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Multicultural and Multiethnic Cities in Australia

Ethnic Landscapes in an Urban World

ISBN: 978-0-7623-1321-1, eISBN: 978-1-84950-421-8

ISSN: 1047-0042

Publication date: 12 December 2006


Discourse among the media and general public has associated the term ‘multicultural’ with multiculturalism; however, Tiryakian (2003, p. 22) argues that the two should be seen as analytically distinct but empirically complementary. In its demographic-descriptive meaning, the term multicultural refers to cultural or ethnic diversity or the coexistence of different cultural groups within a particular locality; in this sense it represents heterogeneity over homogeneity. This descriptive approach, adopted by governments and public officials in Australia, describes those spaces shared by a variety of groups as ‘multicultural’. I want to confine this particular construction of multicultural to the category of ‘multiethnic’. On the other hand, the word ‘multiculturalism’ alludes to a normative category and refers to philosophical arguments regarding the legitimacy of claims surrounding the recognition of particular identity groups. The normative view accepts that pluralism and diversity are good in themselves and assumes that all difference should be valued and given a voice in the public realm. This version of multiculturalism has been evident in the United States, but has come under increasing attack by neo-conservatives. In its programmatic-political dimension, couched in liberal terms in Australia, multiculturalism pertains to policies designed to respond to the problems posed by diversity. Advocates of such policies believe that they foster toleration and equal opportunity. Another category entails an attitude towards the cultural ‘other’ and refers to an inter-subjective mode of being. The typology constructed here is based on a continuum consisting of monocultural, multiethnic, multiculturalism, and multicultural and will be used to interpret a city's relationship to its diverse population. This typology also raises some interesting questions. How many different cultural groups need to exist within a designated urban space before a city can legitimately or authentically represent itself as ‘multicultural’? Can one judge to what extent a city is multicultural based on the type of social interaction that exists among culturally-diverse groups? If multiculturalism extends beyond a demographic phenomenon, then it is possible to distinguish multiethnic cities from multicultural cities. These questions and issues can also shed light on the politics of representation.


Marotta, V. (2006), "Multicultural and Multiethnic Cities in Australia", Hutchison, R. and Krase, J. (Ed.) Ethnic Landscapes in an Urban World (Research in Urban Sociology, Vol. 8), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 41-62.



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