Greg Noble

There are two key themes I would like to consider for a reseach agenda in cultural diversity:

1. Everyday Diversity

This first area is really about developing strong, empirically-based understandings of how diversity is experienced and negotiated in everyday life. Much is said about what multiculturalism is and does in Australia, and much of this is bunkum. And much of what is said is shaped by what I call ‘panicked multiculturalism’ – a focus on spaves of crisis and conflict. Sadly, we have little research (with some notable exceptions) that explores the everyday dimensions of diversity. This kind of research is needed for several reasons:

– to counter simplistic narratives of mutliculturalism in crisis (and equally simplistic narratives of ‘everything’s fine’)

– to consider the ways that people confronand negotiate differences in everyday encounters in shopping centres, neoighbourhoods, workplaces, schools, government offices, etc. This would entail a sense of both the protocols of ‘everyday cosmopolitanism’ that people develop to manage difference to create productive encounters, and the forms of everday racism that often shape those encounters. These can better inform programs and policies for addressing conflicts and promoting productive intercultural relations.

– to better understand the cultural complexity of everyday lives (in contrast to tendencies towards the stereotyping of ethnic identities that are often found in both racist beliefs and in well-meaning multicultural practices.

2. Multicultural education

Much good work has been done in the name of multicultural education, but so too have there been quite problematic assumptions and practices (involving ethnic stereotypes) with dangereous consequences. Much of this well-meaning-but-problematic multiculturalism has involved an attachment to an ethos of ‘cultural sensitivity’ or notions of ‘learning styles’ which is often misplaced, bordering on racism. Most importantly, it has tended to reproduce educational disadvantage in the name of being sensitive to different communities’ needs and values etc. My recent work on dispositions to learning suggests the need to return to an ethic of social justice in education that takes account of where students are coming from, but also has a strong sense of where they need to go, to develop the skills for participating in a socially and culturally complex society like Australia.