultural assimilation and racial segregation. Multiculturalism has been described as a “salad bowl” or “cultural mosaic” rather than a “melting pot”. Multicultural ideologies or policies vary widely, ranging from the advocacy of equal respect to the various cultures in a society, to a policy of promoting the maintenance of cultural diversity, to policies in which people of various ethnic and religious groups are addressed by the authorities as defined by the group they belong to. Two main different and seemingly inconsistent strategies have developed through different government policies and strategies. The first focuses on interaction and communication between different cultures. Interactions of cultures provide opportunities for the cultural differences to communicate and interact to create multiculturalism; this approach is also often known as interculturalism. The second centers on diversity and cultural uniqueness which can sometimes result in intercultural competition. Cultural isolation can protect the uniqueness of the local culture of a nation or area and also contribute to global cultural diversity. A common aspect of many policies following the second approach is that they avoid presenting any specific ethnic, religious, or cultural community values as central.

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