Links to my bibliography from A to Z:
Naby, Eden ‘Theater, Language and Inter-Ethnic Exchange Assyrian Performance Before WWI’, Iranian Studies, (40:4), 501 – 10.
The Assyrian “Camelot” in Iran, centered in northwest Iran around the towns of Urmia and Salamas, began with a surprise championship of their community by American missionaries and ended with ethnic cleansing between 1914 and 1918. During the eighty odd years of intellectual and material progress made in this community, Assyrians not only learned a multiplicity of European languages within a generation, but adopted western genre of entertainment on a broad scale. Among these were theater performances. Assyrian plays drew on many sources including French and Azerbaijani plots. But plays also became a means of retrieving their own historical past as it was being revived in Europe in the late nineteenth century under the influence of archeology and related classical sources on Mesopotamian and Iranian ancient history. In addition, Assyrians drew on another source of inspiration for theatrical performance, a source buried deep within their own medieval culture. To what extent does church theater performance soften attitudes toward theater in an environment where American-inspired religiosity frowned on
frivolities like stage entertainment? To what extent does the Assyrian experience mirror the production of theater in Qajar culture in general? How, if at all, has the Assyrian cultural flowering, however brief, affected the encouragement of diverse entertainment in northwest Iran?
By the time that power in Iran had changed from the Qajar to the Pahlavi monarchy, four cultural shifts also had occurred that affected theater in Iran in general and Assyrian theater in particular: These four may be summarized as restrictive censorship practices,
language limitations, major population shifts, and school systems that no longer supported Assyrian neo-Aramaic language instruction.1 As a result, Persian language theater surged and flourished while Assyrian theater became increasingly moribund in Iran. Outside Iran, in the rest of the Middle East and in the Soviet Union, Assyrian theater continued its popularity, largely because many of its promoters could trace their roots to the thriving pre-Word War I Assyrian community of northwest Iran.
Thus it may well be posited that the golden age of modern Assyrian theater occurred during the late Qajar period – as did many aspects of modern Assyrian culture – rather than during the Pahlavi period which witnessed the rise in modern Persian culture.
Sources for Assyrian Qajar history Surprisingly, more detailed sources for the history of Assyrians of Iran may be found for the Qajar period than for later periods. Once language and cultural restrictions became
institutionalized through the educational and censorship apparatuses, especially after * Eden Naby is an independent scholar
1927, a perceptible decline in materials about Assyrians began to set in. The three chief effects of this change came through reduced reading ability in Assyrian neo-Aramaic, decline in book publishing in the language of the community, the cessation entirely of the
publishing of periodicals between 1918 and 1952, and the strict supervision of publishing through government and self-censorship after 1953 through to the present.2 Book publishing in Aramaic as well as some religious materials in classical Syriac has a rich history in Urmia since the American missionary introduction of a printing press
in 1840. Widespread and long-term publication of newspapers began in 1849 two years before a Persian language newspaper of equal stature was initiated at Nasruddin Shah’s court.3
These books and the newspapers, numbering at least four titles that are available in representative or full run, provide sources unparalleled for any other minority population in Iran from such an early period of modern history. In addition to printed material in Aramaic there are also several memoirs, some in Assyrian, some in English, written by men and women, that provide considerable information regarding the rapid development of Assyrian culture within that short span of time between 1835 and 1918.
Following the genocide, diaspora, and restrictions on Iran’s Assyrians after World War I, little of note occurred in the cultural sphere until the early 1950s. Outside Iran, émigrés like Yunathan Bet Soleiman (b. Goegtapa, 1893) published a history and newspaper, as did Joel Warda (b. Urmia, 1882), both pre WWI émigrés from Iran to the United States. Abraham Yohannan (b. Sipurghan, 1854-1927) recorded some memories of the early twentieth century in northwest Iran.4 Their continued contact with family and Assyrian intellectual circles allowed for some cultural exchange. But the richest details of cultural developments for the Assyrian community in Iran exis for the nineteenth century.
Much of this information appears in the monumental book by Pera Sarmas (1901-1972), in three volumes in Aramaic, that later became a major source for Rudolf Macuch’s widely available book.5
As with the destruction of Qajar period Assyrian cultural institutions during WWI, so too the pillaging of family homes robbed the community of photographs and documents for the pre-War period with two exceptions: if such items had been sent abroad to family in Russia or the United States (the main pre-War locations), the materials can sometimes resurface. The other exception had occurred during the 1920s
when some few surviving families, upon their return to Urmia, were able, accidentally, to purchase an occasional family photograph from bazaar vendors.6 Entertainment in the Assyrian Community
Non-Muslim communities living in Islamic states, historically functioned chiefly within religious institutions. Churches, schools and shrines provided the locus of spiritual, intellectual and social sustenance. All such activities were public but only within that
particular religious community: that is, outsiders (non-coreligionists) would neither be expected to enter nor would expect to enter unless they meant harm. 7 Thus Assyrian drama and theater too, is recorded in the nineteenth century initially within the church context. Festivals “sha’re,” often associated with saints’ days and celebrated at shrines
particular to those saints, offered entertainment as well as respite from daily labor. An entire village population might make the pilgrimage to a shrine on that saint’s day and spend the time in story-telling, dancing and singing, often to the accompaniment of “zurna davula” (horn and drum).
Within the Church of the East, the main church of Assyrians until the Catholic schism of 1552 (Chaldean Church origins) and the Protestant conversions of the nineteenth century, some fifty odd plays appear to have existed. These religious dramas or dialogue hymns “soghyathe,” much like the Shi’ite Ta’ziya performances, while based on religious themes and figures, came from a source other than the Holy Writ. That is, Assyrian church drama may well have had pre-Christian origins. The dramas are not directly from the New or Old Testaments, nor, it would appear, from any of the Church of the East texts preserved in Chinese version only from the period after the seventh
century AD. 8 But the extant ones appear to group around the period of the Nativity to Epiphany and Holy Week. Some subjects are The Cherub and the Thief, Christ and John the Baptist, the Penitent Thief.
This form of drama took place within the church sanctuary and was incorporated within the church service. One of the best known, because it is preserved by a Western visitor, tells the story of redemption from sin through the cross, a familiar theme, by
juxtaposing a thief and the Christian congregation.9 These religious dramas became part of the life of Catholic converts as well since the Chaldean Church retains the eastern rite as well as Syriac in its liturgy. Performances entailed acting on the part of deacons
(shamashe) and the congregation. 6 This is how, one of the oldest photographs of a nineteenth century Assyrian, Qasha (Rev.) Benyamin of Golphashan reentered the family collection when in 1927 his great niece (Sophiya) bought it from a street vendor selling plates and such also looted. Notes from Alphonse Odishoo to the author, a relative now living in Modesto, CA who supplied the picture for the exhibit at the Boston Public Library, Immigration and Adjustment: Assyrian Family Records (2005).
Drama dance, another precursor to the modern drama of the nineteenth century, and still performed among the Assyrian diaspora community in Syria and Russia, takes its themes from secular topics related to the daily life of the Qajar period. Elaborately costumed dancers perform stylized dances representing a shepherd’s defense of his sheep from wolves.10 The theme of the drama dance is closer to the heroic tales sung and recited as part of “rawe” and “lelyani” singing/story telling genres which also are secular.11 The latter two forms of entertainment are directly related to story telling, the
most ubiquitous form of entertainment in non-literate societies, and the form used in the transmission of history. Western Incursion
There is little question that modern theater and drama, while having popular native antecedents, arrived among the Assyrians from Western sources. These may be divided into American and European on the one hand, and Russian on the other, sometimes through the intermediary of Tiflis or Baku. Before the arrival of drama however, came the presence of Western missionaries in northwest Iran who specifically focused on the Assyrians whom they labeled Nestorians. The term Nestorian, a pejorative form attached to the Church of the East by the Byzantines and used since then by all Western heirs to
Christianity, denotes the disagreement of the Bishop of Constantinople of the fifth century, Nestorius, himself from a Syriac speaking milieu, who held a less lofty view of Mary and of the dual nature of Jesus than some of his powerful contemporaries. As the
Church of the East drew closer to Sassanian Iran, it came to be regarded as “The Church of Persia.” This association gave the Church a political cast that reinforced the Byzantine Empire’s wish to anathemized and demean it, mainly by naming it after a fallen bishop.
