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date: 01 December 2022

Unruly Multiculture: Struggles for Arts and Media Diversity in the Anglophone Westlocked

Unruly Multiculture: Struggles for Arts and Media Diversity in the Anglophone Westlocked

  • Ien AngIen AngInstitute for Culture and Society, Western Sydney University

Summary

During the past half century, advanced Western democracies have all become so-called multicultural societies, hosting in their midst people of various ethnic, racial, and religious backgrounds as a consequence of mass immigration from other areas of the world. However, the arts and media sectors have been lagging behind in representing this increased cultural diversity and are therefore failing to contribute fully to the making of a dynamic and vibrant multiculture: the flourishing of a plurality of cultural forms and practices to represent different perspectives on society and the world, expressed by different sections of society and from different corners of the world. Instead, the issue of diversity is increasingly recognized as one of the most problematic quandaries afflicting arts and media organizations. As a consequence, diversity is now widely made a policy priority across the sector, as reflected in the diversity and inclusion policies and strategies that virtually every self-reflecting arts or media organization now has to incorporate in their strategic and operational plans, especially in Anglophone Western societies. Nevertheless, the lack of progress made by such diversity measures in the past few decades suggests that diversity may be pursued as a stated cause but remains elusive in practice. The problem of diversity, in short, is a symptom of deep institutional ambivalence in relation to the making of multiculture. This ambivalence can be understood by considering the word with which diversity is constantly associated: inclusion.

“Inclusion” is a paradoxical goal because it is surreptitiously based on continued marginalization: To be included does not mean becoming an integral part of the mainstream; it means to be content with hovering on the periphery of the mainstream. In other words, the vision of inclusion is limited because it does not undermine the hegemony of the dominant culture; instead, it shores it up by containing diversity within its allocated specialist box—be it as “multicultural arts,” “Black cinema,” “minority culture,” etc.

Many cultural institutions in the West bear the traces of White hegemony in their DNA but are so deeply embedded within the cultural infrastructure of modern society that getting rid of them is nigh unimaginable. This is a structural double bind that informs the fractiousness and divisiveness across the field of multiculture today. Outside the established cultural sector, there is a proliferation and fragmentation of multiculture on a global scale, where digital platforms such as YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok are the new cultural infrastructures carrying vast flows of heterogeneous and capricious multiculture in ways that are distinctly transgressive, disrupting and transcending the biases and confinements of the dominant, nationally defined cultural sphere in unruly ways.

Subjects

  • Race, Ethnicity, and Communication

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