Academic journal article Canadian Ethnic Studies Journal

Multiculturalism and Egalitarianism

Academic journal article Canadian Ethnic Studies Journal

Multiculturalism and Egalitarianism

Article excerpt


This essay examines the links between Canadian multiculturalism and racism and presents a critical account of its historical transformation over the last forty years. Te this end, the essay discusses the role of multicultural ideology in the formation of the postwar hegemonic historic bloc in which a new national identity emerged out of the ruins of the British Empire and through the passage te U.S. global paramountcy. The essay explores the contradictions of this postwar nationalism and examines its crisis, providing an account of the structural transformation underway of both racism and multiculturalist ideology as the Harper Conservatives seek te establish a new historic bloc in the face of the deep crisis of U.S. global hegemony. The essay argues for the importance of understanding how the Utopianism of multiculturalism depends on the revitalization of an egalitarian counter-environment te the republic of property and its world system of nation-states.


Cet essai porte sur les liens du racisme et du multiculturalisme dans un expose critique de la transformation historique de ce dernier au cours des quarante dernieres annees. A cette fin, nous y abordons le role de l'ideologie multiculturelle dans la formation du bloc historique hegemonique de l'apres-guerre, lorsqu'une nouvelle identite nationale a emerge des ruines de l'Empire britannique et de l'avenement de la domination mondiale des Etats-Unis. Nous y examinons les contradictions et la crise de ce nationalisme, en presentant un compte rendu de la transformation structurelle en cours a la fois du racisme et de l'ideologie multiculturelle, alors que les conservateurs de Stephen Harper cherchent a etablir un nouveau bloc historique face a la profonde crise de l'hegemonie mondiale des Etats-Unis. Dans cet essai, nous soutenons que l'importance de comprendre comment l'utopisme du multiculturalisme depend de la revitalisation d'un contre-environnement egalitaire qui s'oppose a la republique de la propriete et a son systeme mondial d'etats-nations.



What has happened to multiculturalism now, forty years after it entered Canadian public cultural and political life? I propose to address this question by asking what the recent Reasonable Accommodation Debate and the Herouxville Affair tell us about the way both Multiculturalism and racism in Canadian society are changing. In doing so, I will approach the issues from the perspectives of historical sociology, transnational feminism and cultural studies.

What is multiculturalism today? What is racism today? These two questions have to be linked. As we shall see, racism and multiculturalism are fundamentally connected. Not because the two can be reduced to each other (they can't), not because anti-racist critique in Canada has long argued (correctly) that multiculturalism failed as an effective, comprehensive anti-racist strategy, but rather because of what made that critique necessary in the first place. For racism is more than a mere individual moral failing (it may be that, too); more significantly, it is a mode of politics. As such, it is one dimension of the changing aesthetic or ideology of Canadian nationalism and this is what connects it to multiculturalism. Here it may be useful to register the usual clarifications. The term multiculturalism, we are often reminded, is sometimes used to describe the empirical social fact of diversity. In itself this is a banal observation, if it is not merely the panic that grips white privilege on those occasions when the stance of colour-blindness fails it. For the more deeply we understand human history, the more we understand how hybrid and multicultural the human condition has usually been and how homogeneity of identity has been the artifact of political domination. Whatever people's official or avowed identifications may be, history teaches us that the cultural forms, media, practices, rituals, texts, repertoires and strategies out of which identities are constructed are themselves much traveled and deeply diasporic (Bayly 2004; Goody 1996; Robertson 2003). …

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