The Church of the East maintained its strength in Iran and across its western border in Ottoman lands, at least since the war-ravaged area emerged after Timur in the early fourteenth century. Prior to that the Church had operated in Maragha, Baghdad, and Tikrit as well as Urmia and Salamas. During the nineteenth century it shared the
Aramaic speaking population of northwest Iran with the Chaldean Catholic Church. By 1914 the Assyrians of northwest Iran professed a variety of Christian faiths aside from the two older churches: Presbyterian, Methodist and Russian Orthodox were the major
new denominations. These denominations had arrived with American, British and Russian missionaries as well as French-speaking ones who worked within the Chaldean Church institutions.
Conflict among the older churches as well as within the newly established ones created some friction within the community but largely, the community gained from the presence of Western missionaries in the nineteenth century through the introduction of a
large urban and rural educational system (1836), the writing of the vernacular language, its transfer to print (1840), the introduction of the first medical school in Iran (Urmia, 1879), Western travel, and aspects of Western culture.12 With the introduction of musical
instruments from the West – piano, organ, violin – came also the dissemination of Western plays. Source of drama The first plays to be performed and printed in the Assyrian Iranian community were the
comedies of Moliere and Shakespeare, showing the influence of French and English speaking missionaries. Moliere was popular throughout the Middle East. As late at 1948 Moliere was being translated and printed in Aramaic.13 Next came the plays of the two Baku playrights, Mirza Fath Ali Khan Akhundzadeh (1812-1878) and Uzeyir Hajibekov (1885-1948), the latter being the writer of perhaps the most performed play of the region, Arshin Mal Alan (1914) in all its Turkic and other languages. Finally dramas originally written and performed in Aramaic in Urmia and abroad entered the community entertainment stage. Between 1906 and 1914 Assyrians translated and performed Macbeth, Merchant of Venice, and plays by Nikolay Gogol (1809-1852). These performances took place in Urmia’s rich satellite
villages where most Assyrians lived (in 120 villages) as well as in the town itself. While the source does not state the location of performance within the village, the likeliest location would have been one of the village schools.14
Post Qajar scattering of Community The attacks on the Assyrians of the villages, though fairly continuous, began to escalate during the period of the Iranian Constitutional Revolution when the internal government struggle emboldened both the Ottoman Turks and the Kurds in the Zagros foothills to stage attacks along river systems such the Nazlu, riding from village to village. Women and girls were abducted and homes pillaged. Despite this unrest, Assyrians continued to prosper due to the strong educational network in the region and, after 1911, the presence of Tsarist troops.
By 1914 and the declaration of war between the Ottomans and Tsarist Russia, incursions by Ottoman troops had become commonplace. In that year Golpashan, one of the richest villages of the region was pillaged and most of its men killed. In January 1915 a major exodus of Assyrians from Urmia and its villages took place that led to the
reduction of the local Assyrian population by 15%. These refugee families settled around the Black Sea, the Krasnodar region, and some are to be found as far north as Novgorod.
Soon those who had been involved in drama or education in the Urmia area renewed Aramaic language drama.
Tiflis, as the cultural capital of the Transcaucasus already boasted an Assyrian theater group in 1910 that performed several comedies, including Moliere’s Médecin Volant (The Fleet-Footed Doctor) translated by Qasha Mushe Babilla who lived in
(Oxford : Clarendon Press ; New York : Oxford University Press, 1992)
Urmia. A second comedy appeared from the pen of Yosip Bet Bedjan (Khamta Karubta) while one of the most celebrated Assyrian writers and activists, Freidun (Bet Avraham) Atouraya (1886?-1926), wrote Khisha (Grief), performed on May 2, 1911.15 Freidun Atouraya was born near Urmia, studied medicine in Tiflis, was engaged with Assyrian affairs in Urmia and died in Stalin’s prisons.
No theater appears to have reemerged in Urmia with the scattering of the Assyrian population, the loss of two thirds of the population between 1914-1921, and the restrictions placed by the Pahlavi monarchy on the return of the surviving refugees to their homes. The venue for Assyrian cultural activity in Iran shifted to Tehran and
Theater in Iran
Several recent books about the history of Iranian theater have appeared in Persian and English. Most devote much space to the Qajar period ( Shirin Buzurgmir,(1992) Taʾsıir-i tarjumah-ʾi mutun-i namayishi bar taʾsıir-i Iran Uskuʾi, Mutafá. (2002) Pizhuhishi dar tarikh-i tiʾatr-i Iran, and Hamid Amjad’s (2005) Theatr-e Qarn-e
Sizdahom. All these sources and more are incorporated into Willem Floor’s The History of Theater in Iran (2005). Floor’s book is comprehensive: he gives considerable space to Armenian theater
(Tabriz and Tehran), Jewish theater, and even Zoroastrian community theater. He makes no mention of Assyrian theater, which, with Armenian theater may well precede that of other communities. This lacuna rises largely because Assyrian theater ended with WWI,
and thereafter nearly all histories about Assyrians in Iran appeared in the Aramaic spoken by Assyrians, a language rarely learned in the 20th century by non-Assyrians. A quick review of Persian and Minority Community Theater reveals that the Armenians of Tabriz staged first performance in Iran- 1873, and that the first plays
translated into Persian are by Moliere. The first plays translated into Aramaic are Shakespeare (Macbeth, Merchant of Venice), Moliere, and Gogol. English, French and Russian were taught to Assyrians early in the Qajar period (American schools started in Urmia in 1836). Plays were direct translations, not through other languages. However, it is not clear whether these early translations were printed or in distributed to the cast in handwritten copies. Indigenous Assyrian playwriting appears to commence in 1908 and continued to the eve of WWI with such plays as Shamiram and Sarah Tkhumneytha, both about women. 16
Topics of Assyrian Plays
Because most Assyrian community plays came from the pen of men (no women until the 1950s) who had received a good education in the several mission schools, and because Iranian society at the start of the twentieth century was experiencing political and social turmoil, the themes of the original plays reflect the socio-cultural revolution underway. Many of these themes enter Persian literature and drama as well, but a decade or so later. The plots of three plays reflect the general state of agitation as well as the high level of information available to the Assyrian community through the network of active
newspapers that were available to them. It should be noted that none of these plays have survived the genocide. We know about them through the reporting on performances that is found in Kokhva, the prominent secular periodical that operated in Urmia from 1906 to
1918. Here are three plots:
– Mock debate between eastern and western philosophers
– Wife who nags her husband to go to Tiflis to work and elevate the
economic status of family. He does, falls into bad habits (drinking and
gambling) and the family becomes poorer than ever.
– A group of young men whose village is pillaged by Kurds, unite, attack the robbers and restore their village cattle and goods. (Ominous since this is how the Assyrians finally lost their foothold in northwest Iran – through Kurdish attacks.)
These topics were at the heart of Assyrian debate in northwest Iran. The theme of conflict and confusion on the religious/national question ran as follows:
– supporting western missionaries at the expense of their Assyrian identity,
– staying with the old churches – Chaldean Catholic and Church of the East
– heading for the sheltering embrace of the Russian Orthodox Church which
was backed by visible armed presence,
– or submerging all denominational affiliation under a banner of Assyrian
The second theme, that of emigration for temporary or permanent purposes
followed along these subjects:
– seeking work opportunities outside Iran where employment for Christian
minorities were less restrictive,
– trying to improve the situation in Iran through such instruments as
representation in the Majlis being formed under the new constitution.
The biggest issue, and the theme of several plays was how to unite to defend against Kurdish marauders. As it turned out after WWII especially, Kurds have come to replace Assyrians in most of the villages and also entered the town of Urmia.
