What was Multiculturalism?

Vijay Mishra


Abstract

This paper re-thinks the current imperative to theorize the (white) nation-state as a ‘multination,’ one in which the grand narrative of a nation’s founding communities (and the presumption of assimilation upon which the grand narrative was always based) gives way to a multiply centred narrative attuned to questions of unequal power relations, racism, exploitation and so on. Multiculturalism as a theory has arisen out of this shift and presents itself not as an explanatory model of a given situation but as a problematic in need of continuous theorization. The paper argues that multiculturalism remains a thing of the past, a way in which the project of the Enlightenment and matters of justice may be rethought (but not radically altered) so as to accommodate the ‘alien’ within. And it is for this reason – because of its pastness – that it requires constant critique and re-evaluation, the need to specify the real, material conditions of racism and their relation to capital at every point.

Keywords

Multiculturalism; migration; tolerance; inclusiveness

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