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An introduction to multi culturalism and the mixing of races

Between Race and Ethnicity Sneja Gunew The relationship between multiculturalism and postcolonialism appears to be an uneasy one. Multiculturalism deals with an introduction to multi culturalism and the mixing of races of difference but unlike postcolonialism, which is to a great extent is perceived to be defined by its specific historic legacies in a retroactive way, multiculturalism deals with the management often compromised of contemporary geo-political diversity in former imperial centres as well as their ex-colonies alike.

It is also increasingly a global discourse since it takes into account the flow of migrants, refugees, diasporas and their relations with nation-states. The reason for continuing to focus on multiculturalism, particularly a critical multiculturalism, is precisely because it is so intimately bound up in many parts of the world with those practices and discourses which manage often in the sense of police and control 'diversity'.

Within critical theory it has often been an embarrassing term to invoke partly because it is seen as automatically aligned with and hopelessly co-opted by the state in its role of certain kinds of conscious nation - building. As a result, for example, it is consistently rejected by anti-racist groups in Great Britain Hall, 1995.

In the realm of theoretical debate it is often associated with an identity politics based on essentialism and claims for authenticity which automatically reinstate a version of the sovereign subject and a concern with reified notions of origins. Thus it becomes impossible, it seems, to mention multiculturalism and socially progressive critical theory in the same breath.

But for all those reasons, because it is a contested term, is exactly why it is crucial to continue to scrutinize the discourses and practices mobilized in the name of multiculturalism.

This chapter will briefly consider some of the different interpretations of multiculturalism in various parts of the world and will then consider the ambiguous function of the key terms 'race' and 'ethnicity' within its deployment.

Particular consideration will be given to the republican debates within contemporary Australia with comparisons drawn from Canada, the U. Multiculturalism means different things in different contexts and in Canada, the U. While there have always been migrations and disaporas, after two world wars and many other conflicts this century the mix of people within borders increasingly rendered traditional national models anachronistic.

  • Two generations later we are;
  • The family of the nation is clearly at odds with the nation of families;
  • Essays on Racism, Feminism and Politics, Toronto;
  • This has complicated continuing debates on cultural appropriation Crosby, 1994.

Multiculturalism has been developed as a concept by nations and other aspirants to geo-political cohesiveness who are trying to represent themselves as homogeneous in spite of their heterogeneity. For cultural analysts the politics of representation are at its heart while for sociologists the specificities of legislation, public policies and their often arbitrary implementation are the major concern.

Multiculturalism may also sometimes be invoked as a way of signaling divergence from a notional mono-culturalism often wrongly identified with the 'West' or 'Europe' and here it overlaps significantly with postcolonial concepts and debates. Multiculturalism purports to deal with minorities and thus implies a relation with a majority, but how these two categories are defined and wielded in relation to each other is highly contested and further complicated by differences in articulation between advanced capitalist countries and the so-called Third World; between 'settler societies' and, for example, the European community.

In general, the organizing factor for the minorities are such terms as 'race', 'ethnicity', and 'indigeneity' while their origins are causally linked to migration, to colonization and other kinds of subjugation. With respect to 'race' it would be more accurate to refer to the processes of racialization involved in representing minorities than to the existence of unproblematic racial categories.

Ethnicity was more easily attached to the European migrations which proliferated around the two world wars. In North America, phrases such as 'visible minorities' were developed to categorize non-European immigrants who formed part of mass diasporas and neatly encapsulated as well the indigenous groups and those descendants of African slaves who had been an uneasily acknowledged part of the 'nation' for many centuries.

Hence multi-culturalism is often perceived as a covert means of indicating racialized differences. The need to deconstruct the 'natural' facade of racialization is clear when one notes that groups such as Ukrainians in Canada and Greeks and Italians in Australia were designated 'black' at various historical stages Gunew, 1994.

Further difficulties encountered by indigenous groups are highlighted in Australia where the Aborigines refuse to be included in multicultural discourses on the grounds that these refer only to cultures of migration, whereas in New Zealand 'biculturalism' is the preferred official term because multiculturalism is seen as a diversion from the Maori sovereignty movement.