In addition to these serious themes of survival that the community debated, comedies especially, were also translated from neighboring cultures. From the Caucasus came what is the most performed play in the Assyrian community from Iran that survived WWI – Hajibekov’s Arshin Mal Alan. This play was been adapted into Aramaic and performed widely since it appeared in 1917. However, these performances did not take place in Iran in fact could not take place in Iran due to the harsh and eventually genocidal political conditions. Rather the play was performed in the diaspora communities from Armenia and Georgia, to Armavir (Krasnodar) in Russia and New York and Connecticut. Diaspora communities also translated from Armenian
and from Azari directly. All Assyrian performances appear to have been in Assyrian except in those communities (in Turkey) where the spoken language had become Armenian. Why such early adaptation to theater performance and especially to writing of plays by one of the smallest and weakest ethnic communities in Iran? The reasons are evident in the social setting: Assyrians had become the focus of American missionary effort since 1829. For a variety of reasons, the missionaries raised the level of the community rapidly within a few generations. Some estimate that 80% of Assyrians, men and women were already at least literate by World War I.17 At this level of literacy, demands for schools, newspapers, books and sophisticated entertainment had grown rapidly. Moreover, the American mission had chosen Aramaic as the language in which to work in Iran until 1915. When it made the decision to switch to Persian – a process that
took until 1932 – the decline in language set in.
Assyrians had learned to read and write their vernacular Aramaic as never before since the Timurid conquests. But at the same time, they studied had opportunities to study at least four foreign languages right in Urmia by the turn of the nineteenth century: English, French, Russian and German. These factors allowed them to engage in both
translation into Aramaic and original composing of plays in Aramaic.
A fourth factor in the rapid assimilation to the theater arts grew from the already accepted forms of native drama as represented in the traditional churches in the form sugyatha. Therefore there was no particular hesitation or objection to representation. The tradition of men representing women on stage and taking all the roles in a theater piece, however, continued into the diaspora situation as may be seen in a performance of a Mullah Nasriddin play in Krasnodar during the 1940s.18
Finally, audiences were accustomed to secular performance as well, through such entertainment as took place at the sha’re festivals. The Dem Demma drama dance is very similar in theme to the play about preventing Kurdish pillaging of Assyrian villages.
To conclude: even in Diaspora, nearly a 100 years after the end of the Assyrian “Camelot” in Iran, skits, plays and now especially cinema, help to promote the general theater arts. But, in diaspora this is coming at the cost of the Aramaic language. English and Arabic are invading the theater space just as they are creeping into the churches. The long tradition of Assyrian theater arts the culminated in the late Qajar period in a flourishing of theater performance in northwest Iran using the Aramaic language is now perhaps lost irretrievably. The rise in censorship in Iran, the restrictions on teaching and using Aramaic, and especially the forced redistribution of Assyrians from their compact location in northwest Iran all have contributed to the decline.
1 The language that Assyrians speak falls within the Aramaic subset of Semitic languages. Syriac falls within Aramaic but is now an extinct liturgical language. Syriac is similar in position to Latin within the
Roman Catholic Church prior to Vatican II (1962) when that church switched to vernacular languages for church services. Assyrian neo-Aramaic is the widest Aramaic written and spoken vernacular in the world. Iran was its intellectual center until 1918. This language will be referred to as Aramaic in the rest of this article although the term Assyrian for the language has been used in a loose sense within the community without distinguishing Aramaic from ancient Akkadian, the official language of the Assyrian Empire.
2 For a detailed examination of how a leading Assyrian periodical during the early years of the Islamic
Revolutionary period was forced to close, see my “Ishtar: Documenting the Crisis in the Assyrian Iranian
Community,” Middle East Review of International Affairs Vol. 10. No. 4 (December 2006) pp. 92-102.
3 Zahrira d-bahra (Rays of Light) appeared as a ten to twelve page monthly periodical beginning in 1849.
Of its sixty-nine years of publication, only about half are available due to the utter destruction of all
Assyrian cultural institutions including schools, churches, presses, and of private homes. Rudolf Macuch
carries a summary of the years between 1897 and 1918. Some of the earlier years are available, 1850s,
1890s (in Harvard College Library) for example. See Geschichte der spat-und neusyrichen Literatur,
(Berlin, de Gruyter, 1976), pp. 138-201.
4 Yohannan, the first Assyrian, possibly the first Iranian, to hold a university, post in the United States,
taught at Columbia University from where he had earned his PhD with A.V. Jackson, the specialist on
ancient Iran. His archives are held at Low Library, Columbia University.
5 Tash’ita d-siprayuta atoreta (Assyrian Cultural History) (Tehran, Honeyn, 1963).
15 Sergey Osipov, “The Tiflis Theater Talent,” Assyrian Star, Vol. LVII, no. 4, pp. 35.
16 Ishaya, p. 34
7 Armenians and Assyrians in Iran, although both the same Christian for outsiders, from within the
communities belonging to opposing and non-communion sects. Armenians and Assyrians could not
intermarry unless both had left the traditional eastern churches for Catholicism or Protestantism. The same
pattern may be discerned in pre-Islamic revolution Iran when marriage between a Christian and a Muslim
or Jew often led to both parties converting to Baha’ism.
8 The comparison of the themes and narrative of Assyrian church drama with the preserved Church of the
East versions of the story of Jesus preserved in China but no longer used in the Middle East has not been
made to date. The fragmentary nature of the drama may hinder such comparison.
9 See article by Stephen Bonian, SJ, “ Syriac Dialogue Plays Rediscovered,“ Assyrian Star, Vol. LVII
No.4, (2005) pp. 13-15.
Iranian Studies, 40:4, 501 – 510
10 Performances of this traditional drama dance by a Russian Assyrian troupe from St
Petersburgh toured the US Assyrian communities in 1995. Assyrian Star, Vol. LVII. No. 4, p. 21.
11 Nicholas al-Jeloo paper at the Middle East Studies Association (Boston, 2006)
12 For a study of British mission work among Assyrians in Iran and in Ottoman Turkey
see J.F. Coakley, The Church of the East and the Church of England : a history of the Archbishop of
Canterbury’s Assyrian Mission / J.F. Coakley.
13 Macuch points to the work of Mirza Benyamin Kaldani (1879-1954) who translated a Moliere play,
L’Etourdi (The Blunderer) and published it in 1948 in Tehran.
14 Arian Ishaya, “From Contributions to Diaspora: Assyrians in the History of Urmia, Iran” Journal of
Assyrians Academic Studies, Vol. XVI, NO. 1, 2002 and on line at Nineveh.com/Assyrians
17 Ishaya, p. 24
Nahir, Moshe. 1984. Language Planning Goals. Language Problems and Language Planning (8):294-327.
Women have been oppressed. Position of Islam: men and women are interdependent towards each other and equal. Necessity to look at interpretation and Islamic teaching. Look for solutions. Coranic readings has two schools of thought. Spiritual approach: Soufis.
How did theb Prophet treat women: he stood up when they arrived…
Islam in our minds is conceived as segrated spaces for men and women. In fact women are overwhelmingly present in Islamic cities. We should look beyond our initial vision and biases.
Turkish society and Islam: religion has become more of a government thing even in Turkey. This will have an impact on women and classes;
Youth Rep spoke about perceptions in the West. When she says she’s a moslem, people are surprised that she’s not wearing headscarves.
Patriarchy was an important element of the panel. Does a woman need or not protection.
Naima, RAPPORTEUR (2009), ‘Women, Islam and Interdependence Day’, Art, Religion, and the City in the Developing World of Interdependence (Istanbul).
Najman, Jake M. , and John S. Western, eds. 1988. A Sociology of Australian Society: Introductory Readings. Melbourne: Macmillan Education Australia Pty.
