Life in the UK is not always straightforward. One needs time to get accustomed to the social norms in order to be able to understand the subtle meanings that are implied in social encounters. I will attempt, through an array of generalisations and stereotypes, to illustrate these differences. Continue reading only if you don’t take yourself too seriously.
Costas Constantinou and Giorgos Skordis created a documentary back in 2001, called The Third Motherland. It contains a series of informal interviews at the village of Kormakitis. The interviews show the internal exclusion that Maronites have experienced. As Constantinou himself says: “the film reveals the dilemmas of identification and belonging and accounts for opposing feelings and beliefs within and beyond the community”. It is “a film about cultural loss, co-option, denial of rights and everyday social problems, but also of ethnic pride, cultural revival, communal joy and resistance”.
In late June, I will be presenting a paper titled ‘Multiculturalism contra Ethnicity: the case of Cyprus’ at a conference organised by Surrey’s Center of Research on Nationalism, Ethnicity and Multiculturalism and UCL’s Migration Research Unit, called The Future of Multiculturalism: Structures, Integration Policies and Practices.
This is the abstract of my paper:
This paper will use the post-conflict and post-colonial multicultural challenges that exist in Cyprus to assess the use of ethnicity as a marker for cultural identification. It will be demonstrated that ethnocultural identification can become a source of social, political and linguistic oppression and as such should not be uncritically adopted in defence of group-differentiated citizenship. This hypothesis will be assessed through the example of Cyprus, where the British colonialists divided the various religious groups of the island into two ethno-national minorities, reducing the rest into religious collectives without substantial political rights. The case of Cyprus will demonstrate: (i) how the concept of ethnicity as an ‘imagined community’ can be utilised as a pretext for assimilation or social isolation; (ii) how ethnicity prioritises the continuation of the collective imaginary values over than the needs of the individual cultural members; and (iii) how ethnicity can be utilised in making religious groups socially invisible. The marginalisation of the Maronite, Latin, Armenian and Roma cultures in Cyprus demonstrates the problematic relation of ethnicity and multiculturalism since the former can be used to deny cultural and linguistic recognition to non-dominant or non-ethnic minorities and religious groups.
Opposite the critiques of group-rights, stands Tariq Modood who is one of the most vocal proponents of multiculturalism in the UK. His book Multiculturalism: a Civic Idea (2007) is a reply to the conservative claims that multiculturalism is dead, like those advanced by the British Prime Minister David Cameron when discussing terrorism and radicalisation (05 February 2011).
In this post, I provide a summary of Will Kymlicka’s very influential book on multiculturalism, titled Multicultural Citizenship: a liberal theory of minority rights. This book is important for everyone interested in multiculturalism since it initiated the contemporary debate about group-differentiated rights. One needs not to fully agree with Kymlicka to acknowledge his courageous effort to challenge liberalism’s atomistic individualism by promoting an interpretation of traditional liberal values which demands special treatment to members of some (minorities and immigrant) groups. In doing so, Kymlicka challenges the long assumed neutrality of the liberal state. His thinking and argumentation comes within liberalism itself, which is what makes his case distinctive (if anyone dares to give a concrete definition of liberalism, be my guest).
A couple of days ago, at a roundtable, the discussion of Female Genital Cutting came up, and I remembered that I’ve written this piece about women and agency some time ago, but I didn’t publish it in the blog. I hope that you find it interesting.
I give a summary of what I consider to be one of the greatest works of contemporary political philosophy.
Tully, in his book Strange Multiplicity (1995) gives an account of what a just constitution would look like. In a just constitution he tells us ‘each speaker is given her or his due, and this is exactly the initial question raised by the politics of cultural recognition’ (p. 6). A just constitution arises through deliberation among equals; people who mutually recognise each other for what they are without reducing them to familiar and convenient images that distort and misrepresent them. This requirement (of diversity) has been ignored in the discussion of multiculturalism, since ‘cultures are conceived as analogous to the more familiar constitutional concept of nations’ (p. 8). Moreover, multiculturalism has been a victim of essentialism; cultures are discussed as if they are internally homogenous entities, even though in reality they are ‘continuously contested, imagined and reimagined, transformed and negotiated, both by their members and through their interactions with others’ (p. 11).
Tully suggests that we need to listen to the stories that other people have to tell us through intercultural dialogue that will facilitate our understanding of other peoples’ diverse perspectives. This intercultural discussion has not taken place at the constitutional level, and therefore the modern constitution remains undemocratic (p. 28-9).
“The notion that birth is fate – that simply in virtue of being born into a certain ethnic group one acquires the (potentially enforceable) duty to maintain its ancestral culture – is continuous with a kind of ethnic nationalism that is potentially at odds with liberalism.” Brian Barry, Culture and Equality, p. 65.
I disagree with most of Barry’s points, but I do share his worries (end envy his writing style).
Consider what we mean by identity. It is who we are, ‘where we’re coming from’. As such it is the background against which our tastes and desires and opinions and aspirations make sense. If some of the things I value most are accessible to me only in relation to the person I love, then she becomes part of my own identity.
(by Charles Taylor, The Politics of Recognition)