This is as always really interesting stuff, especially your closing sentence. I think you made a strong case last year for the idea that it’s much easier for people to accept that racisim is real/talk about race at all if they can find some way to distance themselves from racial discourse (whether a narrative takes place in history, or in a different country). I’m not sure how this applies to sci-fi which takes place in the future…
What you said about people feeling alienated when their cultures are not reflected reminded me of our PMs recent idea that multi-culturalism in the UK has failed. His solution in a recent speech seemed to be to encourage people to identify with a unified British identity:
‘There are practical things that we can do as well. That includes making sure that immigrants speak the language of their new home and ensuring that people are educated in the elements of a common culture and curriculum. Back home, we’re introducing National Citizen Service: a two-month programme for sixteen-year-olds from different backgrounds to live and work together. I also believe we should encourage meaningful and active participation in society, by shifting the balance of power away from the state and towards the people. That way, common purpose can be formed as people come together and work together in their neighbourhoods. It will also help build stronger pride in local identity, so people feel free to say, ‘Yes, I am a Muslim, I am a Hindu, I am Christian, but I am also a Londonder or a Berliner too’. It’s that identity, that feeling of belonging in our countries, that I believe is the key to achieving true cohesion.’
The problem with his solution (as it seems to me) is that he emphasises how people must be encouraged to identify with an English speaking, white focused culture. It doesn’t seem to occur to him that a common culture must include elements from all cultures found in Britain in order to be to be inclusive and relevant.
Looking at Simon Schama and David Starkey’s most recent advice on how our UK history curriculum should be shaped it seems like that common British curriculum is going to be very focused on white UK history/history from the point of experience of the coloniser (which isn’t any different than what I was taught in school, in fact this curriculum is almost exactly the same as what I was taught when I was 12-16 but it’s still totally different from any idea of a common culture). Proposed history curriculum:
Death of Thomas Becket
Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury from 1162, was embroiled in a conflict with Henry II over the power of the Church before being assassinated by the King’s followers in Canterbury Cathedral in 1170.
Black Death and the Peasants Revolt
The Black Death is believed to have killed up to 1.5m people between 1348 and 1350 and resulting changes to England’s social structure contributed to the Peasants Revolt of 1381.
Execution of King Charles I
The death of Charles I followed his defeat on the battlefield by Parliamentary forces led by Oliver Cromwell. The King was charged with high treason and put to death in 1649.
Occupation of India
Rule over India was to last almost 200 years until 1947 as the Britain hung onto its prized Imperial asset while losing its grip on most of America.
The Opium Wars and China
The conflict between the UK and China was fought in from 1839 with the aim of securing key economic benefits in the Far East, leading to the cession of Hong Kong.
The Irish Wars
Prime Minister William Gladstone attempted to solve the “Irish question” by passing his Land Act in 1870, along with education and religious reforms.
(Did not link to the article it came from because that ended with some dodgy statements about colonisation).
Hey, Jodie. I don’t know if Canada will ever officially follow the Europeans in their dismissal of multiculturalism, but UNofficially, it’s very easy to reject hybridity–I do think many Canadians feel that if an immigrant honors her heritage she’s rejecting Canadianness, rather than blending the two together to create a “new” kind of Canadian identity. Too many people don’t want to let go of their privileged (and constructed) status as “true” or “real” (white) Canadians; they insist that must be the standard to which all other citizens aspire. As for integration, nothing would promote “social cohesion” better than *economic* integration–if you marginalize people economically, they’re more likely to become alienated and isolated…sigh. It hurts my head just to think about it.