Women’s Studies International Forum, Vol. 25, No. 3, pp. 275 – 286, 2002 Copyright D 2002 Elsevier Science Ltd Printed in the USA. All rights reserved 0277-5395/02/$ – see front matter
BEYOND FEMINISM AND MULTICULTURALISM: LOCATING DIFFERENCE AND THE POLITICS OF LOCATION Floya Anthias The University of Greenwich, School of Social Sciences, Southwood Site Avery Hill Road, Eltham, SE9 2UG, London, UK
Synopsis — This paper is concerned with the problems and the potential in bringing together the analysis of the different forms of oppression, particularly in the light of the debate on how feminism can be reconciled with multiculturalist democracies. In order to avoid the Scylla of feminist fundamentalism and the Charybdis of cultural relativism, the paper argues that there are two issues we need to keep hold of simultaneously. Firstly, there is the issue of the relationship between dominant and subordinate ethnic or cultural groups and to attack this unequal relationship at national and global levels (i.e., both within and between nations and states). Secondly, we need to look at the dominant and subordinate groupings or categories within these groups and to attack this relationship also. In order to develop the argument the concept of translocational positionality is introduced. The paper also examines the limitations of dialogic politics and the potential in rethinking the concept of equality. D 2002 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.
INTRODUCTION My paper is about both some of the problems and some of the potential to be found in bringing together the analysis of the different forms of oppression on the basis of gender, race, ethnicity and class, particularly in the light of the debate on how feminism can be reconciled with multiculturalism (e.g., Okin, 1999). I argue that it is important to avoid both the Scylla of feminist fundamentalism and the Charybdis of cultural relativism. For this, it is essential to look at meaning and context, and to treat culture as emergent and changing rather than fixed. In order to develop the argument the concept of translocational positionality is introduced. A translocational positionality is one structured by the interplay of different locations relating to gender, ethnicity, race and class (amongst others), and their at times contradictory effects. The paper also examines the limitations of dialogic politics and the potential in rethinking the concept of equality. In avoiding the Scylla of feminist fundamentalism and the Charybdis of cultural relativism, it seems to me that there are two issues we need to keep hold of simultaneously. Firstly, there is the issue of the relationship between dominant and subordinate ethnic or cultural groups and the need to attack this unequal relationship at national and global levels (i.e., both 275
within and between nations and states). Secondly, we need to look at the dominant and subordinate groupings or categories within these groups and to attack this relationship also. The need to listen to the multiple voices within groups is central here. Longings for justice, for equality, for recognition are part of the feminist project. Feminisms have put gender on the agenda for discussing these issues, entailing looking at them from the point of view of what they mean for women in struggling against oppression and injustice as human beings. Our voices involve the search for recognition of our essential humanity, our desire for equality, and our desire for autonomy (where autonomy is an important cultural construct). Women, however, are not only victims of structures but are social agents, strategically acting to counteract disadvantages and at times also acting as oppressors of other women, of blacks, of migrants and of working class women. Our multilayered identities therefore need recognising and that we occupy positions in other categories of difference and location such as ethnicity, racialisation and social class. The feminist project can be seen as one prong in the fight for ethnic/racial freedom and freedom from class exploitation. It is clear that we cannot build a fairer and more just society for women (the project of feminism) unless we also engage with the other oppressions,
around ‘‘race,’’ of culture, of class. This is one of the reasons that feminisms cannot ignore the struggles to build an anti-racist as well as anti-sexist multicultural democracy. This is especially the case with globalisation and transnational movements of labour and the growth of localisms and particularisms that have accompanied these. However, we need to think very carefully about what the recognition of ethnic or cultural ‘‘identities’’ entails. We must be careful not to fix, ‘‘museumise’’ and idealise cultures (our own as well as those of others). This stereotyping fixes them in stone and can lead us on a number of false trails. Firstly, it can lead us to over-celebrating cultures, as though they exist in little boxes and these are to be cherished and fostered, whatever their contents and whatever the social practices/outcomes that are ‘‘claimed’’ for them. Liberal multiculturalism often falls into this trap. Secondly, it can lead us to condemning cultures, particularly the cultures of those we see as the ‘‘other,’’ as ‘‘different,’’ as not like ours, those of the foreigners, the ‘‘traditional’’ groups as we might stereotype them. This is a position taken by Susan Moller Okin, a white liberal feminist in her article ‘‘Is multiculturalism bad for women?’’ (Okin, 1999). Both these positions entail homogenising and totalising cultures, ignoring the differences, but most importantly, the hierarchies within so called ‘‘cultural groups’’ (itself an ideological construction), for example the existence of class oppression, and the diversity of position or location within as well as between cultural groups. Both feminist fundamentalism (given its roots in liberal universalism) and cultural relativism work with fixed and unitary notions of individuals. In the case of feminism, there is the notion that there is a set of universal principles of justice that apply to all individuals irrespective of time and place, as categorical moral imperatives that mirror positivist epistemologies and their notions of truth and its guarantees. Feminists who have critiqued masculinist epistemologies for their own cultural fundamentalisms often refer to the situated nature of ‘‘knowledge.’’ However, such a view may err in the direction of treating subject positions in unitary ways, not recognising the multiple social and cultural contexts and positionalities, and particularly what I refer to as translocational positionalities, raising contradictory issues for individuals. Cultural relativism rightly holds that ideas of justice vary, are relative to social and cultural contexts, and therefore that it is problematic to use values and practices from one society for judging those in other social and cultural contexts. However, cultural relativism, whilst rightly noting cultural diversity in
norms of justice and the dangers in applying universalist models, fails to note that social and cultural contexts are never univocal themselves and there are differences of location and positionality on the basis of gender, ethnicity, class and other multiple sites within particular social and cultural contexts. Therefore it is never the case of mere incommensurability between so called cultural contexts, but rather that within any proclaimed set of cultural differences there are others that crosscut it, leading to situated claims across and between cultures, across and between sexual difference and across and between social class positions. Holding on to the idea of location and positionality and translocational positionality is helpful in problematising the fixed nature of identity found within both feminism and cultural relativism, and also in helping us to abandon the binary ways in which the feminism and multiculturalism debate has been formulated.