4-5: We, with others, define sociology as the scientific study os society. There are two key words in this definition, « scientific » and « society ». Sociology is scientific because in the collection of data it uses methods which are based on certain principles, consistent with the scientific method. Broadly, these have to do with the reproducibiloity of methods and the verifiability of results. The methods used by sociologists for the collection fo information about society are producible, in the sense that the same mehtods can be emplyed by all sociologists when examining the same question. Methods are not idiosyncratic, depending on the random preferences of a particular individual. Results are verifable in the sense that different sociologists using the same methods to address a particular problem are likely to arrive at simialr conclusions, or if thy fail to do so, will be able to provide an explanation as to why differnet results have occured. A careful and controlled approach to the collection of information about society is essential if we are to have convidence in the accuracy of our conclusions.
Society is the subject matter of sociology. This term includes the totality of groups within, usually a geographically delineated nation-state. We say « usually » because nomadic tribal groups, sometimes without a clearly defined geographical location, could be of interest to sociologists concerned with tribal societies or quesitons of development.
We know that indivuduals see society diffently. Their perceptions are coloured by the groups to which they belong. Women, migrants, Aborigines and the economically disavantaged are examples of such groups in Australian society. The members of each of these groups have experiences in common, as the consequence of their group memebership. Theses experiences shape the group’s perception of the « reacl » world. The indivudual, fromthe sociological pers’pective, is then a product of social processes which are mebesded in the groups to which he or she belongs. It is towards and understanding of these processes that this analysis is directed.
5: Perhaps one of the most difficult of all concepts to comprehend is the extent to which the world is perceived through a particular set of « glasses ». The story of three bilind people in search of what an elephant looks like, each forming different images on the basis of the varied parts they touch, is useful in an illustrative sense. Phsyhcologists, historians, philosophers and geographers all see society through « glasses » created by their chosen discipline. It should not be suroprising, therefore, that various disciplines can inspect the same world but concentrate upon different elements of it, and come to somewhat different conclusions about it.
26: Australia is an English-speaking federation made up of former British colonies, and now a nation that is firmly set within the cultural, economic and political sphere of influence of the United States.
28: Australia, like the United States, developed in its own territory from early British colonial settlements. Like America, it was geographically far removed from Continental Europe and from the various struggles for emancipation from old aristocracies which so deeply marked the political constitution and temper of such continental European nations as Grance, Germany and Italy. The great difference is that the two settlements were separated in time by some 150 years.
29: Australia’s early settlers were for the most part the victims of the Industrial Revolution, and of the ugliest period of militant British capitalism
41-42:A cmparative sketch points to the distinctiveness and the complexity of State pwower in Australia. In one relatively « stateless » society, the United States, power is exerted principally, on the one hand, through a political process of patronage and bargaining between central and local levels, and on the other by the courts which dominate almost every aspect of State administration. Sovereignty in the United States is quintessentially embodied in the law, and especially in the Constitution and the Supreme Court. Together, they greatly overshadow the importance of their equivalents in Australia. In the United States the law is, at least in social matters, the enabling vehicle and the focus for most significant changes, certainly those that raise explicit conflicts of interest. The lawe, the Constitution, and the Supreme Cournt are the guarantors of « indivudual rights » and together, they form a legal structure with an authority that towers over the other sectors of the State including, in many respects, the federal govenment itself, which Americans curiously perceive a sa rather distant abstract, and almost foreighn entitty to which newspaper articls refer with such phrases as « the Distpute between City Hall and the United States ».
Like the United States, Australia is a federation. But it’s a federation in which, at least since the 1930s and 40s, the central government and administration had far greter importance. In as much as the law and the Constituion overshadow adminsitration in the United Sttes, the reverse is true in Australia.
Australia is a federation with a Constitution. Like in Britain, the elected majority party is subject to a stricut discipline of govenment and Cab inet that has marginalised the ordinary elected member of Parliament and concentrated interest group representation at the doors of ministers and seniou official. Yet in Australia the bureaucracy is more conspicuous than in Britain, and more readily accepted as a sgtrong centre of legitimate State power. Certainly, one of the distinctive features of the Australian case is that it combines a federal structure with a comparatively strong state, one in which bureaucracy and administrtion have had a distinctive character.
48:With the dissolution of the British Empire after World War II, Australia’s military, economic, political and cultural dependencies shifted from B ritain to a radically new empire, the United States of America
49:In the Middle of the century Australians enjoyed very high living standards and the most equal distribution of income in the world. These great benefits were the achievements of a nation that was “born modern” and which developed its own distinctive political and social democracy that placed great trust in the State. As a nation-society Australia has relied more than the US and Britan on the co-ordinating work of state and bureaucracy, and comparatively less on m arkets and money. Indeed, it’s part of the Australian legacy that the State should lead and that capital should follow.
In the 1960s and the 70s, Canberra had what was perhaps one of the the best and most highly professionalised public services in the world, less affete and introverted than the ‘Yes, Minister’ Whitehall Civil Service and certainly less politically compromised by big business interests than Washington. As with France, Australia’s history and political culture have given bureaucracy and administration an
empowering legitimacy that was, we thought, deeply engrained in the long-held belief that commissions, Royal and unroyal tribunals, boards, and committees of inquiry, can and should serve and represent the general interest.
178: Le niveau d’immigration au Canada est comparable dans le monde occidental uniquement à celui du Canada et des Etats-Unis, lequels ont tous deux soutenu des programmes d’immigration à grande échelle à la fin du XIXème et au début du Xxème siècles
Toni Makkai and
Australia is a nation built on immigration. In 1991, almost one in four of the population had been born overseas, with the majority coming from non english-speaking countries. In total, around one in every three Australians is either an immigrant or the child of an immigrant. The level of immigration to Australia is matched in the Western world only by Canada and the United States, which both maintained large-scale Immigration programs in the late
nineteenth and cadv twentieth centunes In the post-war years, the only country to sustain a level of immigration comparable to Australia is Israel, which is also a country that has been created by large-scale, recent population movement.
In contrast to the United States or Canada, where immigrants have been highly visible members of the society for more than a century, it is only in the last two decades that the migrant presence in Australia has had any significant impact on the country’s culture, socio-economic structure or politics. In part, this change has been brought about by the different ethnic composition of the migrant intake, the rise of ethnic lobby groups and by the government’s policy response to this change. But in part, too, the higher profile of immigrants has followed a worldwide trend in which cthnicity has become an increasingly salient characteristic for group loyalty and political mobilisation Ethnic conflict in the
179:Rather than disappearing, then, as traditional sociological therories once predicted, ethnicity has become more important in many societies, regardless or their stage of socio-economic development. The resurgence of ethnicity represents the failure of three major theorires about change in industral societies: functionalism, developmental or mordernisation theroy, and Marxism. All these theories viewed ethnicity as a premodern phenomenon, a residue of particularism and ascription incompatible with the trend toward acheivement, universalism and nationality supposedly exhibited by industrial societies. As society developed these theoires predicted that ethnic differences would simply cease to be important. But contradicting these predictions, ethnicity has re-emerged as an important factor in many societies in the late twentieth century. Multiracial and ethnically plural societies are generally a consequence of one of twor types of immigration or, very occasionally, a combination of the two. The first type of immigration occurred when some societies experienced population movement many thousands of years ago, at which time indigenous ethnic minorities were settled. The second type of immigration has taken place in modern time, either by legal or illegal means, producing an ethnically distinct minority or group of minorities.
former Soviet Union, the ex-Communist states of Eastern Europe, or in the liberal democracies of Western Europe, are all indicative ofthis trend.
Rather than disappeanng, then, as traditional sociological
theories once predicted, ethnicity has become more important in many societies, regardless of their stage of socioeconomic development. The resurgence of erhniciry represents the failure of three maior thrones about change in industiaal societies: functionalism, developmental or modemisauon theory, and Marxism. All of these thrones viewed erhniciry as a ‘premodern phenomenon, a residue of parrochialism and ascription incompatible with the trend toward achievement, universalism and nationality supposedly exhibited by industnal socirties'(van den Berghe 1981: 17). As society developed, these theories predicted that ethnic differences would simply cease to be important. But contradicting these predictions, ethnicity has re-emerged as an important factor in many societies in the late twentieth century.