In Canada First Nations are occasionally included in multicultural discourses and practices and are also consistently trapped between the French-English divide. This has complicated continuing debates on cultural appropriation Crosby, 1994. Discussions must also distinguish between state multiculturalism, dealing with the management of diversity, and critical multiculturalism used by minorities as a lever to argue for participation, grounded in their difference, in the public sphere.

Minorities use a variety of strategies to overcome the assimilationist presumptions of most state multiculturalism. Crucial to both areas is the notion of 'community' and an introduction to multi culturalism and the mixing of races women are particularly affected. State multiculturalism followed 'assimilation' a term deriving from digestion and indicating 'becoming the same as' and 'integration' separatism plus common values and represents a kind of liberal pluralism which implies both a hidden norm from which minority groups diverge while failing to recognize prevailing power differentials Goldberg, 1994.

State multiculturalism operates most clearly in the discourses and practices of education, sociology, the law and immigration and is always contradictory in its application and assumptions. In educational discourses it is often framed by a liberal pluralism where cultural differences are paraded as a-political ethnic accessories celebrated in multicultural festivals of costumes, cooking and concerts. A recent example of schoolgirls being barred from attending French schools if they wore head scarves has precipitated major debates in which the traditional Left were aligned with the far Right because both identified Islam with religion and bigotry, supposedly at odds with the secular and rationalist republican values constituted by the French nation Silverman, 1992.

In sociology and immigration the 'migrant or minority as problem' is a prevailing trope and emphasis is consistently placed on compatible differences and the need to obey the laws and conform to the mores of the new country. In contrast to supposed Western tolerance the minority is often represented as primitive or uncivilized, importing its social pathologies such as criminal gangs or 'uncivilized practices' such as arranged marriages or clitoridectomy.

The 'community' becomes the representative of and reference point for cultural difference and within this women, for example, rarely have agency.

In the exceptional instances where they do, for example in the women's movement, other internal differences, such as class loyalties, are suppressed Ali, 1992. In a diasporic situation minorities are characterized externally as static and a-historical Anthias and Yuval-Davis, 1992 and internally often suffer from compensatory nostalgias which can lead to rather rigid constructions of and adherence to purported traditions, particularly when associated with the struggle for maintenance of religious beliefs.

Women in these situations are often designated the bearers of these traditions without having agency in terms either of their interpretation or as community leaders Saghal, 1992. A particularly telling example was provided by the Shahbano case in India where a 73-year-old Muslim woman was awarded maintenance by the High Court of India after a ten-year battle.

This in turn led to accusations by the Muslim minority that their rights under the Muslim Shariat law personal laws governing the family within a religious framework were being undermined by the Hindu majority. Shahbano herself rejected the decision in what was interpreted as an act of Muslim solidarity. As Pathak and Rajan point out, such apparent respect for minority rights repeatedly trap women between the private and the public spheres, in this case, the family and the state Pathak and Rajan, 1992.

Multiracialism

Clearly the legal contradictions in and limits to multicultural policies exist in all contexts. It remains to be seen how the European Community will legislate to deal both with minorities within their separate nations and with the differences between the various European nations. Even within supposedly more enlightened contexts such as universities or academic feminism one encounters the phenomenon of the token 'woman of colour' invited to conferences Trinh, 1989; Chow, 1994 or equally tokenistic cross-cultural work which repeatedly uncovers the usual round of stereotypes Nnaemeka, 1994.

There is also the problem of conflating minorities in terms such as 'women of colour' or 'visible minorities' which once again serves to reinforce the notion of a legislative centre or norm Bannerji, 1993. Multiculturalism's implied focus on culture can also occlude or minimize specific political activisms and their histories.

However, even these complicit practices have become the target of what are known as the 'PC' Political Correctness debates. Following multicultural policies and programs, including such tactics as affirmative action, a number of conservative commentators have referred to the reign of the 'thought police' and 'biopolitics' Fekete, 1994. The latter is a reference to the further issue of identity politics -- that in the name of political agency people are identified with and reduced to their supposed sex, race or ethnicity.

As Ella Shohat and Robert Stam state wryly 1994'theory deconstructs totalizing myths while activism nourishes them'. This formulation can lead both to backlash from the wider community and to minorities competing with each other and building hierarchies of legitimation based on oppression. While Canada has to some degree pioneered the concept as part of state policy in dealing with minorities, there is a current plethora of studies focusing on multiculturalism in the U.