Translocational Positionality Collective identities are forms of social organisation postulating boundaries with identity markers that denote essential elements of membership (which act to ‘‘code’’ people), as well as claims that are articulated for specific purposes. The identity markers (culture, origin, language, colour and physiognomy, etc.) may themselves function as resources that are deployed contextually and situationally. They function both as sets of self-attributions and attributions by others. When we make claims as feminists, we are making claims for women in that relational boundary that we call sexual difference/gender. Recognising other relational boundaries of belonging or location (as I prefer to call it), situates us in the translocational sphere (Anthias, 2001). The focus on location and translocation recognises the importance of context, the situated nature of claims and attributions and their production in complex and shifting locales. It also recognises variability with some processes leading to more complex, contradictory and at times dialogical positionalities than others: this is what is meant by the term ‘‘translocational positionality.’’ This references the complex nature of positionality faced by those who are at the interplay of a range of locations and dislocations in relation to gender, ethnicity, national belonging, class and racialisation. A translocational positionality is one structured by the interplay of the different locations and their (at times) contradictory effects. The ‘‘translocational’’ acts to fissure the certainties of fixed singular locations by constructing potentially contradictory
Beyond Feminism and Multiculturalism
positionalities. The individuals that are placed in each category may occupy a different position in the other categories. For example, white women are subordinate using the gender grid but dominant using the race grid, although it is always important to remember the complexities of power relations involved. The focus on location and positionality (and translocational positionality) avoids assumptions about subjective processes on the one hand and culturalist forms of determinism on the other. Moreover, it acknowledges that identification is an enactment that does not entail fixity or permanence, as well as the role of the local and the contextual in the processes involved. It becomes possible to pay attention to spatial and contextual dimensions, treating the issues involved in terms of processes rather than possessive properties of individuals (e.g., see Mouffe, 1994). Narratives of belonging (and its disclaimers) may then be seen as forms of social action, i.e. as actively participating in the very construction of subject positionalities. They are also narratives of dislocation, relocation and alterity at multiple levels — structural, cultural and personal.
Belongings Narratives of belonging involve both claims and attributions. As well as having an important social and political role, they function to ask us to find, discover or rediscover belonging and a shared place where we can feel ‘‘at home,’’ not just in the literal sense of place but also in the imagining of a collectivity, whether it be ethnic or national or a community structured by a shared gender or one about our class position. Such collective places, spaces, locales or positions are constructions that disguise the fissures, the losses, the absences, the borders within them. They tend to naturalise socially produced and therefore anti-essential situational and contextual relations, converting them to taken for granted, absolute and fixed structures of social and personal life. By collectivising and producing a ‘‘natural’’ community of people, they function as exclusionary borders of otherness from which we all simultaneously exist inside and outside of. Narratives of belonging also constitute points of reference for the formation of uncertainties about belonging. This is not just an existential question but one relating to ideas of what we share with others and where we feel comfortable. In a sense though, the places we feel at least we do not belong to (this in itself is a form of certainty) are as important as those we feel with certainty that we do. Part of the construction of belonging within a boundary involves knowing that
you do not belong to another from which it is constructed as a binary. From this point of view, identity is always framed within difference and alterity. Narratives of collective belonging relate to a whole range of social processes. Some of the ways in which I think about my belonging involves fragments of memories (and forgetting), of feeling, of evocations of loss. Crossing borders, real and imaginary, is part of this process. These are multiform and the borders may be fluid or rigid. These boundaries are shifting and changing; some are more a product of external constraints, like political, legal or national rules relating to membership. Others are inscribed in the body through the stigmata of absence and notions of incapacity/deformity, via gender or disability. They may also be inscribed through body style (such as in class relations), or through colour physiognomy and the bodily and personal style/gait associated with ethnic difference.
Difference and Otherness Narratives of belonging also relationally construct difference and otherness and there has been an explosion of interest in this issue. Seeing the self in the ‘‘other,’’ some feminists have argued, is the first step towards relating to the other. But how does the focus on difference, or the politics of difference, help or hinder this? The notion of difference may be used to point to difference between groups, or to the range of differences within any one group. The latter is the more post-modern position. One of the assumptions made by this use of the notion of difference is that there is so much cultural diversity that it is impossible to find common threads. The use of the notion of difference between groups may refer to differences in the concrete social positions of individuals or categories of individuals within cultural or other groups (e.g., men and women). Difference may also refer to the different criteria which construct the categories in the first place such as the role of bodily traits or social constructions of gender or race difference. In all these cases, the problem often arises of constructing sameness and difference against and across the location of the difference, finding commonalities between groups and differences within groups. This reminds us that unities and divisions are constructions rather than representing actual and fixed groupings of people. Whilst it is important to recognise difference there exists the danger of political and moral relativism. Particularly important is the danger that cultural relativism can justify the continuing oppres-
sion of women in ‘‘the name of culture and tradition.’’ Perhaps, multiculturalisms do ‘‘Let a hundred flowers blossom’’ to coin Mao Tse Tung’s words, but we need to remember that difference, whilst potentially leading to relativism, is not politically neutral. Difference may be constructed as an ideological weapon and be part of a strategy of domination or contestation. The dominant group often makes claims by naturalising its own difference, hailing the ‘‘others.’’ If there are differences of culture and differences of need, and each group may legitimately make claims to resources in terms of those differences, then the dominant group may also legitimise its greater claims to resources in these terms. In addition, the epistemological agnosticism, as Boyne and Rattansi (1990) argue, may be politically disabling. Once the notion of sisterhood or a racialised divide is rejected, then there may be no obvious basis for a feminist or anti racist position (Anthias, 1998). I have therefore reformulated the notion of difference in two ways: one to think of difference in terms of imaginings around boundaries. The second is to reformulate difference in terms of positionality by referring to ‘‘hierarchical’’ difference: this specifies the locus of attention away from the general problem of differentiation to one relating to asymmetries.
