Micro-publics & the Multicultural (sub)urban

Project Coordinator: Dr Amanda Wise
Cultural Identities and Communities Node

This project involves a visit by Professor Ash Amin, Executive Director of the Institute of Advanced Study at Durham University. His research focuses on the intersection between society and space, around topics such as the cities and regions in the global economy, situated practice and knowledge, multiculturalism and race, and politics in a post-territorial age.

There is a planned workshop at Macquarie University, and public lectures in Sydney and Melbourne. We are also planning for sessions in Sydney and Melbourne which will bring Research Higher Degree students in contact with Prof Amin. Details will be posted when available.

There has been increased scholarly interest in recent years in exploring situations of multicultural encounter in everyday shared places. Thrift, for example, has argued that spaces of mundane encounter involving relations of kindness and compassion represent a sense of hopefulness and democratic resource. Similar arguments have been made by Amin who suggests ‘micro-publics’ such as schools, youth centres, and sporting teams offer opportunities for engaged intercultural intermingling because they involve prosaic negotiations with difference and often banal transgressions across ethnic boundaries. He suggests these spaces offer more hope than simply creating public spaces of diversity where dialogue, and negotiation are absent. Micro-publics throw diverse people together, disrupting familiar patterns, thus creating possibilities for new alliances and attachments to form across ethnic boundaries.

Clearly these are questions of particular relevance to Australian multiculturalism, following events such as the Cronulla riots and the race politics of ‘the Howard years’. With only a few notable exceptions, Australian cultural researchers have not focused a great deal on the everyday, prosaic situations of multicultural encounter and negotiation. The visit by Professor Amin will bring together relevant scholars in the CRN (including HDR students) to explore the implications of Amin’s work and discuss the relevance of their own scholarly work to the workshop theme. With the new Labor government rethinking its approach to Australian multicultural policy, the workshop will make a timely contribution to these policy debates. A public lecture in Sydney will provide opportunities to debate and disseminate some of these ideas to a wider audience.