Academic journal article Canadian Ethnic Studies Journal

Canadian Multiculturalism as Banal Nationalism: Understanding Everyday Meanings among Sri Lankan Tamils in Toronto

Academic journal article Canadian Ethnic Studies Journal

Canadian Multiculturalism as Banal Nationalism: Understanding Everyday Meanings among Sri Lankan Tamils in Toronto

Article excerpt

Abstract

Multiculturalism is a contested concept and policy in the current context. Many European leaders have declared its failure, and scholars have traced a global backlash against multicultural policies, especially in Europe. Canadians, on the other hand, are more likely to view it positively, as a badge of citizenship or belonging. Being multicultural has become closely intertwined with what it means to be Canadian, especially for immigrants and their children. The focus of this paper is to unpack these meanings of multiculturalism among one immigrant group, most of whom are now Canadians, and their children: Sri Lankan Tamils in the Greater Toronto Area. Our aim is to better understand how members of this group view the relationship between their Canadian and Tamil identities in the context of multiculturalism. In particular, we are interested in the 'uptake' of the concept, practice, and policy of multiculturalism among Sri Lankan Tamil newcomers to Canada. Drawing on interviews and focus groups with both immigrants (first generation) and Sri Lankan Tamils born in Canada (second generation), we illustrate some of the ways in which multiculturalism operates as frontstage behaviour and as a more tacit backstage concept among those in the Greater Toronto Tamil diaspora. We argue that Canadian multiculturalism functions as 'banal nationalism' in Canada, as daily practices of tacit nation-building are produced and repeated on a daily basis among Sri Lankan Tamil Canadians.

Resume

Le multiculturalisme est un concept politique conteste dans le context actuel. De nombreux dirigeants europeens ont declare son echec, et plusieurs chercheurs ont trace une reaction generale contre les politiques multiculturelles, en particulier en Europe. Cependant, les Canadiens sont plus susceptibles de considerer positivement ce concept de multiculturalisme et l'etablissent comme une composante de la citoyennete ou de l'appartenance. Etre multiculturel est devenue aujourd'hui etroitement liee au fait d'etre Canadien, surtout pour les immigrants et leurs enfants. L'objectif de cet article est d'exposer les significations du multiculturalisme parmi un groupe d'immigrants dont la plupart sont maintenant des Canadiens, il s'agit des Tamouls sri-lankais dans la region du Grand Toronto. Notre objectif est de mieux comprendre comment les membres de ce groupe considerent la relation entre leurs identites (canadienne et tamoul) dans le contexte du multiculturalisme. En particulier, nous sommes interesses a l'<< adaptation >> du concept, de la pratique et de la politique du multiculturalisme parmi les nouveaux arrivants sri-lankais tamouls au Canada. On se basant sur des entrevues et des groupes de discussion avec les immigrants Tamouls sri-lankais (premiere generation) et les Tamouls sri-lankais ne en Canada (deuxieme generation), nous illustrons quelques-unes des facons dont le multiculturalisme fonctionne comme un comportement de premier plan au debut de l'installation au Canada, puis comme un concept plus tacite dans la vie de la diaspora tamoule du Grand Toronto. Nous soutenons que les fonctions du multiculturalisme canadien, en tant que << nationalisme banal >> au Canada, et en tant que pratiques quotidiennes de construction de la nation tacite, sont produites et repetees sur une base quotidienne entre sri-lankais tamouls canadiens.

INTRODUCTION

Multiculturalism is a contested concept and policy in the current context. Many European leaders have declared its failure, and scholars have traced global backlash against multicultural policies, especially in Europe (Kymlicka 2010). England's Prime Minister David Cameron, for example, argued in 2011 that "state multiculturalism" has encouraged different cultures to live different lives, often "behaving in ways that run counter to our values" and at the expense of a unifying "vision of society to which they feel they want to belong" (BBC News 2011). …

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