Boundaries and Hierarchies: Multiculturalism and The International Subordination of Women There are three related aspects raised by the issue of boundaries: the shifting and contextual nature of the boundaries; the processes which give rise to particular symbolic and material manifestations of social categories; and the ways in which different social categories intersect in producing social outcomes for individuals and for social structures. Therefore, class, gender and ethnicity/race cannot be seen as constructing permanent fixed groups but involve shifting constellations of social actors, depending on the ways the boundaries of a denoted category are constructed. Furthermore, in terms of social relations that are hierarchical, it is not purely a question of a hierarchy of individuals within a category, for there are complex forms of hierarchy across a range of different dimensions. If the constructs are read as ‘‘grids,’’ their salience will not only vary in different contexts, but the interplay of the different grids needs to be always considered in any analysis of social outcomes or effects. Again, the notion of translocational positionality is useful here.
The issue of multiculturalism and feminism must be located in the context of racism and other forms of exclusion faced by minority ethnic groups as well as the position of women within them. This is not just an issue of patriarchy or an issue of ethnic culture. Women exploit other women as in the experience of domestic maids from Eritrea, Somalia, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Latin America and so on. Women from poorer countries are used by women of richer countries. Whilst this represents the growth of women’s participation in the West in the public sphere of work, this is dependent on the exploitation of migrant women. Such processes arising from new gendered forms of migration may be a useful example of the intersectional elements of social divisions in the increasingly transnational sphere functioning to produce new forms of disadvantage and oppression for women.
Feminism and ‘‘Cultural Diversity’’ Such movements of population have brought to the fore issues of cultural diversity. Debates on multiculturalism become more urgent. Over the last 20 years, feminists, black and Third World feminists in particular, have pioneered the task of looking at issues of difference of ethnicity and racialisation and some of the intersections between feminism and multiculturalism. After this long period with much written on this issue, some American white feminists have entered the debate. Most recently there has been a debate prompted by Susan Moller Okin’s (1999) claim that ‘‘multiculturalism’’ may be ‘‘bad for women.’’ The position taken by Okin is to argue that traditional cultures often subordinate women and that universalist human rights should be prioritised. In the responses to Okin’s argument, there have been broadly three critiques. Firstly, it has been pointed out that all cultures oppress women albeit in different ways. Whilst it is correct that some cultural practices referred to by Okin do subordinate women, many oppressive cultural practices are also found in cultures which pay lip service to universalist human rights. This is the case for Western democracies which are premised on universalist ideals of liberty and equality but in practice are generically sexist and racist. Anti-racists remind us that cultures are racist and the foundation of western rationality is racist. It is also sexist as Sandra Harding (1991) and Carole Pateman (1988) in different ways have argued. It is therefore necessary to pay much more attention to what is meant by culture in the argument by Okin. By delimiting culture to certain groups,
Beyond Feminism and Multiculturalism
which are those ‘‘othered’’ already by the discourse, and practices of the ‘‘West’’ she is reproducing stereotyped and potentially racist representations of groups that do not conform to the liberal western ideal. Issues around genital mutilation and forced marriages deprive women of rights and should not be tolerated. But focusing on these to make the argument against multiculturalism is not adequate. The issue of culture is much more complex and there is a range of practices in all cultures that would not stand the test if they are judged in terms of giving women autonomy or developing human capabilities. There can be no absolute consensus on these issues and they are emergent rather than given; women themselves need to engage in much more dialogue around them. A related criticism is the danger of cultural imperialism found in arguments that Western universalist notions of human rights are able to yield principles of justice that should apply everywhere. The very fact that this recent debate has completely excluded reference to the plethora of writing by black and Third World women is suggestive of another form of cultural imperialism by American feminism. It is a view from above. It also disguises the role of Western imperialism in countries where minorities perpetrate forms of violence against women. Moreover, condemning practices is not the same as condemning socalled cultural groups and failing therefore to think about the potential of new forms of multiculturalism. On the other hand, the critique of universalism may emerge as culturally relativist (and not just relationist) and therefore justify (on grounds of cultural difference) violations and violence against the person found in forms of honour killings or domestic violence found all over the world in different forms. In addition cultures are dynamic and therefore open to change. There is also the issue of the role given to the dominant culture in protecting subordinated categories implied in Okin’s position: if this were rephrased in terms of the role of a state that represents properly the range of social positionalities this issue would be less problematic. A related critique is that much of Western feminism ignores the ways in which cultural practices may have different meanings for ‘‘insiders’’ and ‘‘outsiders.’’ It is certainly the case that cultural practices acquire new meanings for different positionalities, and in relation to particular struggles (as an example, the traditional hijab may be used radically in asserting independence against the oppressive practices of Western racism). However, there is the issue of the binary constructed by the notion of the ‘‘insider and the outsider.’’ This notion needs to be
thought about with respect to a multidimensionality of positionality and location with reference to difference vis-a-vis gender, ethnicity and class. This translocational reference points to the complexity involved where one may be an insider and an outsider simultaneously in relation to different dimensions of power and hierarchical difference.
