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Response to "The Multicultural Question" by Stuart Hall

The Unknown's picture

            I think one of the main issues addressed in this article confronts the idea of difference and how it is either manipulated for individual or a company’s financial interest or ignored and misunderstood. How do we find a balance between exotifying the “other” and celebrating different perspectives, customs, traditions and beliefs?

            I was particularly interested in the use of vocabulary to describe ideas about intersecting cultures and heritages. Hall explained that is important to be accurate and true when discussing issues of diversity, but also not to explain or describe them in ways that are difficult to relate to or understand. 

            I was intrigued by Stavoj Zizek’s interpretation of multiculturalism as a “new racism; indeed, is the cultural logic of multinational capital” (Hall 4). He explains that this word is constraining and limiting and does not allow space for change. Hall continuously went back to this idea of the importance of descriptions and explanations of these issues to have an intrinsic, flexible nature.

            Hall is also conscious of the ever-changing present. He understands that the solutions to issues addressed by multiculturalism will not necessarily serve us in the future. I appreciated the ways he describes communities as having shared interests, beliefs, heritage, customs, histories, but at the same time have not “consolidated into permanently separate social spheres” (Hall 6). This model of inheritance, acceptance, and also refusal of the dominant culture should be further explored and examined.

            I was interested by Hall’s comment that multiculturalism is a “sort of American academic imperialism” (Hall 4). I understood this to mean that the way the United States addresses issues of “multiculturalism” does not include a sufficient amount of global angles/contexts/ viewpoints. Others in the article go further to cite multiculturalism as a form of racism. I think this is in part because even the majority of the people who are asking themselves about these multicultural questions are from white, at least middle-class families. Something that we have not totally addressed in class is that teaching in a “desired” way is difficult because it requires learning from people with many different backgrounds. Unfortunately, the majority of researchers and people who have access to this sort of knowledge are white.

            Those who try to reimagine and explain history, identity, and ancestry are also often white. Hall also explains that part of the reason there is inequality, misunderstanding, and struggles to relate is because societies try to get rid of differences. I struggle with this notion of homogenization. How can we appreciate differences and multi-layered beings and at the same time see everyone as equals? Or is equality not the goal?

            One of the problems of the multicultural question is that in order to create a society that includes, celebrates, and gives equal importance to all cultural and historical contexts of the people within that society, the society needs to be led and organized by and with the interests of these people. Hall proposes the question in these terms: “So the question, to reduce it, is: how is this commonness in difference to be imagined and constructed?” (Hall 5). The difficulty of this is we need to reimagine the society based on extremely different values than those it was founded on. He says we need to consider the nature of society and its tendencies in order to reverse its track.