How Difference Is Produced, and Why It Matters
In recent decades theories of liberal multiculturalism as articulated by political philosophers such as Will Kymlicka and Charles Taylor have come to dominate debates about identity and difference politics in western political theory. This book provides a nuanced critique of these debates by questioning liberal multiculturalism’s preoccupation with culture and, just as important, its unintended consequences.
Identity/Difference Politics offers an alternative theoretical model to liberal multiculturalism, one that centres not on culture but on power. Issues of power are examined through accounts of meaning-making – those processes through which meanings of difference are produced, organized, and regulated. From an anti-racist feminist perspective, it explores accounts of the immigrant, ableism, oralism, sexual difference, Deaf cultures, and gendered racialization – forms of identity/difference not typically examined in liberal multicultural theories – to establish the analytic and normative value of Dhamoon’s approach.
By rejecting the liberal multicultural politics of culture in favour of a critical politics of meaning-making, Identity/Difference Politics exposes how an exclusive preoccupation with culture can dissolve into essentialism and provide a rationale for state regulation of groups deemed to be too different. Students of contemporary political theory, multiculturalism, identity politics, Canadian politics and culture, dis/ablity studies, critical race theory, and feminist and gender theory will find it an invaluable resource.
Debates over multiculturalism in contemporary political theory have been dominated by a focus on culture – its nature, meaning, and value. In Rita Dhamoon’s excellent new book, she provides a refreshing challenge to this conceptual orthodoxy. She insists that we shift our focus from culture to power and, as a result, is able to ask some hard questions about the nature and practice of liberal multiculturalism. Dhamoon’s book is an insightful and refreshing tonic, sure to provoke – in a reflective and productive way – defenders and critics of multiculturalism alike.
In her innovative critique of political theory debates over multiculturalism and difference in Canada and the United States, Dhamoon develops an “account of meaning-making” that attunes us to the complexities of power as it interfaces with cultural patterns. With new and compelling case studies, she moves us out of the linguistic focus of Kymlicka and Taylor in Canada and the religious/ethnic focus of many American tracts.
Dhamoon forces us to rethink the concept of culture ... in liberal multiculturalism through a subtle, thorough engagement with its dominant thinkers. She clarifies and expands the scope of radical critiques of this field ... outlining the contours of other ways of understanding identity and difference that point towards new, more progressive understandings of democracy, subjectivity, and citizenship.
1 The Problem with “Culture”
2 The Politics of Meaning-Making
3 Re-Thinking Accounts of the “Immigrant”
4 Regulating Difference: Accounts of Deaf and Trans-sexual Difference
5 Accounts of Racialized Gendering: Domination and Relational Othering
6 Possibilities for Democracy: Toward Disruption
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