CONCEPTUALISING MULTICULTURALISM, PROBLEMATISING CULTURE A focus on the cultural domain is in fact symptomatic of the present position in both policy and academic debates. It is important to be clear about what is meant by multiculturalism as there are as many varieties as Heinz or blossoms. The most common distinction is between various forms of liberal multiculturalism, which characterises most types found in the world and critical or reflexive multiculturalism which is aspirational. A liberal multiculturalist framework means that the dominant group within the state sets the terms of the agenda for participation by minority ethnic groups and involves a bounded dialogue where the premises themselves may not be open to negotiation. This is found within discussions of the limits of identity politics, for example (MacLaren & Torres, 1999). In addition this version is relativistic in terms of gender issues, prioritising the culture of ‘‘communities’’ over the issue of gender rights or human rights of women, although there are hard and soft versions of this. Such a multiculturalism can be critiqued as working with fixed and static notions of cultural preservation or reproduction and can be contrasted to a reflexive or critical multiculturalism (May, 1999; Parekh, 2000; Rattansi, 1999). This recognises both the fluid nature of cultural identities as well as their location within racialised social structures within specific social sites. Critical/reflexive multiculturalism, it is argued (May, 1999), unlike liberal multiculturalism, is concerned with the removal of barriers to the legitimacy of different ways of being and is compatible with transnational and transethnic identities as well as those that have been discussed using the notion of hybridity. Nonetheless, the focus on ‘‘culture’’ may have contributed to issues of social equality being obscured. A starting point for debates on critical multiculturalism is that it must move away from the idea of one dominant culture which lays the frame of reference and the existence of tolerance towards other cultures. As such, it must maintain a view of citizenship where the boundaries of citizen-
ship are not coterminous with belonging to a community in the singular. What is common is the failure to note the dynamic character of culture. Ethnic and race identities become defined as possessive properties rather than fluid and processual social relations. This may have the effect of ethnicising and producing modes of struggle that focus on culture and identity, repeating for themselves the static and ahistorical nature of racialised definitions and promoting forms of politics that can be divisive. Multiculturalism tends to treat cultural/ethnic difference as a cause for celebration failing to acknowledge the gender specific and indeed at times sexist elements of ethnic culture or the ways in which ethnic (as well as ‘‘race’’) boundaries are themselves exclusionary. The project of maintaining culture potentially creates a notion of a static and totalising culture. One could argue that if groups wish to preserve ‘‘their culture’’ they can do this in ways which reflect the diverse political and other interests within any self-proclaimed group. The role of the state is to prevent such interests from being subverted through exclusions rather than itself seeking to promote some notion of the culture of the group. Who are to be the voices for defining this, in any case? It is often the traditional male voices that are given the role of acting to represent the cultural needs of groups (Anthias & Yuval Davis, 1992). It is important to see why ethnicity matters but without treating it as an adequate means for pursuing various social and political ends. Moreover, uncovering the hidden ethnicity of the dominant groups is as important. In addition, multiculturalism was a way of managing ethnic diversity and although fighting race discrimination was central to this project, state practices around migration as well as the failure to tackle institutional racisms sit uneasily with this.
GROUP RIGHTS Some claims made in Western Europe have included the notion of collective rights of minority ethnic groups. In the case of Muslim minorities vis-a-vis the Rushdie Affair in Britain, for example, claims have been made for separate legal systems and Muslim law. Such claims have been formulated as central parameters of the social and political rights of particular (in this case, Muslim) individuals. Indeed, the issue of collective rights as citizenship rights has been debated regarding Western Europe in terms of multiculturalism (Kymlicka, 1995; Parekh, 2000). Early or incipient forms of this are found in positive action programmes such as those relating to special
provisions. These have been critiqued for both reproducing categories of disadvantage (Anthias & Yuval Davis, 1992) as well as being incompatible with the notion of equal human rights, found in debates in the collection responding to Susan Muller Okin. Some others have argued strongly for such policies (e.g., Goldberg, 1993; Winant, 1994) and others have argued strongly that group rights are central for disadvantaged groups (Young, 1989). Multiculturalist policies which work with some notion of group rights include Canada, USA, India, South Africa and Britain. Will Kymlicka (1995) differentiates between ‘‘two kinds of group rights’’: minority rights which safeguard the interests of minority groups and those which aim to impose restrictions on their own members. Whilst supporting the former, he regards the latter as more difficult. Indeed, the principles embodied in the state may differ and be oppositional from the rules upheld by a minority. On the other hand, rejecting the cultural rules of minorities through espousing the notion of universality could mean that the values of minorities are excluded from the public domain (Pateman, 1988). But both claims mentioned by Kymlicka raise the issue of who represents the group’s authentic experience or culture, and which voices are to be listened to, for he fails to note the differentiations of gender and class within groups. The notion of two separate domains is often raised in this context, those of a shared public domain to be subjected to state rules and those of differentiated private cultural domains to be allowed. Rex (1991) challenges the two domains thesis, both theoretically and practically. There appears no sociological validity to the view that two spheres of social life could exist without influencing each other. Nor can it be maintained that the various elements of one could be easily differentiated from the other. The question for example of what constitutes the shared public domain could be answered differently from different political or cultural positions. Feminists have also questioned the view that values and organisation around gender and the family are private. They have argued for the breakdown of the dualism inherent in the distinction between the public and the private. It is difficult to distinguish between what is to be placed in the public sphere and what is to be placed in the private sphere. Commonly, religion is placed in the private sphere but this ignores the role that the Christian church still plays in the shared public domain, represented, for example, by blasphemy laws and religious worship in schools with regard to Christianity that do not apply to other religions.