Multiracial and ethnically plural societies are generally a
consequence of one of two t~cs of immigration or, very oc-
carionally, a combination of the two. The first type of immigration occurred when some societies experienced population movements many thousands of years ago, at which time indigenous ethnic minorities were settled The second type of immigration has taken place in modem times, either by legal or illegal means, producing an ethnically distinct mmonty or group of minorities. In Australia, both of theseprocesses have occurred: Abongines are thought to have arrived on the continent many rhousands of years ago, while white settlement began in 1788 and the large-scale migratbn of non-English speaker did nor begin until 1947
Ihis chapter examines the background to immigration in
Australia, focusing particularly on the post-1947 penod, and the emergence of multiculruralism in the mid-1970s. We also analyse the socio-economic backgrounds and attainments of immigrants, their rule in the labour market and the social mobility that they are likely to expenence. Finally, the chapter examines immigrant political behaviour in Australia and traces the emergence of the elusive ‘ethnic vote’. The data rely mainly an a survey conducted in 1988-89 on behalf of the Office of Multicultural Affairs, derails
of which are provided in the Appendix.
An Immigrant Society
Immigration to Australia has progressed through four major
phases, each draumg migrants from a different part of the world,
241:Dimensions Of Disadvanfage
Aborigines and Islanders are economically and socially dis-
advantaged in terms of normative standards applied within the community in general. We can measure the degree of disadvantage along several dimensions, such as health status, educationai, economic and legal status (far more derailed studies, see Altman and Nicwenhuysen 1979; Western 1983; Altman 1991).
To generalise, because of the young age structure of the Aboriginal population, Abonginal people make up only about 1 per cent of the labour farce (less than 60,000 in 1986), worldorce participation rates are low, and earned income is a less important source of total income than for the rest of the population, with at least 50 242:per cent of total income coming from govcmmcnt benefits and
pensions, as against 28 per cent for the population as a whole auncs 1991: 28-29). Unemployment is over four times as high (34-36 per cent compared with 8 per cent for Australians of Anglo-Celtic ong~n) aones 1991: 32). The average status of jobs that Abongines do is low compared with white Australians, especially for men. Aboriginal men are most likely to have a job in unslulled work, and women in clerical employment. Few Aboriginal people find their way into adminisrrarive, professional or paraprofessional positions. Hourly earnings are relatively low, with men earning only 76 per cent of the average fur white males
in 1986. The figure for women is 87 per cent. Most work for wages or salary, and few are currently mamed, rcficcting the rclatnve youth of the Aboriginal workforce aones 1991: 33).
Altman and Sanders (1991b: 9) identify four aspects ‘of the
deep-rooted nature of low Abonginal employment and income status’. First is the historical exclusion of Aboriginal peoples from many mamsrream insutuuons of Australian society and the welfare stare, such as award wages, the social secunty system and the education system; this exclusion has left a long legacy A second aspen
is the demographic structure of the Aboriginal population, which, in compansion with the population as a whole has a very young age structure. There are two consequences: one is a very high dependency ratio, and the other is rhar the number of Aboriginal people just entering the workforce is very large, and will increase more rapidly than planners have anticipated A third aspect is locational disadvantage, wrrh perhaps half the Abonginal populauon living in more remote areas where labour markets are limited or
nonexistent; there are few opportunities for marker-onentcd activities to develop Fourth, where Ahonginal people are living a Uadition-oriented lifestyle in remote areas, formal cmplu)ment may not be culturally appropriate For these reason, Airman and Sanders (1991b: 10) brlicve that the low employment and income srarus of Ahongnes is highly intractable. Governments have recently instirured a variety of schemes to boost Abong~nal employment. These include the various enterprise loans and grants made by the Abong~ng~nal Development Commission (now replaced by ATSTC), as well as land and property acquisition by ihat body; the Aboriginal Emplo)ment Development Policy
launched by the Hawke government in 1987 in response to the Milirr Repon, which articulated as its long-term ohjecrivcs the achievement of emplovment and income equality for Aboriginal people, and a shift away from a ‘welfare dependency approach’.
Under this policy programs were renamed and redefined, and include the Community Economic Advancement Projects Scheme, the Community Emplo)mcnt and Enrerpnse Development Scheme and the Aborigmal Empla)mcnt Action program (Altman and Sanders 1991b: 7).
Aboriginal health is very much worse than that of the non-
Aboriginal population of Australia, though improving. A broad trend can he identified, from a Mgh infant mortality rate and high death rate, towards a lower infant mortaliry rare combined \nnrh a high death rate due to ‘lifestyle’ diseases We have seen how introduced diseases have had a profound effect Changes in environmental conditions and new habits of dirt have been just as significant. Practices of hygiene and waste disposal suitable for a iemi-nomadrc life are nut well adapted to life on permanent settlements, but the provision of smices such as water supply generally has not been adequate. The poor condiuons of the phyrical cnwonment account for a high incidence of intesunal infections such as gasrroenreritis, intestinal parasites such as hookworm, and slun diseases such as scabies. The adoption of a diet of white flour, sugar, tea and, often, alcohol, in place of a vaned and nutntious diet of wild foods, has led to malnurntion, diabetes, dental caries and
alcoholism, and resultant low resisrance to infection (Herzel 1980).
Widespread heavy smoking has also had deletenous effects on health.
Infant mortali~v rare (IMR) is a good indicator of the general health of mothers as well as infants. The IMR of the Aborig~nal population of full descent in the Norrhcm Territory for 196567 was 143 per L,000 live births, compared with a figure of 21 for Australia as a whale (Hctzel 1980) By 1981, the rate fur Abonginal people as a whole had fallen to about 30.3 per thousand, as against 10.2 for the whole of Australia rrhamson 1983), and to 9.1 for the 198386 triennium (Gray 1990). In spite of improvementa in the Aboriginal IMR and a steady decrease mn mortality generally, life expectancy fur Aboriginal men and women
is still about fifteen years less than far Australians as a whole (Divakaran-Brawn and Honan 1990; Yard er nl. 1990; Hogg 1990)
For Aboriginal males, disease of the circularorv system, injury and violence, and respiratory system discase account in that order for a high pruporuon of excess mortality, and among women, circulatory system disease is especially importanr (Honari 1990: 142-43).
Social factors also innuence health For example, there is a
greater incidence ofinfectious disease in Queensland townships to which people were moved from many different areas rrrigger et al. 1987), and such communities are riven by alcoholism and
violencr ~i~ilsan 1983).
Although Abong~nal involvement m schooling and higher education has increased markedly since the early 1970s, it still indicates a disadvantaged position. The 1986 Census shows that must Aboripnes (6L per cent), like other Australians, stayed at school until the legal minimum of 1516 years. However, fewer obtained formal School Crrtificares as a result of remaining at schuul. This
performance is refiected in employment: Jones (1991: 97) shows that Aborig~nal people end up in low status jobs regardless of how long they stayed at school, unless they gained a post-school qualification.
Over four times as many Abongrnes as white Australians (9 per cent) either did not go to school or left before they were 14 years old. Aboriginal people are much less likely to have reniary qualifications: only about 5 Abongines per 1,000 as against 70 to 80 per 1,000 among Australians of Anglo-Celtic origin. Even trade and other certificates are rare aones 1991: 3018). Participation m higher education is mcreasing, fostered by the insutution of support programs such as Aboriginal ‘enclaves’, liaison offices, and study skills programs.
Government spending on Aboriginal education has been high since the 1960s, with the insutuuon of special programs such as bilmgual programs, provision for Aboriginal teacher aides, appointment of advisory committees, and funding of research into Aboriginal education. Among the many recent programs and
iniuatlves that target Aboriginal and Islander education under the National Aborigmal and Torres Strait Islander Education Policy are the Aboriginal Education Strategic Inititaiives Program and the Abo”g~nal Student Assisrance Scheme (ABSTUDY). In 1989-90, funding was provided under the Higher Education Equity Program and the Aboriginal Participation Initiadve to assisr ms-
titutions to pro\lded greater equality of access to higher educauon for disadvantaged groups, including Abong~nal and Islander people (Australia 1990).
