Neoliberal Multiculturalism and Western Exceptionalism: The Cultural Politics of the West
The tradition of the west defines its modernity as a radical rupture with endless possibilities for egalitarian futures; yet western modernity was rooted in the genocide of indigenous populations, transatlantic racial slavery and colonialism. Moreover, as the war on terror demonstrates, racial/gender violence continues to be linked to the formation of western identity, culture and politics in the early twenty-first century. This paper examines how the histories of race and coloniality feature in the contemporary formation of the west, with a particular focus on US nationalism and Canadian multiculturalism. These nation-states are most often defined as antithetical, with the latter confirming that western society has transcended its originary racial/colonial politics. I begin with a brief discussion of the reformation of the west in the mid-twentieth century as the USA became the dominant western power. I then move to compare the contemporary national politics of the USA and Canada to highlight the divergence and convergence in their delineation of their identity and values. My study demonstrates that although the white supremacist discourse that presently constitutes US nationalism is at variance with the multiculturalism that shapes Canadian identity, these discourses can be defined as twin aspects of the racial/colonial politics that continue to give meaning to the idea of the west.
KeywordsWest Cultural politics Race Settler colonialism War on terror Muslims
- Bannerji, Himani. 2000. The dark side of the nation: Essays on multiculturalism, nationalism and gender. Toronto: Canadian Scholars Press.Google Scholar
- Bello, Walden, Shea Cunningham, and Bill Rau. 1999. Dark victory: The United States and global poverty. Oakland, CA: Food First Books.Google Scholar
- Brown, A., W. Parrish and A. Speri. 2017. Leaked documents reveal counterterrorism tactics used at standing rock to ‘Defeat Pipeline Insurgencies’, The Intercept. https://theintercept.com/2017/05/27/leaked-documents-reveal-security-firms-counterterrorism-tactics-at-standing-rock-to-defeat-pipeline-insurgencies/.
- Coates, Ta-Nehisi. 2017. The first white president. The Atlantic. https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2017/10/the-first-white-president-ta-nehisi-coates/537909/.
- Fanon, Frantz. 1967. Black skin white masks. New York: Grove Press.Google Scholar
- Filkins, D. (2016) ‘Do Not Resist’: And the crisis of police militarization. The New Yorker. https://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/do-not-resist-and-the-crisis-of-police-militarization.
- Gilroy, Paul. 1991. There ain’t no black in the Union Jack: The cultural politics of race and nation. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
- Hall, Stuart. 1992. The west and the rest: Discourse and power, Formations of Modernity, 185–225. Cambridge: Polity Press/The Open University.Google Scholar
- Hardt, Michael and Antonio Negri. 2000. Empire. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
- Karim, Karim H. 2003. Islamic peril: Media and global violence. Montreal: Black Rose Books.Google Scholar
- Mahajan, Rahul. 2002. The new crusade: America’s war on terrorism. New York: Monthly Review Press.Google Scholar
- Mamdani, Mahmood. 2004. Good muslim, bad muslim: America, the cold war and the roots of terror. New York: Pantheon Books.Google Scholar
- Miller, Stuart. 2016. Do not resist: A new film shows how US police have become an occupying army. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/film/2016/sep/30/do-not-resist-film-documentary-us-police-militarization.
- Prashad, Vijay. 2007. The darker nations: A people’s history of the third world. New York: The New Press.Google Scholar
- Seesequasis, P. 2018. The Stanley verdict and its fallout is a made-in-Saskatchewan crisis. The Globe and Mail. https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/the-stanley-verdict-and-its-fallout-is-a-made-in-saskatchewan-crisis/article37945105/.
- Starblanket, Gina and Dallas Hunt. 2018. How the death of Colten Boushie became recast as the story of a knight protecting his castle, The Globe and Mail. https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/how-the-death-of-coltenboushie-became-recast-as-the-story-of-a-knight-protecting-his-castle/article37958746/.
- Thobani, Sunera. 2007. Exalted subjects: Studies in the making of race and nation in Canada. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.Google Scholar
- Thobani, Sunera. 2008. Gender and Empire: Veilomentaries and the War on Terror, In Global Communications: Towards a Transcultural Political Economy, ed. P. Chakravortty, and Y. Zhao, 219–242. Boulder, CO: Rowan and Littlefield.Google Scholar
- Thobani, Sunera. 2010. White innocence, western supremacy: The role of western feminism in the “War on Terror”, In States of Race: Critical Race Feminism for the 21st Century, ed. S. Razack, M. Smith, and S. Thobani, 127–146. Toronto: Between the Lines.Google Scholar
- Winant, H. 2001. The world is a ghetto: Race and democracy since world war II. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
- Wittstock Laura and Elaine J. Salinas (undated) A brief history of the American Indian Movement. American Indian Movement. https://www.aimovement.org/ggc/history.html.