Beyond Feminism and Multiculturalism
There is also the issue of those values, for example around gender equality, that are seen to occupy the public sphere but which some minority cultures do not endorse, or which in practice are not endorsed by many social groups. If the notion of a private cultural sphere is to be maintained, at what point are the rules within it around gender, sexuality or religion to be policed with regard to notions of public shared values. Extreme instances of this would be the practices of cliterectomy or polygamy. In addition, as in the case of Islam, religious ideas do not always relate to private moral values but involve a whole way of life, including public conduct. Ideas about a group having the right to pursue its culture, to be able to reproduce itself, raises a range of questions: what is that ‘‘culture’’; who defines it’s primary elements; do all the cultural practices embody other principles that a participatory democracy advocates (such as anti-sexism)? Therefore issues are raised about group representation, the management of internal conflict and external clashes about cultural and political values, the compatibility of different universes of meaning and so on. There is also the question of whether the rights of a group identified through culture or ‘‘race’’ has prominence over the rights of a group identified under the banners of class, political ideology or gender. It is because denial of validity to cultural practices symbolises the denial of rights that it is an arena for struggle not because any culture has its own rights. Culture, moreover, can never be lost (although societies that deliberately force assimilation or cultural disappearance of minority groups tend to drive them underground). The fear of loss and the need to preserve confounds the meaning of culture as the existence of a patterned way of doing and knowing with the contents of the things we know and do. The existence of patterns to knowing and doing does not entail that the contents are fixed either in terms of the symbols and rituals themselves or their meanings over time and space. Multiculturalism in the sense of cultural diversity is, in any case, a reality; we need to pose the question as one of democracy. If group rights are to be acknowledged for some groups, where does that leave individual rights or human rights? Are individual rights still appropriate for the ‘‘rest of society’’? Is the end result that some individuals only emerge as members of collectivities (the race and ethnic groups identified) whereas others (dominant race and ethnic groups) emerge in terms of their rights as individuals (the rest of society). This illustrates the problems where the terms of reference are to preserve culture rather than to see culture as a process and not a thing.
The issue of group rights does not acknowledge the different voices within groups. Genital mutilation, forced marriages, honour killings, domestic violence and so on cannot be seen as entailing group rights from whatever so called cultural group (minority or majority), for they are forms of violence against humanity itself. They are often made in the name of culture: ‘‘it’s culture what done it’’ (sic) to paraphrase Phil Cohen’s phrase (1997). They are practices of cultures, and individuals in the name of culture but there is no way that they can be regarded as part of the rights of culture. All minority groups have rights to be protected from disadvantage, racism, exclusion, the demeaning of cherished values and beliefs and so on. No one has the right, in the name of culture, to oppress, kill or enslave another human being. But this should not lead us, by focusing on the barbaric practices found in all groups, including the West, to condemn all culture and to abandon the exercise of building a multiculturalist and anti-sexist society.
The Dialogical Moment One of the most pressing theoretical and political issues of the present moment is to consider the potential found in the dialogical moment that moves beyond collective imaginings. This involves thinking about ways that on the one hand validate and respect differences of location and positionality (as well as the validity of the collective imaginings that inform peoples valued and cherished beliefs, cultural practices and self-identities), without neglecting the important issue of equality for individuals and groups. One of the greatest insights of the idea of situated knowledge (e.g., Haraway, 1990; Harding, 1991), a recurrent theme in much feminist writing today, is that it treats all knowledge as an unfinished business, i.e. as socially located without seeking to provide epistemological guarantees for knowledge as truth. The result of this, however, is a danger of either a thoroughgoing cultural relativism that equally validates all forms of cultural knowledge and practice OR alternatively a belief that some forms of knowledge can function as arbiters of others because they constitute more effective ways of knowing (the latter is the favoured feminist position from standpoint theory, e.g. see the debate around Hekman, 1997). The tensions between notions of difference and equality, of ideas about human rights versus collective/group rights, of notions of autonomy/choice and justice in terms of conditions of life and outcomes: all these are pressing issues related to this quandary.
Whilst constructed in debates in binary ways (as indicated by the last sentence), the important project is to attempt thinking through these issues in more creative ways which do not lead to a stalemate of positioning, theoretical and political. One answer to some of these questions is given by a concern with dialogic politics (e.g., see Giddens, 1994; Hill-Collins, 1990). However, effective dialogue requires social conditions which maximise equal intersubjective and representational power: this can only happen effectively when incumbents of positions are able to meet on equal terms. For dialogue to be possible there must be a common framework of meaning and ability to establish equal positionalities from which to speak. Indeed, effective dialogue requires an already formulated mutual respect, a common communication language and a common starting point in terms of power. It also assumes the good will of partners in dialogue: but the issue of establishing good will is more problematic. The notion of dialogue involves a notion of intersubjectivity.1 Intersubjectivity assumes the possibility of dialogue as it denotes being oriented to another, and the practical accomplishment of communication and articulation. In dialogue you show who you are to yourself as well as to others (as meaning is emergent and only found in process, in the speech and in the action). Words like compromise/consensus, persuasion, tolerance, understanding, empathy all come to mind. Difference and otherness may be transcended by dialogue: but how is dialogue possible here: what are the conditions? It is clear that issues of power are raised. For dialogue becomes monologue in the colonial or hegemonic/hierarchised encounter (or may do so depending on the practices of hierarchy). In such a case, dialogue is a way of enabling power, i.e. it is a legitimisation tool and there is constrained or enforced dialogue. Dialogue is necessary but not sufficient therefore, for the premises upon which it is built are central. Going beyond merely seeing the other person’s point of view must entail going beyond one’s own point of view so that both parties shift their position, not coming closer to each other but developing an alternative vision which is tranformative. Moreover, the focus on dialogue must not assume that by groups coming to an achieved consensus, the problems of distributive justice and fights over unequal resources may be solved. Whilst translocational imaginings in dialogue are able to overcome some of the problems of identity politics, nonetheless they cannot begin to attack some of the processes that actually structure positions taken by groups and their
members when they are located unequally in the social structure.