Several Aboriginal communities have recently instituted in-
dependent Aboriginal and Islander schools and pre-schools
Ihe legal disabilities imposed by protective and restrictive
Irg~slation in the first half of this century were gradually removed through the era of assimilationist policy which came into effect after World War II, and increasingly so after the 1967 referendum.
However, Aborig~nal people are scvcrcly disadvantaged in relation to the legal system, manifested primanly in the very high proportion of the Aboriginal population who are impnsoned. The number of Aboriginal people in custody came to public attention as a result of the findings of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Dcathn in Custody established in L987. Research for the
Commission has shown rhar Aboriginal deaths in custody, including suicides, are nor unusually high as a proportion of the Aboriginal pnson population, but because of the aver-representauon of Abonginal people in prisons and lock-ups, in 1989 about tu·enrv times the rate fur noni\bonpnes (Biles 1989).
The rxplanation of Abong~nal over-representation in pnsons is a contentious issue, but it probably refiects poverty and alienation as well as bias at vanous points in the legal process OYialker 1987) Courts have adopted measures to ameliorate same aspects of bias, including procedures to be followed by police when inrelyirwing Aboriginal witnesses (Ligertwood 1984). The Royal Commission into Abonginal Deaths in Custody has also re
commended a number of measures to reduce Aboriginal im
prisunmenr and to improve their treatment while in custody
(Australia 1991b). Aboriginal and Islander people have taken
action themselves by the creation of legal services under their control (Lyons 1984). These help to ensure adequate representation of Aboriginal defendants, press for the reform of the legal system, and operate as political pressure groups.
363: Compared with other advanced industrial societies, Australia has experienced substantial political stability during the XXth century.
Why has Australi not followed these international trends, with greater questioning of the parties’ abilities to invoke change and a political crisis of confidence? Three specific factors appear to be important. First, Australia’s system of compulsory voting ensures that all voters–even those lacking any interest in the election have to make a party choice in the polling booth. This, in turn, means that they maintain at least same level of conscious partisan attachment, which influences their long-term view of parties and politicians. Second, while the most recent economic crises have been at least as severe in Australia as elsewhere, parties are still viewed as economically competent, and there is some evidence that voters blame international economic conditions, not the government, for their economic ills. Third, the major political parties have very effectively adapted to the changing social and economic conditions of the late twentieth century. While virtually all Western parties have become adept at this art, the Australian political parties have demonstrated this ability par excellence (McAllister 1991). The net effect of all of these factors an Australian political behaviour has been a highly stable political system. While these factors do not guarantee political stability in the future, they suggest a high probability that it will continue for some time
NCES. 1992. Public elementary and secondary school agencies in the US and outlying areas: school year 1990-91. Washington, D.C.: National Center for Education Statistics.
NCFLIS. 1985. The Training of, and US Business’ Needs for, International Specialists. Paper read at National Council for Foreign Language Education and International Studies, at University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
NEA. 1988. Official English/English Only: More Than Meets the Eye. Washington: National Education Association.
Neale, Steve. 1976. New Hollywood Cinema. Screen 17 (2):117-122.
___and Murray Smith, eds. 1998. Contemporary Hollywood Cinema: Routledge.
Nettheim, Garth. 1988. “Peoples” and “Populations” – Indigenous Peoples and Rights of Peoples. In The Rights of Peoples, edited by J. Crawford. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
Newitz, Annalee. 1993. Alien Abductions and the End of White People. Bad Subjects Web page (5).
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Alien Abductions and
the End of White People
Area Studies: You are what I say. By ‘area studies programs’ we mean those programs which came into maturity during the main period of historical decolonization (the 1950s and 1960s) and provided the framework for U.S. studies of non-European cultures including studies programs, intended to provide interdisciplinary approaches to studying the cultures of the newly independent ‘nation’ states.
But how interdisciplinary did these programs become? While some area studies programs did emerge ‘spontaneously’ to fit the new needs, many others were formed as extensions of previously existing language studies departments. In the social sciences, we find disciplines based in understandings of culture (anthropology), micro-political relations (sociology), or macro-political relations (political science); and in the humanities, disciplines are divided by language group or artistic medium.
Contrastingly, in area studies the only explanation for the ‘areas’ under study is the First World’s geopolitical ordering of the globe: it’s only when we hold the programs (Middle Eastern Studies, African Studies, East Asian Studies, etc.) up to the light of geopolitics and foreign policy that we become able to see the logic that brings together the likes of Iran, Turkey and Egypt in a monolithic ‘Middle East’, despite their many linguistic, religious, ethnic and cultural differences.
Such a conception of the world would seem to demand an interdisciplinary approach. Instead what we see is a proliferation of a-disciplinary area studies programs which are deficient in the theoretical underpinnings that characterize other departments, and yet qualify as disciplines in the worst possible sense of the term: by narrowly defining the range of legitimate discourse and acceptable speakers.
In order to justify its existence as a distinct discipline, each ‘area’ has to be an exception to the
rules that might apply to any other ‘areas’. More paradoxically, there is a tension inherent to area studies programs: on the one hand each area is judged according to universal models (‘development theory’, ‘the literary’, ‘kinship’, etc.), while on the other hand each area, as an epistmologically distinct territory, is always an exception to universal theories. Disciplines based in broader theoretical concerns can talk to each other; area studies programs, with their concentration on local knowledge, cannot.
It’s only when knowledge is, or is made to appear, so specialized and insulated that ‘experts’ can exist. In the extreme version, ‘peripheral’ states and their cultures are dissected and explained by mostly Western scholars for the benefit of American audiences (undergraduate classrooms, congressional commissions, CNN viewers, etc.). This ‘knowledge’ is also projected back to the ‘area’ of study in the form, for example, of U.S. foreign policy and military intervention, or contained in development programs and business practices. The area studies specialist — the expert — mediates this process. (We can differentiate between two types of experts who dominate this field: the media/political experts, like Fuad Ajami or Henry
Kissinger, who may well be ‘academics’ of sorts, and who claim to actually represent the people of ‘areas’; and the scholarly experts, like Princeton’s Bernard Lewis or Berkeley’s Muhammad Siddiq, who, while they may or may not make claims to represent living people, do so indirectly by presenting texts and ideas as their stand-ins.) Critics like Edward Said have already gone through the theoretical and political implications of such ‘expert knowledge.’ What we would like to add is that from our perspective as students and underlings of ‘the
profession,’ these expert conditions lead to two things: superficiality and a lack of real debate. It is ironic that area studies programs, which focus on the most ‘underdeveloped areas’ of the world, tend to be themselves the most underdeveloped areas of the academy.
The area studies programs we are talking about are not only discourse factories but actual institutions with histories, generous funding, and close if sometimes obscure ties to state policy. In contrast, the projects of multiculturalism not only don’t enjoy the same institutional power or political clout, but because they challenge existing power hierarchies, they have been
contested from the beginning.
Where the two projects intersect is in their concern about the colonized or marginalized subject. Before returning to this point, we would like to critique two other characteristics of multiculturalism in the U.S. First, while multicultural projects have been accompanied by political programs (like putting pressure on universities to hire underepresented groups), their main thrust has been on texts in the narrowest sense.
Second, we are disturbed by the tendency of the proponents of multiculturalism to draw on a selective reading of history to privilege the victimization of certain groups at certain times while ignoring or eliding the histories of other oppressed groups. In fact, much of American multicultural discourse reflects the power relations that characterize our particular historical moment, not only with regard to the struggles of minority communities vis-a-vis mainstream American politics, but also among the contending minority communities themselves.
But as much as these struggles are about group politics, our main critique of the U.S. multicultural project is the way it fetishizes individual identity. Identity politics has been central to multiculturalism and decolonization. What then have been the sorts of identities made possible by multiculturalism? Two ways of legitimating multicultural identity seem to come up regularly enough to warrant our comment. The first is a reaction to the oppressive nature of racist hierarchies, while the second is a reaction to the homogenizing nature of mainstream, ‘melting pot’ discourse. The first type of reaction becomes a problem when identity is created by simply reversing the poles of racist discourse, where the claims of victimized subjectivity are valorized over those of the oppressor.
