“We are encountering a rise in inter-ethnic conflict and the development of separate identities, reinforced by segregated or parallel lives […] The concept of ‘multiculturalism’ is no longer adequate to describe the extent and nature of diversity and must be seen as a means of legitimizing separateness and division.” So writes Ted Cantle, introducing a feature on cultural diversity in Britain published in Index on Censorship (2/2006).
Cantle’s response to “the failure” of multiculturalism is to re-evaluate notions of commonality: nationality, citizenship, and community. Responding in a panel discussion, Yasmin Alibhai-Brown says commonality must work both ways: “If we are going to achieve commonalities and an equal status where all may be criticized, where we may all be called to account within a single framework of human rights and freedoms, then surely white Britain has got to be called upon to do its bit.”
Elsewhere, Irena Maryniak and Salil Tripathi discuss the experience of the migrant in the city, referring, respectively, to the Cold War eastern European diaspora in London and the Indian diaspora in New York and Durban. And British-born Ekow Eshun describes his mixed sensations when travelling to Ghana, his parents’ home, to find an answer to the familiar question: “Where are you from?”
Also in the feature, an extraordinary essay by Moris Farhi proposing that “All history is the history of migration”. “Without the Other,” writes Farhi, “There would be no vision of a united family of humankind in our bounteous but fragile planet. It is the immigrant, the outsider, seeking admission into a host nation, who has developed the concept of such a union.”
The articles published here represent a selection of papers and debates from the Index on Censorship/Cultural Cooperation conference “Know your place: Diaspora literature and the subversion of borders”, held earlier this year.
Published 3 November 2006
Original in English