Conditions for dialogue and illuminating inequality in multicultural societies



In a recent article, Nesbitt-Larking (2007) postulated the notion of ‘deep multiculturalism’, dependent, at least in part, on dialogue and on ‘host’ societies questioning their core values. In this commentary I suggest that whilst such a proposal is indeed a worthy ideal, the social psychological processes underpinning how this can be achieved need to be adequately addressed if such a vision is to become a reality. Using Social Representation Theory, I hope to explicate the operation of power, ideologies and collective memory on the process of representation, and suggest that understanding this process may better enable one to manage the obstacles involved in a project of deep multiculturalism. Drawing on Whiteness studies, I suggest that for a host society to question their core values, certain unconsciously held values need first to be illuminated; however, in so doing, I postulate that caution is exercised in order that such exposure does not perpetuate racialising representations. Using the concepts of anchoring and objectification, I propose that highlighting the similarities and shared experiences of a society's members may be a more successful strategy for achieving deep multiculturalism, than focusing on diversity and difference. Copyright © 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.