This seems to be the tack followed by groups like the Nation of Islam whose efforts for self-empowered identity are (at least in theory) predicated upon a vilification of whites. A more complicated version of this process is displayed in the identities claimed by the first wave of
‘pedigreed’ Cuban immigrants to this country, who, seeing themselves as the descendents of Spanish colonialists, need to situate themselves above both other Latin Americans (indios and negros) and mongrel ‘Unitedstatesian’ gringos.
In contrast, the second method of legitimating identity is a response to the homogenizing tendency of
colonial discourse: rather than ‘purity’ we find that hybridity, difference, specialness, individuality and
enigma become highly-valued traits. While one might suppose that hybrid identity would be the strongest
basis for forming shared interests and common understandings between the groups which can intersect in
individuals, what often seems to occur is that it becomes the basis for fragmentation and monadization. On
the one hand, it’s easy to see how certain groups which have invested a great deal in creating ‘authentic’
identities would feel threatened by individuals with multiple affiliations; on the other hand, it’s no harder to
see why individuals with multiple identities might feel alienated from any one particular group. Indeed, the
symptoms of this fragmentation and fetishization of individual identity have set the tone for much of
In the academy, for example, multiculturalism has come to largely be about individual identities, made by
and for individuals, with individual, oftentimes cosmopolitan, scholars speaking about and defending the
special legitimacy of their own identities against others. One is often led to wonder what sorts of group
politics could be formed by so many fiercely unique individuals. Where one expects to see individuals
representing groups in politics, it often seems that the primary value of group identities stems from the fact
that they provide platforms for the individual to speak from. It’s exactly this focus on individualism that we
need to overcome: yet if we could break that fetishization and adopt a more fluid conception of hybridity
we might find that hybridity seems to be the most promising and radical idea in the current discourse about
multiculturalism — not only because it disrupts the concept of authenticity but because it also offers a basis
for building coalitions and bringing together groups with similar interests and desires.
This isn’t to say that this would be easy. In fact, there is the opposite point to be made, that while we’ve
been trying to make commonalities among forms of oppression we often fail to address the fact that these
oppressions and identities have histories that are perhaps not so equivalent. Yet this has been getting
worked out unconsciously within the tensions of multiculturalism itself: certain identities or combinations of
identities seem to carry more weight than others, and certain histories of exploitation get left out altogether.
These are questions that must be addressed: How does one weigh issues of race oppression against those
of gender or sexual preference? Why is class identity notably absent from multiculturalism? Furthermore, if
we valorize hybridity over homogeneity, i.e., emphasize the ‘multi’ part of multiculturalism, does that need to
entail a devaluing of the unicultural? There is no reason to assume that hybridity allows for full access to the
multiple cultures represented in a single hybrid individual, nor that ‘mainstream’ cultures are transparent and
self-identical, although this latter assumption is exactly the kind of foil that many multicultural arguments
The irony here in all this focus on individual, subjective experience is that it often mires us in, instead of
freeing us from, the privileging of expert knowledge. At least in the academy and progressive politics, the
sort of knowledge being offered by anti-racist and postcolonial discourse has come to have quite a high
exchange-value and authority. And some people get to speak more than others by virtue of the
‘authenticity’ of their oppressed subjectivity or through their hybrid complexity: either way, some subject
positions, by virtue of having been more colonized/oppressed, seem to have more legitimacy than others. In
other words, some get to become more expert than others, and some aren’t allowed to participate at all.
But if one could critique how expert knowledge was formed in colonial discourse by attacking it on the
theoretical level, critiques of multicultural knowledge — because of its dependency on subjective experience
— often take the form of, or are perceived as, ‘ad hominem’ attacks. And that’s why we are too afraid to
give real life examples of abuses of this kind.
Mediation: Can we talk?
We’ve argued that the problem common to both area studies and many multicultural projects is their
tendency to to create experts with specialized knowledge. For those of us interested in building a
progressive politics, here’s the bind we find ourselves in: while recognizing our need for specialized
knowledge, and therefore our dependency on mediation and mediators, how do we find alternatives to
expert knowledge? Again, much of what is at stake in area studies and multicultural discourses is related to
the representation of the post-colonial subject.
Specialized knowledge doesn’t have to be expert knowledge, and multinational corporations are not the
only ones who need specialized knowledge; its usefulness for a globalized understanding of progressive
politics should be equally obvious. Area studies programs, despite their strategic place in producing
neocolonial knowledge, have had some useful, perhaps unintended, effects: for many of us our first
exposure to radical politics came through studying the movements of oppressed peoples outside the United
States; for others of us, these experiences clarified the real issues at stake in our own political struggles
within the U.S. Area studies can and should play a strategic role in a multicultural and anti-racist politics,
but it is up to us to make it happen.
Returning to the problem of representation and mediation, we need to point out that much of post-colonial
and multicultural discourse on the issue has placed more responsibility on the ontological side of the
problem than on the political or the historical dimensions. In what is without a doubt the most referenced
work about these issues, Edward Said’s _Orientalism_, there exists a certain tension between the
ontological problems of representation and the historical conditions of a specific representation. More often
than not, the two in fact are conflated: thus the cultural, military and economic interests of a specific colonial
formation vis-a-vis the Middle East is transformed into an essentialized problem of human knowledge.
While we don’t deny that the ontological dimension to the problem exists and should be explored, we do
think that there is plenty of progress to be made in the other aspect of representation, i.e., in the actual
historical conditions under which representation takes place. More clearly, we don’t believe that the
representation of ‘Others’ is an oppressive project on primarily ontological grounds (one can never really
‘know’ the Other…), but rather because a nexus of historical and political conditions of mediation — i.e., the
relations of interests, audience and accountability — makes it so. And these are exactly the conditions that
we are in a position to change for the better.
The problems in representation stem from the fact that there seem to be few mechanisms for holding those
with specialized knowledge accountable for the way they represent the subjects of that knowledge. One
possible way of building in greater accountability would be to begin from a different understanding of
representation: attempting to construct mediations that are two-way instead of unidirectional. In other
words, if we have found ourselves trapped in certain problems concerning the textual aspects of
representation, there still remains much we can do to improve the *contexts* of representation.
We believe that the multicultural project has a long way to go before it ever enjoys the sort of
institutionalized cultural power its opposite enjoys today. We look forward to the day when the utopian
impulses contained in multiculturalism become dominant. Therefore it is our responsibility in the academy to
shape and criticize that project, for even with the best intentions, the most utopian of projects can end up
reproducing what they set out to transcend.
Nicolaï, Robert (2011), ‘Clivage et fonction du clivage. Sémiotique interactionnelle, procès de construction des signes et subversion de la notion de contact.’ paper given at Langues en contact: le français à travers le monde, Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg, 16-18 septembre 2011.
Contact dans la langue. Subversion de la notion de contact pour changer de problèmatique.
Constat: les systèmes linguistiques sont pensés comme dynamiques et ouverts plutôt que statiques et isolés selon l’argumentaire de ce colloque.
Evidences: il y a une notion de base, le système (linguistique). Ce système est pensé. Nouveau paradigme de nature epistémologique.
système linguistique: le contenu va de soi parce qu’il est effacé. Terme “bateau”. Nous sommes sur le bateau mais celui-ci dérive…
contenu soit effacé ou blanchi Cf. la mythologie selon Barthes,” le mythe abolit la complexité des actes humains, leur donne une essence”
Définition blanche (tend à se constituer en objet de la recherche dans une recherche en terme d’objet
Procès sémiothique d’acquisition de sens. Contact: notion essentielle. Notion de clivage et de rétention d’historicité.
Situe la problèmatique non pas dans l’exterritorialité d’un contact conjoncturel mais dans la nécessité d’un contact interne.
