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cultural diversity

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zlatan filipovic

on 13 April 2015

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Transcript of cultural diversity

Cultural Diversity
What is cultural diversity?
“The co-existence of a difference in behaviour, traditions and customs—in short, a diversity of cultures”—within a society.
It can allegedly lead to disintegration in the social fabric and to the general fragmentation of the social bond and instability of social values, as the right-wing story of intolerance, racism and xenophobia goes, where the nation is no longer unified by a common purpose.
Gender and Essentialism
Dr Zlatan Filipovic
GU, SPL/Eng Lit

Gender and Cultural Difference
Signifying Practices
Cultural diversity is manifested in a specific semiotic or a system of signs:

TV shows

The Other
One of the clichés of much contemporary criticism.
Identity and Represenation
In other words, identity is never simple; it is not something just waiting to be discovered —
it has to be constructed.

Race, ethnicity, hybridity
The issues of cultural displacement and alienation, of hybridity, exile, fragmented identity, language identification, and power relations between social or cultural groups.
Cross-border population flows, such as migrations that are common to our history lead to increased diversity within societies.
Migration is the common and the historical condition of humanity
Second, the Declaration emphasizes the understanding of moving from cultural diversity to cultural pluralism.
In our increasingly diverse societies, it is essential to ensure harmonious interaction among people and groups with plural, varied and dynamic cultural identities as well as their willingness to live together. Policies for the inclusion and participation of all citizens are guarantees of social cohesion, the vitality of civil society and peace. Thus defined, cultural pluralism gives policy expression to the reality of cultural diversity. Indissociable from a democratic framework, cultural pluralism is conducive to cultural exchange and to the flourishing of creative capacities that sustain public life. (Article 2)
The UNESCO’s Universal Declaration of Cultural Diversity in 2001:

First, the Declaration promotes the principle that
[c]ulture takes diverse forms across time and space. This diversity is embodied in the uniqueness and plurality of the identities of the groups and societies making up humankind. As a source of exchange, innovation and creativity, cultural diversity is as necessary for humankind as biodiversity is for nature. In this sense, it is the common heritage of humanity and should be recognized and affirmed for the benefit of present and future generations. (Article 1)
Third, the Declaration delineates cultural diversity as a factor in development.

Cultural diversity widens the range of options open to everyone; it is one of the roots of development, understood not simply in terms of economic growth, but also as a means to achieve a more satisfactory intellectual, emotional, moral and spiritual existence. (Article 3)

Finally, cultural diversity presupposes the respect for human rights.

The defence of cultural diversity is an ethical imperative, inseparable from respect for human dignity.
It implies a commitment to human rights and fundamental freedoms, in particular the rights of persons belonging to minorities and those of indigenous peoples. No one may invoke cultural diversity to infringe upon human rights guaranteed by international law, nor to limit their scope. (Article 4)
Cultural diversity is thus indissociable from democracy and the well-being of public life.

This means that democracy is not about the rule of the majority but rather
and always
about protecting the rights of the minorities.

Cultural diversity is more than just politics in the Declaration because it devolves on us as
an ethical imperative
to defend it in the very name of human dignity and the humanity in us.
We will also look at a number of key concepts, such as difference, the other, representation and signifying practice that can be used to explore the contexts of marginalization and subordination.

First of all,
culture "cannot be viewed as a principle, a source of shared understanding or a mechanism for legitimating the social bond"
(Jenks, 1993: 157-58).