Equality and Social Justice In the light of the problems related to thinking of cultural or other rights, it may be useful to turn to exploring the concept of equality. Within contemporary debates the concept of equality appears old fashioned and has been replaced by a number of other concepts such as difference, exclusion and identity. This is not surprising. The theoretical and political purchase of equality gave way under the twin sways of postmodern theory on the one hand and the demise of radical left politics on the other hand. Both these trends constitute a recognition of the variations and diversities as well as fragmented nature of the subjects and groups which in the past raised their voices towards equality. Equality has been located within a theory of rights found within ‘‘human’’ rights and ‘‘civil’’ and ‘‘social’’ rights of citizenship as in the work of T.H. Marshall (1950). There are discourses also around the equality of ‘‘groups’’ such as equality between the sexes and equality between ‘‘races.’’ Whereas the notion of rights focuses on equality for individuals qua individuals, the notion of equality of groups has tended to focus on defining the rights from rather than rights to. So, the right to be free from disadvantage and exclusion has characterised debates on equality relating to gender and race, whereas debates on human rights have tended to focus on rights of the individual to be free to pursue their interests.
Equality and Possessive Individualism The principles of the enlightenment and of economic rationality posit a universal human subject, possessive of their will and a set of fixed attributes, at least those of a minimal human nature, which construct the rational self-interested but moral person who has the right to equality before the law. Equality of treatment is dependent on the attributes the individual is deemed to have. Equality itself presupposes an application to those who are naturally the same. In other words, it is dependent on the idea of similarity. A boundary is constructed therefore between those who are the same in nature. And if it can be shown that they are not the same then the principle of equality does not hold. Such distinctions of attributes have at times served to justify inferior treatment towards women and racialised groups, as well as enabled the appropriate differences of health and other socially perceived needs to be compensated, and at times corrected, through special facilities.
Beyond Feminism and Multiculturalism
In this way, the discourse of equality which argued that in nature all are equal was dependent on the corollary of all in nature being the same or having an identical attribute or quality that should be recognised. In this sense, any claims to equality are premised in reasserting the similarities and denying the differences. This comes under the umbrella of what might be though of as egalitarianism that argues that equals should be treated equally. Related to this, with regard to groups, is the notion of equal opportunities. The Equal Opportunities communities were the result of political constructions (Anthias & Yuval Davis, 1992), which gave emphasis not so much to creating a level playing field for gender and race groups, but to preventing their differences from closing opportunities for them. For example, all women should have access to higher education through removing obstacles they face in terms of gender. All racialised groups should have equal access to jobs by removing hurdles of discrimination in the labour market or facilitating their development of skills, etc. The practice of equality of opportunity has not been able to deal with difference of positioning (in wealth, social status, housing, gender roles). Instead, these differences are then sought to be compensated by policies and provisions as in Britain through the National Health Service, free schools, positive action programmes and so on. Built into these policies is a notion of unequal ability that leads to some people not being able to seize the opportunities. Indeed, under the equal opportunities school there exists an assumption that it is the failure to be able to take advantage of opportunities that is the problem. This could be seen in terms of the individual not been enabled or compensated for to take advantage of them or because the individual lacks the requisite ability or motivation to fully benefit from opportunities. Equal opportunities and their development through compensatory mechanisms have not been able to deal with the more structured and embedded elements of inequality in society. On the other hand, the notion of opportunities that are appropriate to the position of the individual raises the question of what is appropriate for what, and for whom, and the formulation of which processes might be appropriate to any one particular individual in order for them to perform to their optimum. In addition, the final aims need to be specified of any social engineering that is dedicated to this task. This raises the question: equal opportunity ‘‘for what’’; to be happy, to be employed, to be solvent, to have equal income and wealth? The assessment of appropriate methods for giving individuals optimum oppor-
tunities is laden with difficulties: at what point does the individual get assessed, in what way and by whom and for what purpose? These are issues that require some imaginative thought (a kind of leap of the imagination) and can only be developed where there is a real political will for social transformation and equalisation.
Equality and Difference The idea that all persons should be treated equally raises the question of the appropriate grounds for treating people differently. The proper ground for unequal treatment, opportunities and outcomes is the corollary of the claims to equality on the bases of sameness of attributes and opens up the way towards differentialisms. Egalitarian politics objects to the ways in which differences have been hailed to justify inequalities but at the same time uses the same ground for asserting equality, i.e. that these individuals are really the same or really have the same attributes. Much of the struggle around sex or race equality has traditionally taken this form. Differences in treatment may be justified on the ground that people have different attributes that should give rise to different treatment. The ‘‘right’’ to different treatment then is raised. Again, this may be unproblematic in terms of recognising that differences of health may require different treatment but whether differences of gender, race or age should bestow rights to different treatment becomes much more contentious. Within this discussion there is a clear problem relating to the juxtaposition of equality and difference (as recognised in debates within feminism, e.g. in the seminal essay by Gatens, 1991). There is no doubt that one of the greatest problems with the category of equality relates to the distinct ontological spaces within which it can fought over in terms of the construction of differences of gender and race. Ontological claims which underpin these are discursively and performatively constructed. Whereas it may be relatively easy to say that apples and pears are not the same and cannot be treated equally or do not have equal attributes across all dimensions, it is not the same to say that for human beings of a different ethnicity, ability, age, colour, or sex that the difference constructs a difference of type. Apples and pears may have different attributes but are allocated to the species of fruit or vegetable and may be treated differently to cows or pigs for example. Human beings shift from all these labels or sorting codes: they can become apples or pears or pigs for that matter under particular circumstances!
