‘enlightened’ and ‘barbaric’. Likewise, at the level of western nation-states,problems such as the erosion of national identity, the lack of politicalparticipation, the decline of the welfare state and urban unrest have been putdown to the allegedly unmanageable diversity of contemporary postcolo-nial, immigration societies. Commentators who have voiced fears aboutwhat they see as the over-extension of cultural diversity have linked them toa critique of multiculturalism, a policy of western nation-states that is nowpronounced ‘in crisis’ by governments and thinkers alike.
In response, in countries such as the United Kingdom and the Nether-lands, anti-racists have rushed to defend multiculturalism and denounce thereturn to assimilationist policies that is increasingly being witnessed, forexample, under the present New Labour regime in Britain.
While criticismof the insistence on the primacy of ‘national values’ by current governmentsis crucial, the opposition made between multiculturalism and assimilation-ism in such critiques overlooks an important point. The policy of multi-culturalism itself was not historically the outcome of the struggle by‘minority communities’ for greater recognition, as is often supposed.
Onthe contrary, multiculturalism can be seen as an institutional policy that, byreplacing an analysis of the link between racism and capitalism with a focuson the importance of cultural identity, depoliticized the state-centred anti-racism of the racialized in postcolonial societies. In order to conceptionalizethe current debate about multiculturalism, which is far from being the first,
it is crucial to set its terms in a wider political-historical context: namely, theculturalization of politics that marks the post-war period in the West and theinextricable relationship this has with racism in the history of modernity.Accordingly, I intend to look critically at one of the ways in which culturehas come to dominate the language of politics in the post-war era, namely, bymeans of the struggle to eradicate racism in the aftermath of the Holocaust. Iwill look at one specific and central aspect of this ensemble of campaigns: theapproach taken by UNESCO, which in turn informed the anti-racist policy of many western states. As was revealed by my research into the developmentof the discourse and practice of anti-racism in Europe,
the UNESCOapproach also informs what can be thought of as the mainstream anti-racismpractised by many in the anti-racist movement, governmental agencies,supranational institutions and NGOs. I suggest that a look at the history of this anti-racist project may throw light on the artificial nature of the divide
1 See, for instance, David Goodhart, ‘Too diverse?’,
, February 2004.2 Arun Kundnani, ‘Rally round the flag’,
(online news network), 7 April 2004,available at www.irr.org.uk/2004/april/ak000006.html (viewed 1 August 2005).3 Cf. Charles Taylor,
(Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press 2004).4 Cf. Paul Gilroy, ‘The end of anti-racism’, in James Donald and Ali Rattansi (eds),
‘Race’,Culture and Difference
(London: Sage 1992).5 Alana Lentin,
Racism and Anti-racism in Europe
(London and Ann Arbor, MI: PlutoPress 2004).
Patterns of Prejudice