Limiting Liberalism (Multi)cultural Epistemologies, (Multi)cultural Subjects
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The central argument of this text is that the liberal subject is constitutively rather than coincidentally or contingently exclusionary. From this initial premise, I explore the conceptual and practical inadequacies of liberal articulations of multicultural justice, many of which I argue can be traced back to this exclusionary subject. When making this critique, I frame my analysis around the scholarship of Canadian philosopher Will Kymlicka, whose articulation of a distinctly liberal defense of the value of cultural belonging has shaped much of mainstream theoretical debate on multiculturalism both within Canada and elsewhere. Although Kymlicka’s work has faced a multitude of critiques from within and without liberal theory, he is widely recognized as the most prominent liberal defender of multiculturalism, and his work has been particularly influential within related discussions of national unity, multicultural accommodation, and national identity in Canada. I have chosen, then, to focus my critique of liberal multiculturalism on Kymlicka specifically for two reasons. Firstly, due to his prominence within the field and, secondly – and more importantly – because of the instrumental relationship between subject and culture which Kymlicka defends throughout his work. Despite this critical focus, what is primarily at stake in such a project is a rearticulation rather than a rejection of multiculturalism. While my arguments are based fundamentally on a critical interrogation, and ultimately a rejection, of liberal articulations of multicultural justice, within my project I also offer an alternative model of multiculturalism conceived as a vital form of epistemic cooperation. Such an alternative defense of multiculturalism is rooted in a commitment to the value of everyday experience, a more dialectically formed and culturally embedded sense of self, and finally, a critical and substantive awareness of context, both contemporary and historical. In making this positive case for a more radical form of multiculturalism expressed through intercultural dialogue/negotiation and a widening of the public sphere, I challenge dominant understandings of the value of multiculturalism defended within liberal theory and the mainstream of Canadian Political Science (CPS).