Certainly a claim for absolute similarity of treatment irrespective of position, attributes, needs and cultural difference is singularly foolish. Those who argue against egalitarianism have, however, often confused treatment that is the same with equal treatment. A person is treated equally if their difference is recognised, respected and allowed for. This is the only way in which an egalitarianism that is not simply organised around equality of opportunity but is concerned with equality of treatment may be achieved. One argument often made against communism was that it not only attempted to treat people the same but it made every one the same, it dressed them the same, it gave them the same housing, etc. This common assertion confused equality with sameness. The issue of equality of outcome raises the question of the spectre of similarity again. Despite its difficulties, the notion of equality retains its seductive draw and is indispensable. This is because it brings in to focus what the aim is in a way that few other claims can. Disadvantage, exclusion and identity as terms and categories do not do the same. Equality does not ask for advantage, inclusion or assimilation. It reasserts the issue of social location although it is necessary to avoid the spectre of ‘‘the same.’’ The idea of social location (and translocation) assumes that there are differences but that these are not fixed, are dependent on context and meaning and are dynamic. Differences in sex, sexuality, traditions, memories, aptitudes, beliefs are part of the kaleidoscope of human societies across the globe. Equality cannot get rid of this human and cultural variation. The concept of equality asks us to interrogate the social outcomes that often flow from this social variation and to think of ways of tackling processes which deprive people of autonomy and justice on the one hand, and prevent access to social resources on the other. The idea of equality of outcome can only be thought out within the framework of a participatory anti-sexist and multicultural society which dismantles the preconditions for the reproduction of social locations and positions that are generically disadvantaging and limiting of human capabilities. The focus on human capabilities in the work of writers like Sen and Nussbaum (1993) is only one part of an equation concerned with the quality of life. The quality of life is relational and access to resources in a fair and equal way may require enabling opportunities and affirmative action. In this sense, building such a society goes hand in hand with the project of feminism. The above gives a schematic account of some of the difficulties of the equality problematic. Most notions have been concerned with redressing existing
disadvantages or inequalities in order to bring them to a particular level, e.g. those found within liberal feminism, to the level of men. In the process, the positive attributions of women or racialised/minority groups have been undermined and there has been a tendency to pathologise them. The focus on structure found in later debates on equality rather than the notion of possessive individualism found in the liberal democratic tradition, has tended to treat individuals as passive recipients of structural inequalities and has deprived them of agency. The exception has been certain forms of Marxism (see Laclau & Mouffe, 1985) which have focussed on hegemony and political struggle. However, the terms of the agenda move away here from the hailing of equality as the social ideal to something more akin to building a transformed imaginary of social relations where as equality may go hand in hand with other ideals about solidarity and transformation of the social.
Freedom From and Freedom To An earlier formulation of Isaiah Berlin (1956), around the dyad, freedom from and freedom to, still seems particularly useful in thinking through some of these issues in tandem with the issue of human rights that can be marshalled in appropriate circumstances and contexts. This might include rights to be free from economic, political and cultural forms of discrimination and their institutionalised variants. Freedom from exclusion on the basis of racialisation or sexism may be thought of as part of this freedom. Social rights to be free from poverty, labour market exclusion, and protection from exploitative forms of economic activity (extending further Marshall’s right to work) may also be seen as part of these freedoms, involving therefore freedom from particular forms of inclusion in marginal areas of the economy. Freedom to exercise rights of active political participation as well as its facilitation, where one constructs oneself as a member of the polity, may be usefully thought of as one of the rights to citizenship. Rights to practices of group culture, to a way of life, may also form part of these rights of citizenship, where these do not conflict with those ‘‘freedoms from’’ indicated above on the basis of gender, age, disability or racialisation as well as rights given by ideas of distributive justice, which is a more relational way of treating rights to access rather than the liberal notion of autonomy. In other words, ‘‘freedoms from’’ need to be formulated before ‘‘freedoms to.’’ They function in a more categorical and absolute way than ‘‘freedoms to,’’ which may be more contingent and differentiated.
Beyond Feminism and Multiculturalism
Another useful dyad is that between the idea of citizenship as a status, and citizenship as a practice. This again raises the issue of the ways by which an individual’s participation may be enabled and facilitated and the issue of active versus passive forms of citizenship. There is a problem though of defining practice or active political participation because this could exclude the informal politics of oppressed groups, for example in their negotiation with welfare state institutions. Moreover, political participation must not be defined too narrowly otherwise many women may be effectively excluded.
Inclusion and Participation Inclusion is a current buzz word. The category of inclusion is problematic on a number of fronts, not least because it assumes a totality or community which one is included in, and also does not require us to take account of the terms of inclusion or belonging. For example, there are disempowering forms of inclusion. For women, this is found in both the so-called public and private spheres, and for minorities in the labour market, especially where they may be included in very exploitative and disadvantaged ways. Moreover, any inclusion can be no more than approximate since not every individual and group can or indeed wants to be included in all social spheres. Differential but equal inclusion seems the best that can be formulated, from this point of view, with the proviso that equality of access should be accompanied by mechanisms of enablement. With regard to inclusionary policies, there are still unresolved issues relating to policies which are universalistic and targeted social policies. One of the dangers of universalistic policies is that they do not recognise that men and women often start from an unequal position. Unless this is recognised, and particular enabling opportunities are provided, such universalistic policies are unlikely to succeed. In this light, targeted policies have been introduced. One of the dangers of this (found, for example, in the targeting of ethnic minorities) is the tendency to work with problematic categories of difference which function to stereotype and reify group characteristics at times reproducing damaging conceptions about them. Further issues relate to targeting mainstream hegemonic discourses and practices rather than merely focusing on policies which are aimed at those who are victims of structures, however they are defined. It may be important to transform the frame of reference of the very polity and society and to move to what may be termed a broader based notion of communities which are not defined by national or
ethnic characteristics but by citizenship. In such a way, although there remain difficult issues about the ways in which cultural differences between groups are to be reconciled, this allows a greater emphasis on tackling the impediments to full participation through the attack on sexist and racist ideologies and practices on a number of fronts.
