Constructions of race culture and politics

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In addressing the essay question Is Multiculturalism the problem now; I will be arguing that it is a problem now by giving reasonable and valid justifications. I will be also examine the individual concepts and definitions of multiculturalism as well as touching slightly on urban culture, and demonstrate how these concepts are represented in today's society with negatively.

According to Giddens (2001) culture is defined as “the values, ceremonies and ways of life characteristic of a given group”. These values and norms can vary and are somewhat dependant on social and cultural influences experienced by a particular group. One such particular group or culture I will be looking at are Muslims and the conclusions that Tariq Modood drew when assessing the after mat of the bombings of 7/7.

Other such groups or influences can in turn create the emergence of further subcultures within mainstream culture that can be identified and segmented by elements such as ethnicity, gender and religion, and in turn become subcultures which is defined as

“meaning systems, modes of expression or lifestyles developed by groups in subordinate structural positions in response to dominant meaning systems, and which reflect their attempt to solve structural contradictions arising from the wider societal context” (Brake: 1985: p8).

Subcultures according to Blake (1985) are different from one another because they each consist of three distinctive fundamentals they are

“Image - appearance composed of costume, accessories such as hair - style, jewellery and artefacts. Demeanour - made up of expression, gait and posture, for example what they were and how they wear it. Argot - a special vocabulary and how it is delivered to solve structural contradictions arising from the wider societal context”. (Brake: 1985: p8).

Most theorist including Thornton (1995) have the same conclusion when defining subcultures;

“Subcultural ideologies are a means by which youth imagine their own and other social groups assert their distinctive character and affirm that they are not anonymous members of an undifferentiated mass”. (Thornton: 1995: p185).

When looking at subculture, Hebdige (1979) recognizes

That familiar objects warrant analysis as signs and repositories of organized meanings, as much linguistic or ‘pure' visual signal. Under the conceptual umbrella of subculture, he brings together art, literature, music, style, and even attitude, and places these on the same analytical plane. (McRobbie: 1994: p14-15).

Multiculturalism is usually defined as the recognition of diverse cultural unions that applies to the demographic makeup of different places or intuitions. The ideas of multiculturalism are the interaction of diverse ethnic cultures that need to be respected and valued in everyday life. Pakulsk (1997) believes that multiculturalism can also be translated as cultural citizenship, which is a combination of civil, political and social rights. Cultural citizenship involves others acknowledging and accepting the needs and differences when establishing equal rights to accommodate these differences. (Fulcher & Scott: 2007), which also includes an individual to express one's own identity, rather than an identity be forced onto them as society deem fit.

According to the Parekh report (2000) multiculturalism covers five individual aspects, which as follow:

  • All individuals have the right to be treated equally, regardless of gender, colour, ethnicity, religion and age.
  • As Britain is a liberal and multicultural society it needs to take into account the requirements of other religious and ethnic communities.
  • Individuals all have different needs which cannot be ignored a uniform form of treatment cannot be applied has this will lead to discrimination and equality.
  • Each society needs to consistent and respectful of diversity and change.
  • That equal opportunities and self - development should be for all.

The Parekh report (2000) also goes on to state that adjust to cohesion, equality and diversity by applying three different models the first being the Nationalist model which is when the state promotes a “single national culture” (The Parekh Report: 2000).Whereas the actual model is based on the fact that Britain is a homogeneous society, which it is not because of its many conflicting traditions. The second model is that of the Liberal model which requires a “common political culture” (The Parekh Report: 2000). A difference of both the public and private spheres needs to be acknowledged within different communities, and not only for the dominant culture. Where as the dominant culture is shown through language, religion, values and morals, which minorities do not feel that they can participate in as they are made to feel inferior. The last model is that of the pluralist model which focuses on “cultural diversity is accommodated in the public realm” (The Parekh Report: 2000). In the model change and integration is recognized and not just tolerated.

When defining urban cultures we are combining a mixture of different cities all over the globe, that have certain behaviour and cultural fundamentals that are different from individuals living in rural areas. Urban culture is

The metaphor for collective life and the new space for exploring both identity and difference (Jenks: 1993: p189).

The word urban is used in the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada to illustrate hip hop culture or a sub vision of black culture. Caribbean culture has

A distant social and geographical basis and is the product of a unique historical experience (The Parekh Report: 2000: p29).

But Caribbean culture has also been diluted by other cultural influences such as “East Indian, British, Spanish, French, Dutch, Portuguese and Chinese. It cannot be traced back to one set of roots” (The Parekh Report: 2000: p29).

In conclusion, contemporary Youth culture primarily relies on marketing and consumerism, without various media formats i.e. the internet, magazines, and record labels, radio stations and music televisions youths would find it hard to emulate individuals or follow fashion trends and stay abreast with the latest technological advancement such as the development of social networking sites namely Facebook and Twitter. When the mainstream media is depicting youth culture, multiculturalism and urban culture, more often than not they are negatively reproduced or sensationalised to gain maximum impact in order to gain readers attention, thus the positive aspects of youth culture is often ignored in favour sensationalisation.

One such media outlet which is quite adept at this negative reproduction is the South London Press which predominantly highlights violent crimes (allegedly) committed by black urban youths in the South London vicinity. Then there is the Eastern Eye which is a publication that is circulated in the Asian communities of Hounslow and Southall in West London that focuses on (allegedly) crime that is committed by urban Asians youths. This phenomenon could be attributed to market segmentation as publishers attempt to target a specific segment of a crowded marketplace with dwindling readership numbers in order to gain limited market share, in my view this attempt by print media to gain market share and increase circulation have resulted in them focusing primarily on negative sensationalised headlines and either purposely or negligently chose to ignore positive aspects of youth culture and in particular urban culture.


Blake, M (1985) Comparative youth cultures - The sociology of youth cultures and youth subcultures in America, Britain and Canada, USA, Routledge and Kegan Paul Inc

Fulcher, J & Scott, J (2007) Sociology, Oxford University Press

Giddens, A (2001) Sociology Fourth edition, Cambridge, Polity Press

Haralambos, A (1983) Sociology a new approach, Polity Press

Jenks, C (1993) Culture - Second Edition, Routledge

Kidd, W, Kirby, M, Koubel, F, Barter, J Hope, T Kirton, A, Madry, N, Manning, P, and Triggs, K (1998) Reading sociology, Oxford, Heinemann educational publishers

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Thornton, S (1997) The social logic of subcultural capital {1995}.In K.Gelder and S Thornton Eds., The subcultural reader. London, Routledge