Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

The Possibilities of Tolerance: Intercultural Dialogue in a Multicultural Europe

Wilson, Helen F.

The Possibilities of Tolerance: Intercultural Dialogue in a Multicultural Europe Thumbnail



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.


Wilson, H. F. (2014). The Possibilities of Tolerance: Intercultural Dialogue in a Multicultural Europe. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 32(5), 852-868.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Feb 4, 2014
Online Publication Date Sep 10, 2014
Publication Date Oct 1, 2014
Deposit Date Sep 14, 2017
Publicly Available Date Nov 7, 2017
Journal Environment and Planning D: Society and Space
Print ISSN 0263-7758
Electronic ISSN 1472-3433
Publisher SAGE Publications
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 32
Issue 5
Pages 852-868


Published Journal Article (328 Kb)

Publisher Licence URL

Copyright 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 (

You might also like

Downloadable Citations