Culture, instead, is a site of struggle that should not be viewed
static. It is never already "there" but is constantly (re)negotiat
Identity, representation and subordination
Cultural diversity may be seen as posing a threat, that in fact is also a chance as we shall see, to identity and a common sense of destiny that tethers the nation.
It is possible to analyze any form of culture which challenge
s the
dominant political order through categories like gender, class
, race,
ethnicity and sexuality
Cultural diversity as refracted to through the lens of gender, race and ethnicity, in particular, looking at how gender and race are socially constructed, how they are represented and understood.
If these perspectives have taught us anything it
is that we
have to recognize the impossibility of escaping
them as they
very much condition us as subjects and con
stitute our
“One is not born a woman; one
a woman”
(De Beauvoir)
Gender is not an unchangeable and fixed set of characteristics that is also known as essentialism.
A belief in stable and unchanging meanings which can be seen as
essences that do not change over time and are not culture specific but universal.
Essentialism believes that we have a fixed identity determined by race, ethnicity or gender that express that identity and that people who belong to a specific category will share the same set of basic assumptions.
Even positive valorisation is essentialist insofar as it is ascribed as an essential quality of a specific group.

Essentialism easily deteriorates into generalizations and plain prejudice.
The fact is that, our identity and who we are is so multiple and often contradictory that no one identification can adequately define us in all situations and contexts without misrepresenting us.
Identity is a historical and cultural process rather than an essentialist absolute or a stable essence.
It changes and cannot be passively represented by a single signifier.
Identities are not already statically there waiting to be labeled but are often produced by the very discourse that purports to describe them.
Gender is thus more likely to be produced or constructed by political processes rather than being a static biological category.
One could say that gender is produced by a compulsory repetition of gender norms.

The future must no longer be determined by the past… the effects of the past are still with us. But I refuse to strengthen them by repeating them, to confer upon them an irremovability the equivalent of a destiny, to confuse the biological and the cultural.

(“The Laugh of the Medusa”).
Helene Cixous calls thus for “the breakers of automatisms:”
Sexual difference for her, at least in this work, is not a question of something laid down by "nature" but is a product of how the sexes experience the world through the culture and opportunities available to them.

If there is no essence, no fixed identity of what it means to be a woman, if one “becomes” a woman, if femininity is a construct than it is also culturally contingent or culture specific.
There is no essence, no one true voice that represents all women.
The Western woman seems to have monopolised and colonised the issue of gender to the point of representing it entirely, writing out the circumstances and specific historical conditions of other women who do not share common history with the West.
There is, in other words, a suppression of cultural difference here by the imposition of Western cultural forms as representative.
Reproducing epistemic violence
of the Western imperialism
This is the very idea here of
plural rationalities
and the resistance to universal systems of representation, the very idea of
cultural difference
that intervenes.
Her identity as a woman is very much
a product of cultural differences constructed by a society historically dominated by men.
How, within given contexts, things are made to mean.
How can a particular dress acquire a specific cultural meaning so that it comes to represent its entire history?
Signifying practices are often discussed in relation to what is called semiotics.

Semiotics uses structuralist theory to account for not so much what signs mean but how they mean, how individuals become subjects—how they are interpellated.
We are, to a large extent, defined and shaped by forces outside ourselves.

Despite all our resistance and our claim to individuality, we are caught up in networks which give us our identity and provide us with meaning.
This reflects Louis Althusser's idea that
ideology has the function of constituting individuals as subjects

(Althusser, 1971: 160).
We do not precede ideology or cultural systems but are actually products of them.
The women collectively could be seen as the "other" in the sense that the dominant group of men, who represent the patriarchy, position women as subordinate to themselves.
It helps us see how subordinated groups are constructed through dominant representations.
can be adapted to any situation, whether gender, race, ethnicity, class, sexuality or other concepts like age.

"The other" can also be seen the other way round:

how dominant groups are viewed or represented by the subordinate.

Class, gender, race, ethnicity and sexuality problematize the notion of community and social bond providing it with complexity and difference

you may be black, white or mixed race; working class, middle class; a man or a woman; heterosexual, gay, lesbian or bisexual.

religion, education, regional dialect, age, political affiliation, if you are waged, unemployed or semi-employed etc.
Taking into account the concept of difference means
that any simple approach to identity can be challenged.

