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Open Access Hidden dangers in multicultural discourse

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The discourse of multiculturalism may be conceived as one that enables us to confront the paradoxes of a world gone global, touching primarily on the possible meaning of the concept of 'culture' in the forums of democratic nations, particularly with respect to relationships among cultural variations, government policies, and education. At present, the nature of these relationships is under attack from a variety of ethnic, religious, cultural, and national minorities that accuse nation-states of insensitivity to their particular needs and expectations and failure to accord them sufficient recognition. The challenges posed by these minorities call for immediate attention, as democratic states are at least rhetorically committed to the principle of equal representation for all citizens.

This paper presents a critique of the multicultural discourse of policymakers and educators in the context of modern democracies from an anthropological perspective, underscoring the dangers of the reified conceptualization and use of the term 'culture' with its concomitant racial undertones. Throughout, we follow the historical development of the notion of culture and suggest possible ways to overcome its present limitations.

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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: June 1, 2003

More about this publication?
  • The complete run of Race Equality Teaching (RET), the only practitioners' journal devoted to race equality in education, is available free below. The journal began in 1982 as Multicultural Teaching (MCT) and the name changed in 2002 when it became available to subscribers online. MCT and RET recorded the story of education and race in Britain over four decades, reflecting on national and global events, and developments in educational and social policy and in classroom practice in culturally and linguistically diverse Britain.

    Topics covered included the Swann Report, the Education Reform Act, the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry, the Race Relations Amendment Act, counter-terrorism, the Equality Act, and the policies of the coalition government from 2010 onwards. The major theme was resisting prejudice and discrimination, be it colour racism, Islamophobia, antisemitism, or anti-Traveller hostility. It noted – and characterized – the interlocking roles of top-down policy and grassroots pioneering and the links to issues of class, disability, gender, religion and sexuality. Although primarily about Britain, the journal was read, consulted, and drew contributions from across the world. The final edition (volume 34, number 3, June 2018) is a souvenir compilation of reflections, quotations and extracts from articles through the years.

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