CONCLUDING REMARKS In these concluding remarks, I would like to return to the dilemmas posed by debates on feminism and multiculturalism. If justice is contextual, in any society the more voices heard and represented the greater the safeguard against violations and exclusions although the issue of competing claims remains. But the lines between these are multidimensional in terms of location and positionality within particular time and space frameworks and cannot be reduced to women versus men or modern versus traditional cultures. In relation to feminisms, there is no doubt that the priority of freedom from over freedom to, outlined in this paper, in a sense subverts the Western feminist focus on personal autonomy. Personal autonomy can only be thought of where the safeguards are in place for freedom from violence against the person, freedom from being deprived the right of consent and freedom from those conditions that lead to the reproduction of subjugation and subordination for persons and particular social categories/identities. It is not ‘‘culture what done it’’ a position found within the terms of reference of Susan Moller Okin’s controversial essay and of some of the responses towards it. All practices that serve to subordinate and oppress are to be attacked and these practices are tied to a range of structural processes which include the State apparatus, the socio-legal framework and the dominance of Western capitalist and cultural forms. Therefore, social correction needs to work on a number of fronts in terms of socio-material conditions, the discursive apparatus and mechanisms of subjective identification. I believe that we should begin to think radically about the dismantling of the enabling conditions which allow all types of subordinating and oppressing social/cultural practices. This is not just an attack on those very practices but on the structural and contextual relations that support and reproduce them. The role of agency and organisation on the basis of struggles rather than identities is crucial here. Identities only exist in context, and in relation to particular facets of social participation, (e.g., as women, as members of ethnic groups, as classes and so on). In this paper, I have developed the concept of ‘‘translocational positionality’’ to refer to
the interlocking and potentially contradictory positionalities relating to social identities. Using this approach, it is clear that organisation on the basis of identities appears problematic, whilst organisation on the basis of struggles and the formation of solidarity is more useful.
ENDNOTES 1. Mead (1964) saw intersubjectivity or dialogue as the basis for the construction of self and society. In dialogue one is faced with the ‘‘other’’ and has to negotiate meaning. Alternatively, Habermas’s ethics of communicative action (Habermas, 1984) involves rational minds oriented to understanding. Bakhtin’s dialogical sociality (1986) insists not on Mead’s generalised other but the social as heterogeneous, as having no unified core. REFERENCES Anthias, Floya (1998). Rethinking social divisions: Some notes towards a theoretical framework. Sociological Review 46(3), 506 – 535. Anthias, Floya (2001). New hybridities, old concepts: The limits of culture. Ethnic and Racial Studies 24(4), 619 – 641. Anthias, Floya, & Yuval Davis, Nira (1992). Racialised boundaries — race, nation, gender, colour and class and the anti-racist struggle. London: Routledge. Bakhtin, Mikhail Mikhailovich (1986). In M. Holquist (Ed.), Speech genres and other late essays. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press. Berlin, Isiah (1956). The two freedoms. In I. Berlin & R. Wollheim (Eds.), Symposium on equality. London: Aristotelean Proceedings. Boyne, Roy, Rattansi Ali (Eds.) (1990). Postmodernism and society. London: Macmillan. Cohen, Philip (1997). ‘It’s racism what dunnit’: Hidden narratives in theories of racism. In F. Anthias (Ed.), Thinking about social divisions: Debates on class, gender, nation and race ( pp. 225 – 263). London: Greenwich University Press. Gatens, Moira (1991). Feminism and philosophy: Perspectives on difference and equality. Cambridge: Polity. Giddens, Anthony (1994). Beyond left and right . Oxford: Polity.
Goldberg, David (1993). Racist culture. Oxford: Blackwell. Habermas, Jurgen (1984). Theory of communicative action (vol. 1). Boston, MA: Beacon Press. Haraway, Donna (1990). Simians, cyborgs and women, the reinvention of women. London: Free Association Press. Harding, Sandra (1991). Whose science, whose knowledge? London: Open University Press. Hekman, Susan (1997). Truth and method: Feminist standpoint theory revisited. Signs: Journal of Women and Culture 22(2), 341 – 365 (debate pp. 365 – 402) . Hill-Collins, Patricia (1990). Black feminist thought. London: Harper Collins. Kymlicka, Will (1995). Multicultural citizenship: A liberal theory of minority rights. Oxford: Clarendon Press. Laclau, Ernesto, & Mouffe, Chantal (1985). Hegemony and socialist strategy. London: Verso. MacLaren, Peter, & Torres, Rodolfo (1999). ‘Racism and multicultural education: Rethinking race’ and ‘whiteness’ in late capitalism. In Stephen May (Ed.), Critical multiculturalism ( pp. 42 – 77). London: Falmer Press. Marshall, Thomas Humphrey (1950). Citizenship and social class. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Stephen, May (Ed.) (1999). Critical multiculturalism. London: Falmer Press. Mead, George Herbert (1964). Mind, self and society. Chicago: Chicago University Press. Mouffe, Chantal (1994). For a politics of nomadic identity. In Chantal Robertson, et al. (Eds.), Travellers’ tales ( pp. 105 – 113). London: Routledge. Okin, Susan Moller (1999). Is multiculturalism bad for women. In Susan Moller Okin (Ed.), Is multiculturalism bad for women. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Parekh, Bhikbu (2000). Rethinking multiculturalism. Basingstoke: Macmillan. Pateman, Carol (1988). The sexual contract. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press. Rattansi, Ali (1999). Racism, post-modernism and reflexive multiculturalism. In Stephen May (Ed.), Critical multiculturalism ( pp. 77 – 113). London: Falmer Press. Rex, John (1991). The political sociology of a multicultural society’. Gandhian Perspectives IV(1). Sen, Amartya, & Nussbaum, Martha (1993). The quality of life. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Winant, Howard (1994). Racial formation and hegemony: Global and local developments. In A. Rattansi & S. Westwood (Eds.), Racism, modernity, identity ( pp. 266 – 290). London: Polity. Young, Iris Marion (1989). Policy and group difference: A critique of the ideal of universal citizenship. Ethics 9(2).