6 étapes qualitativement différentes (Swan et Odette, no catleya tonight=
1) conjoncture, catleyas au corsage
2) présentation, leur arrangement amène à faire catleya
3) re-présentation (présentation réitérée) utiliser l’excuse
4) thématisation (réification, norme représentée) faire catleya
5) la représentation le faire sans s’interroger
6) la construction du signe.
conditions. cadre communicationnel (espace partagé des interactants), fermé, ouvert, posé, présupposé, de facto, de jure…., espace de variabilité, incertitude de mise en signification, multiplicité indeterminée de formes, dynamique des acteurs de la communication (les acteurs sont des passeurs de sens et des créateurs de signes”)
historicité, norme interactionnelle.
Question de Mufwene: manque notion de population et distinctin individu-population. Deux individus ne font pas la même chose mais chacun intériorise certaines données standard.
Mon opinion: Exposé très fumeux bien que loin d’être ininteressant! Je précise: je me suis levée à 4 heures ce matin et suis en pleine digestion!!!!
Gert nygårdshaug, Le Zoo de Mengele, j’ai lu, Paris
P.130: dans un premier temps, il se méfia beaucoup des livres d’anglais de Maria. C’était la langue des gringos, laide, dégouttante et écoeurante. Mais à en croire son amante, presque tout le monde sur la planète comprenait l’inglès; que ferait-il s’il se retrouvait un jour dans un pays où personne ne parlait sa langue? Le jeune homme marmonna qu’il avait déjà été dans plusieurs pays sans que cela ait posé de problèmes particuliers. Toutefois, malgré sa réticence, il commença à les étudier et, peu à peu, prit au jeu. D’autant qu’un gros volume sur les papillons, qu’il venait d’acheter (…) était rédigé en anglais.
Nora, Pierre (2011), ‘Pour un sursaut de la volonté et de la raison’, in David Chemla (ed.), JCall: les raisons d’un appel (Paris: Liana Levi ), 87-89.
87: J’ai signé l’Appel de JCall pour deux raisons. D’abord pour encourager tous ceux qui, en Israël même, se refusent à désespérer de l’avenir, de la paix, de leur pays. Pour qu’ils se sentent moins seuls et peut-être moins condamnés à la résignation. Pour leur dire que leur cause est notre cause et leur manifester ainsi notre solidarité et notre fraternité. (…)le 62ème anniversaire d’Israël a offert le contraste déroutant d’une forme d réussite historique qui a peu d’exemples et d’une impasse historique sans issue.
88: la deuxième raison est que le moment semble venu d’un rééquilibrage des rapports entre Israël et les diasporas comme de cux à l’intérieur même de ces diasporas. Les communautés juives, surtout aux Etats-Unis et en France, se sont trop exculsivement contentées de soutenir Israël sans conditions, estimant qu’il serait inconvenant de dicter leur conduite à ceux qui rsiquent d’en subir seuls les conséquences. Et parce que Israël incarnait d’évidence la centralité du monde juif et son foyer rayonnant. Est-ce encore le cas aujourd’hui?
(..) un engrenage d’actions et de réactions a amené Israël à s’enfermer dans une logique d’autarcie et dans un système de pensée qui l’isolent toujours davantage du reste du monde. C’est la définitio nmême de la tragédie: chaque pas destiné à en sortir vous y enfonce un peu davangage.
88-89: (..) Cet Appel à la raison peut-il venir d’autres voix que celles de l’extérieur? Même si l’on ne se fait pas d’illusions sur leur efficacité immédiate, même si l’on ne souscrit pas à toutes leurs expressions – ce qui est le propre de toutes les pétitions – il est bon qu’elles se fassent entendre.
Nourissier, François (2001), A Défaut de Génie (Folio; Paris: Gallimart) 441-43.
A Varsovie, au musée de la Vieille-Ville, aménagé dans plusieurs des maisons de la place du Vieux-Marché (…) j’ai demandé à une espèce de gardienne-chef, la cinquantaine, et de l’autorité, de m’indiquer sur un plan mural l’emplacement de l’ancien ghetto. Elle l’ignorait. Elle ignorait même le mot “Ghetto” ? Son regard fuyait, elle ne voyait pas dequoi jevoulais parler. Elle reculait, secoutait la tête, diparut dans uncouloir.
“la question la plus intéressante”, a remarqué l’autre soir George Steiner dans une émission de Bernard Pivot, “est de comprendre pourquoi l’0antisémitisme renaît dans des pays où il n’y a plus de Juifs (la Pologne) et apparaît dans des pays où il n’y en a jamais eu, comme le Japon…” Poser cette question, c’est placer le judaîsme très haut. C’est chercher les fondements de la passion antijuive ailleurs que dans la jalousie économique: dans une sorte de compétition spirituelle,k de rivalité métaphysique et théologique. C’est tirer vers le ciel une haine bassement viscérale. Ce même soir Steiner disait que, les Juifs ayant inventé la conscience, ils ne peuvent pas s’empêcher de harceler les autres, qui en ont assez de se faire rappler à l’ordre, au désordre, à la subersion, à l’exigence, à la véhémence – à l’intensité.
L’antiséminisme serait né de cette exaspération. Les Juifs forment moins un “peuple d’élite, sûr de soi et dominateur” qu’une communauté qui se sait, qui se veut, par anture, exemplaire. Dans le Untermensch dont les affublaient les nazis il y a comme une folie, une rage, une réduction furieuse, extravagante. Car l’énigme qui affola les inventeurs de l’holocause est l’exemplarité de ses victimes. Les misérables moribonds en pyjamas rayés, dont les lunettes et les godasses formaient des tas de trophées dérisoires furent plutôt, dans l’humiliation et la mort, des surhommes, et le souvenir de luer orgueilleuse soumission, depuis un demi-siècle, n’en finit plus d’écraser les assassins. Nulle vengeance n’aurait pu être plus décisive, ni tomber de plus haut. La polémique rampante du nouel antisémitisme laisse entendre que -“les Juifs” occupant une place disproportionnée dans la presse, les télévisions, le spectacle- la Shoah, de “détail de l’Histoire” qu’elle était, est devenue le thème récurrent, omniprésent, obsédant de ces trente dernières années. Les antisémites ne comprennet pas que chacun de leur lapsus est en vérité suscité par cette exemplarité du judaîsme, à laquelle ils apportent hommages et légitimité. La première fois que nous allâmes en Pologne après les boueversements politiques, le Pen Club polonais, récent ressuscité, nous reçut, Clcile et moi, dans un local vétuste et triste. Où étaient les belles Maisons des écrivains d’antan? Seul le “comité” nous reçevait: cinq ou six nouveaux venus aux allures de fantômes. “Une surprise!” s’écria l’un d’eux en brandissant une bouteille de vodka. Je la regardais de près: une étoile de David signifiait qu’elle était kasher. Dérision? Provocation? Je me le demandai et observai les visages qui nous entouraient.
“Mais je suis goy? dis-je en riant.
– nous savons, nous savons…”
Le vice-président ait sorti un tire-bouchon et ouvrait la bouteille. J’aurais pu penser à la remarque de Steiner si les dates eussent été différentes. “Combien reste-t-il de Juifs en Pologne? demandai-je.
– On ne sait plus au juste…Les statistiques…”
Nous bûmes à la Pologne, à la littérature. Arrivés à la France et à la Paix nous nous aperçumes que la bouteille était vide.
Pourquoi ai-je gardé de cette rencontre un souvenir un peu embarrassé?
Novak Lukanovic, Sonja (2012), ‘Multiculturalism in Border Towns in Slovenia’, paper given at Languages in the City, Berlin, 21-24 August, 2012.
Slovene language for enturies was not official language
The period after WWI meant that Slovene ethnci territory was due in interternaitonal agreements divided among different states. The sloven speaking population remained as the miority in Italy, Austria and Hungary.
Novak, Michael. 1971. The Rise of the Unmeltable Ethnics: Politics and Culture in the Seventies. New York: Macmillan.
Novell-Smith, Geoffrey, ed. 1996. The Oxford History of World Cinema. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Null, Gary. 1993. Black Hollywood: From 1970 to Today. New York: Citadel Press Book.
Nunan, D. 1992. Understanding language classrooms. New York: Prentice Hall.