As Rajeswari Mohan puts it: In its incarnation in the 1980s, multiculturalism was a code word for "race', yoked to signifiers that included "affirmative action" and "quotas", among others.

Since the 1992 controversy an introduction to multi culturalism and the mixing of races New York City's rainbow curriculum, the term has become a code word for lesbian and gay issues. Despite shifts in the ideological freight carried by the term, what remains constant is its connotation of "special interest" that supposedly weighs against an implied general interest.

The reference point for all these is a consolidated and hegemonic 'whiteness' as the sign for all forms of socio-economic and political privilege. While multiculturalism is now often perceived as an empty signifier onto which groups project their fears and hopes, the future for critical multiculturalism lies in an alertness to the inherent 'hybridity' and diverse affiliations of all subjects which may be mobilized in varying combinations by particular projects or events.

Coalitions may be built around 'mutual and reciprocal relativization' Shohat and Stam, 1994. Critical multiculturalism may still be usefully invoked to counter exclusionary hegemonic practices or appeals to nostalgic histories in a bid to return to 'basics' and the reinstatement of the conservative status quo suggested by such recent examples as the threat to abolish affirmative action policies in the U.

Multiculturalism in Australia is too often ignored as a significant factor in the proliferating work in cultural studies or as part of socially progressive critical theory. One could argue against this that the references to 'Anglo-Celts' in the work of multicultural theorists Gunew and Longley, 1992 are not simply concerned with depicting historical continuities but are often attempts to highlight a language of representation dealing with inclusions and exclusion in the narratives of the nation.

In other words, who is included in those an introduction to multi culturalism and the mixing of races narratives of Australia's cultural traditions or other collective histories? Of particular concern are the ways we are enmeshed in and positioned by discourses of nationalism with all their contradictions, tensions and exclusions. The Australian caricatures of multicultural critical theory recall a timely warning contained in Paul Gilroy's recent study Black Atlantic in which he mentions, in the British context, 'a quiet cultural nationalism which pervades the work of some radical thinkers' Gilroy, 1993: The various incarnations of radical nationalisms in Australia could also be perceived at times as falling into these conceptual traps.

Australian usages of multiculturalism tend not to signal articulations of racialised differences and this may in part be because the category represented by race is often predominantly reserved for the Aboriginal peoples who in the Australian context unlike indigenous peoples in North America have succeeded in dissociating their concerns from discourses of multiculturalism. But these obvious ways may be deceptive for I would argue that by privileging 'ethnicity' as an organizing term Australian discourses of multiculturalism represent the erasure or evasion of race race being used here in the sense of racialised groups, conceptions and forms of power.

The racial other is a shifting concept but this aspect is not foregrounded in the current focus on depicting the category exclusively in terms of the indigenous peoples. For example, a dominant rhetorical pattern in the debates surrounding Australian republicanism suggests that Australia is borrowing to some degree from New Zealand in that it appears increasingly to be embracing a kind of politics of biculturalism.

The brave new republic is renarrativised on the basis of reconciliation with the indigenous peoples and while this is admirable in itself, it is interesting that this process is framed in terms of a binary opposition which homogenizes both sides and leaves little room for their internal differences much less for other locations of difference. For example, a recent collection titled Being Whitefella Graham, 1994modeled on New Zealander Michael King's famous anthology Pakeha attempts to scrutinize and deconstruct the norm of whiteness or Europeanness.

This represents a timely move in line with comparable directions elsewhere Young, 1990; Frankenberg, 1993; Morrison, 1992; Ware, 1992 but in Australia these efforts once again appear to consolidate Australianness as synonymous with Anglo-Celticism, albeit without acknowledging this. For example, here is a comment from the introduction: Perhaps because the Irish understand oppression, love the land and know what it's like to live on the fringe.

A number of prominent Aboriginal people have also noticed the shared experience. It is clear from this who is being constructed here as part of what the back cover describes as 'non-indigenous Australians'. We are confronted with 'blacks' versus 'whites' in the familiar contexts which derive from the scientific racism of an earlier period. Where does that leave 'ethnicity', the code name given for those more recent immigrant settlers who don't conveniently derive from Britain or Ireland and who interrogate these neat categories?

