Culture and Self-Determination Nov 21/2013
• Some cultural groups, however, also seek self-determination in order to protect/promote
their cultural practices and groups.
Concept of Self-Determination:
• Ability for a group to internally self-determine their own social, economic, and political
• Requires special institutional structures to provide political decision making power to a
Immigration and Cultural Politics
• However, Canada is highly diverse country ethnically and racially, beyond the English-
French and aboriginal-Non aboriginal cleavages.
Contemporary Immigration Patterns
• Moreover, this is increasingly becoming the case via contemporary trends in immigration
• Traditionally, immigration reinforced European and Caucasian ethnicity in Canada.
• Contemporary immigration is much more diverse in terms of ethnicity.
Immigration and Cultural Politics
Culture and Inequality:
• Like Quebecers and Aboriginals, many other groups in Canada are distinct in terms of
culture, ethnicity, and language.
• Moreover, many of these other groups often face unequal relations in broader society
(racism, discrimination, exclusion). Potential Problem: Does cultural politics imply that recent immigrant groups should have the
same rights as traditional minorities in Canada such as Quebec, Aboriginals (Self-Government)?
Potential Solution: We can distinguish different groups based on the way in which a cultural
minority is absorbed into Canadian political society (Canadian Political Philosopher, Will
National Minorities versus Poly-Ethnic Groups
• National Minorities: Groups that were involuntarily absorbed into Canadian political
society (i.e. Quebec and Aboriginals).
• Entitled to some measure of self-government in order to self-determine their own
cultural, social and economic future.
• Poly-Ethnic Groups: Groups that voluntarily came to Canada (i.e. immigrants).
• Entitled to assistance in order to “integrate” into mainstream Canada social, economic
Thinking about “integration”
Important Questions: How ought we to conceptualize “integration” into broader society?
What does it mean to integrate new cultural groups into broader society in a manner that
• Melting Pot
• Multiculturalism Cultural Melting Pot
• Popular in the U.S. (although began to be challenged in the 70s)
• Basic Premise: Process in which a “heterogeneous” society becomes more
“homogeneous” in terms of its identity, values and practices.
• Different ethnic and cultural groups “melt together” to form a new, single and national
• American Ideal: In the U.S., there is a single cultural identity American.
• Blend of the different values and practices brought to the US by immigrants (over the full
course of its history).
• Single identity isn’t necessarily cast in stone, but evolves as new cultural groups migrate
to the US and their values are “melted” into the mixture.
Common Critiques of Melting Pot Theory
Critique 1: Culture is an Integral Part of Persons’ Lives
• New immigrant cannot and should not be expected to “give up” their traditional cultural
practices in order to be a part of the broader social, economic and political community
(i.e. adopt the single, blended identity of melting pot theory).
• Critique: How Neutral is Melting Pot Theory?
The national identity is not neutral. Usually reflects the values/practices of the dominant
Example of American Identity: The “American” identity is really an “Anglo American” culture.
Emphasis on English language, Christian values, liberalism, individualism, capitalism.
Rejection of these values and practices is viewed as “Un-American” and grounds for
discrimination and marginalization in society.
• Developed in the 70s as an alternative to melting pot theory.