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Conclusion
by Maida Owens

Multiculturalism, a buzzword of the 1990s coined to acknowledge and honor cultural diversity, has already produced a backlash. Many now claim that diversity promotes fragmentation and that assimilation or the blending of different traditional cultures is more in the national interest of the United States as a whole; according to some, the old melting pot theory should be revived, and a uniform mass culture promoted. In reality, the United States has never had and never will have such a seamless culture. Furthermore, to attempt to create a melting pot would deny the importance of traditional culture in the lives of individuals. People's sense of community and validation must be protected and honored. This need not threaten our national unity. The challenge for the future is to make diversity work -- to help all of us better understand not only our own cultures, but also those of others.
        Efforts by public cultural programs can produce tools, such as this volume and its companion video production on Louisiana storytelling, that can assist in this process of creating mutual respect through diversity. By assembling stories from the many cultural groups that comprise Louisiana, one will be able to better understand the whole. For it is by examining the individual parts that we understand the whole. Through public programs such as the Louisiana Folklife Program within the Division of the Arts, traditional Louisiana cultures have a means to be documented and validated with public presentations of their traditional art forms. The partnering of communities and trained researchers will help ensure that all of the traditional cultures within Louisiana will be better understood and appreciated. In the future, the Louisiana Folklife Program hopes to assist the communities covered in this volume to document more thoroughly their folk traditions and to empower those communities that have not yet made such efforts to document their unique folk cultures.

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