Member of the Australian Arabic Council and the Palestinian
Human Rights Campaign
Re-reading Multiculturalism; Towards a New Politics
of the Margin
In Australia, multiculturalism exists as a state-sponsored policy
of minority management and inclusion, one that is promoted as
integral to the project of 's ingle-nation-building'. This is
a project whose historical precedents span both Federation and
the assimilationist policies of White Australia.
In this paper, I want to foreground some of the current critical
re-readings of multiculturalism taken up by younger Arabic community
representatives and activists.
Our approach centers on a re-examination of the radical differences
and historical similarities that exist between multiculturalism,
as an attempt to redefine Australia's national cultural identity,
and earlier efforts to construct the nation around the normative
'ideals' and preservation of racial and cultural exclusivity.
It requires recognising that the history and politics of race
played out in earlier tropes of the nation, provides the historical
context within which minority spaces in Australia came to be
differentially defined and demarcated through a series of discriminatory
practices that worked to reinforce national borders of inclusion
Under multiculturalism, these minority spaces are recoded and
made inclusive under the sign of 'cultural diversity'. It is
a move in which 'difference' is both reified and aestheticised
in a series of homogeneous cultural stereotypes and seen as an
intrinsic property of culture.
Our approach has been to re-articulate minority spaces as much
more the product of those political and economic policies and
social practices that traditionally bore out Australia's anxieties
over racial and cultural differences in its attempts to construct
a uniquely Australian national identity. Difference here, is
seen as relational rather than confined within separate groups.
This is not to suggest that multiculturalism is redundant, but
rather intended as a way to open up the space for a new politics
and a renewed determination to make multiculturalism real and
workable in community relations.
Alexander Kouttab is a member of the Australian Arabic Council
and the Palestinian Human Rights campaign. He has written extensively
on issues facing the Arabic community in Australia, the continuing
Palestinian-Israeli conflict, and on questions of Palestinian
identity and resistance. He has also spoken at a number of community
30 min. Paper