An introduction to multi culturalism and the mixing of races where does that leave Aboriginality for that matter, aspects of which can arguably also be constructed in terms of ethnicity? Aboriginality is also a matter of intersubjective relations as Marcia Langton notes, ' " Aboriginality", therefore, is a field of intersubjectivity in that it is remade over and over again in a process of dialogue, of imagination, of representation and interpretation.

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Both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people create "Aboriginalities". But let us return to those hidden reference points hidden in the new republicanism which seems currently to be organizing the discourses of the nation in Australiathat is, race, ethnicity and diaspora. As a recent plethora of books suggests, the distinction between race and ethnicity is increasingly a blurred one Anthias and Yuval-Davis, 1992; Frankenberg 1993; Goldberg 1990, 1993; Morrison,1992; West, 1993.

Both are, it seems, invented in ways that accord with the particular traditions they are asked to shore up. It becomes a matter of historical specificity in relation to particular groups as to where they have been placed on those axes of nationalism or internationalism which contextualize both race and ethnicity.

In an earlier era ethnicity was seen as a way of circumventing the racist history of 'race' and was associated with choice, in other words that one could choose the groups to which one belonged and within them could also choose what to preserve as part of an imagined past. Ethnicity was also largely conceived in cultural terms as a matter of the rituals of daily life, including language and religion, where culture supposedly operated as a place distinct from the political, a kind of safe haven from its exigencies.

  • In a diasporic situation minorities are characterized externally as static and a-historical Anthias and Yuval-Davis, 1992 and internally often suffer from compensatory nostalgias which can lead to rather rigid constructions of and adherence to purported traditions, particularly when associated with the struggle for maintenance of religious beliefs;
  • Aboriginality is also a matter of intersubjective relations as Marcia Langton notes, ' " Aboriginality", therefore, is a field of intersubjectivity in that it is remade over and over again in a process of dialogue, of imagination, of representation and interpretation;
  • Therefore the notion that racism is irrational, that it falls outside the mechanisms of reason, is put in question;
  • One assumes that this over-determined chronology serves to justify the atrocities of the present war;
  • Second, when policy treats Americans differently depending on what race they belong to, it should make use of this government classification.

Race on the other hand has been associated with irreducible difference akin to sexual difference often located in what have been termed 'visible differences' for example, skin colour which gained their legitimation through associations with so-called biological givens. This meant that choice was suspended in the face of racist projections emerging in response to some aspects of these arbitrarily chosen visible differences.

It also means that visible differences often amount to a coded way of referring back to those apparent biological essences which formed the grounds for scientific racism. While concepts of irreducible differences can be said to work in two directions by conferring legitimacy on both racism, on the one hand, and on attempts to forge radical communities which subvert those agendas, modern theorists have increasingly undermined the bases for arguing for race as predicated on absolute differences.

As David Goldberg puts it in his recent study, ' race is arbitrary. Models attempting to locate the absolute grounds of racial difference have been displaced by analyses establishing the mechanisms of racism and racialised forms of power which result in certain groups gaining 'race privilege' Frankenberg 1993.

As Goldberg states, 'Race is irrelevant, but all is race' Goldberg, 1993: Who counts as in and who out, who is central to the body politic and who peripheral, who is autonomous and who dependent? Another way of putting it is to see it in this period of history as a struggle over who controls the codes and practices of nation-building.

  1. There seems some truth in Ruth Frankenberg's suggestion that minorities see the elements which structure the dominant more clearly than do those at the 'centre' Frankenberg, 1993. Television screens bristled with elderly balding men who became increasingly red-faced no doubt the results of years of attendance at their local club as they argued that it had nothing to do with race and everything to do with 'respect' and equally elderly men in turbans who with far more equanimity argued the same as a way of achieving the opposite.
  2. Biopolitics Rising, Robert Davies Publishing. It is also increasingly a global discourse since it takes into account the flow of migrants, refugees, diasporas and their relations with nation-states.
  3. Within critical theory it has often been an embarrassing term to invoke partly because it is seen as automatically aligned with and hopelessly co-opted by the state in its role of certain kinds of conscious nation - building.
  4. How might one unpack the signification of 'ethnic cleansing' here? The family of the nation is clearly at odds with the nation of families.
  5. Hence multi-culturalism is often perceived as a covert means of indicating racialized differences.