What does it mean to call someone American, Australian, French or Indian? Are there not internal differences between them that may even radically oppose them to each other rather than unify them in an illusion of homogeneity and sameness?
The multiple contexts of difference challenge the idea of identity as something straightforward.
And representation is fundamental to how identity is understood and constructed.
1. A general collective cultural identity can be discovered behind individual differences.
Two important ways of thinking about cultural identity:
2. Identity may be based, to some extent, on collective similarity, but it recognizes that
"there are also critical points of deep and significant difference which constitute 'what we really are:'
or rather — since history has intervened — 'what we have become'” (Hall, 2000: 706).
Identity is never a finished product ready to be consumed or put on as a dress, but is
always seen as 'production,' which is always incomplete, in process
and always 'constituted within, not outside, representation' (704).
Is representation reinforcing or challenging existing models of identity, or whether it, in fact, questions the whole idea of a stable identity, which brings us to concepts like
, for instance, that dynamic cross-cultural society opens up.
can be useful when authors try to re-represent groups or nations in order to challenge what they believe to be false representations of cultural identity.
Against universalism or universal claims that are Eurocentric and tend to become hegemonic
Reclaiming the past.
There is always a presupposed superiority of Western value systems as the civilizing norm and inferiority of others.
Edward Said’s Orientalism, published in 1978, has had a significant impact on our understanding of the Western perception and their representation of other cultures in literature, in particular.
Western perception often conflates racial otherness with irrational forces.
In constructing the East, Orientalist discourse also constructs the normative West that is everything that the East is not: rational, hardworking, democratic, moral, progressive, individualist, etc.
The East is also seen as fascinating, exotic and seductive — exoticisation of the other.
Sweeping generalizations about the other are always made, where they are seen as homogenous without individual narratives, having "collective self-consistency."
An awareness in any discourse on cultural diversity of the
representations of the other that come to determine and produce the other
rather than just describe them as exotic or immoral.
Language becomes important as it carries the history of difference.
What is hybridity?
used to discuss the cultural changes associated with the movement of populations (

The concept of hybridity describes all kinds of phenomena related to how the "host" and new immigrant communities influence each other.

once the immigrant community is established, new identities, perspectives, experiences and cultural fusions and variations — hybrid forms — are possible.

New critical forms of hybrid culture which take issue both with ethnocentrism and racism and the traditional cultures of one's heritage.
Ethnocentrism describes the tendency of members of an ethnic or racial group to privilege themselves above other groups.
hybridization as the processes of 'unsettling, recombination, hybridization and "cut-and-mix"

Hybridity can be seen as a synonym for cultural and cross-cultural multiplicity.

it dramatizes the often-antagonistic space and divided loyalties between the dominant and ethnic cultures.
Diasporic identity cannot lay claim to a singular, unambiguous, and racially or culturally unmixed identity.

So, hybridity is a dramatic symbol of how a displaced identity has to negotiate between different forms of ethnocentrism and cultural centrism and confront the problems of hybridity.
The hybridized identity is the inevitable product of multiculturalism.
It points to
the originary instability of identity
but it is also this newness that comes into the world and challenges the purity of identity that is no more found to be consistent.
It challenges any simple either "white national" or "immigrant community" distinction.
the negation of purity and the celebration of multiplicity that also challenges the European/white sense of identity and, in fact, dismisses its claim to centrality.
“the in between space that carries the [whole] burden of the meaning of culture” (Bhabha)
It "militates against restrictive notions of cultural identity" that lead to political separatism as seen in nationalist movements and in identity politics.
A source of renewal and change
When individuals come unstuck from their native land, they are called migrants. When nations do the same (Bangladesh), the act is called secession. What is the best thing about migrant peoples and seceded nations? I think it is their hopefulness. Look into the eyes of such folk in old photographs. Hope blazes undimmed through the fading sepia tints. And what's the worst thing? It is the emptiness of one's luggage. I'm speaking of invisible suitcases, not the physical, perhaps cardboard, variety containing a few meaning-drained mementoes: we have come unstuck from more than land. We have floated upwards from history from memory, from Time.
(Rushdie, 1995: 86-87)
What does it challenge?
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