What might we mean by monoculture? What is the impetus for ‘identitarian’ or nationalistic monoculture movements who do not see, or wish, their society to be pluralistic, not just in the context of Europe but globally? Might we locate positive or even emancipatory aspirations of monoculture? Might a culturally homogeneous society also be inclusive and transformational? What lies at the fringes of monoculture, and what does it not tolerate? What may be the position of the arts within the context of monocultural ideology? Or alternatively, how might the arts look under monocultural ideology when taken to its logical conclusion?

GLOSSARY

A MONOCULTURE GLOSSARY

 

 

Agriculture

Agriculture is the practice and livelihood of cultivating plants and livestock. The practice was an essential development in sustaining human civilisation, as farming of domesticated species led to large enough quantities of food to enable people to live in cities. Industrial-scale agriculture based on monoculture techniques in the twentieth century dominate agricultural production. Crops in particular have a certain capacity to adapt to local cultivation conditions and to human-nutritional requirements and tastes; something that brings both food security, health and culinary gratification to communities. By inbreeding plants for several generations, it has been possible to empty them from almost any genetic variation. This is referred to as ‘modern plant breeding’, which is also protected by legislation. Since the UPOV (International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants) convention, which brought legislation of restrictions on intellectual property for new plants of 1962, only distinct, officially recognised plants are allowed for commercial cultivation within countries that have signed the convention, including all the members of the EU.

 

Allochtoon

The term ‘allochtoon’ is Greek in origin and literally means “from another soil”. It was originally used in geology as an adjective for something 'brought from elsewhere’, or ‘formed from material brought from elsewhere'. In the early 1970s, the term ‘allochtoon’ was introduced in the Netherlands as a noun, as a more neutral alternative for foreigner or immigrant. In Flanders, in the 1960s and 1970s, the terms 'guest worker' and 'foreigner' were used, and from the 1980s onwards, the term ‘migrant’ became popular. Because many young people who are referred to as migrants were born in Belgium, this word was no longer considered adequate. Since the 1990s, the word ‘allochtoon’ has been increasingly used in public debate, academic circles and in the media. The official definition considers a person to be an ‘allochtoon’ if at least one of the parents was born abroad. Additionally, it makes two distinction: firstly, the difference between first and second generation persons of foreign heritage, and secondly, the differences between Western and non-Western persons of foreign heritage. Since 2010, ‘allochtoon’ has been considered as possessing negative connotations, and various authorities and media (for example the City of Ghent and the newspaper De Morgen) go so far as to now exclude the word from their communication.

 

Ambiguity

The term ambiguity comes from Latin and means 'at least two-sided’, ‘unresolved’, ‘uncertain’ or ‘indecisive'. Ambiguity manifests in language, in thinking, and as a property of the things we experience. These might include objects, images, places, concepts and even other people. Until Immanuel Kant, Western philosophy mainly tried to eliminate ambiguity. Philosophers such as Søren Kierkegaard, Friedrich Nietzsche, Martin Heidegger and Simone de Beauvoir have rejected the ideal of this unequivocalness, which still lives on in the natural sciences. Today, ambiguity is a key concept for philosophers, social scientists, writers and artists who oppose unequivocal interpretations of reality, understanding that to be human is also to be fundamentally ambiguous or unresolved. Psychoanalyst Else Frenkel-Brunswik made a correlation between our tolerance of ambiguous things and our social outlook – the more tolerant we are of ambiguous stimuli, the more we tend to appreciate an open tolerant society.

 

Art

Art could be defined as the activity of creating visual, literary, performance, decorative and auditory forms that reflect human facets such as emotion, beauty, opinion, memory and belief. Ever since early humans began making art, it has been closely connected to spirituality and worship. Art in the Western world arguably became modern after leaving the space of religion, taking on new modes of aesthetics and values. Philosophers such as Thierry de Duve have looked to understand what contemporary art is ontologically speaking, finding it to be of ambiguous status in society, and a unique category of experience.

 

Assimilation

Assimilation is the process in which a minority, individual or group are absorbed as part of a dominant group. They may on the one hand come to assume the values, behaviour, and beliefs of the dominant group, but might well also influence or add to their culture. Throughout history there have been different forms of cultural assimilation, and may involve either a quick or a gradual change depending on the circumstances and the specificity of the group. Full assimilation occurs when members of a society become indistinguishable from those of the dominant group. Assimilation can be forced or natural. Forced assimilation is particularly relevant in regards to groups colonised from the 18th – 20th centuries. This type of assimilation included religious conversion, changes of gender roles, division of property among foreign powers, elimination of local economies and traditions. Assimilation is also seen in contrast to multiculturalism, as multiculturalism seeks cultural differences to coexist within a community. In reality this is a false polemic, as multiculturalism and assimilation can be simultaneous processes.

 

Capitalism

Capitalism is an economic and political system based on private ownership of the means of production for goods and services in the free market. Often seen as contrary to the principles of socialism, which redistributes wealth via taxation, free market (laissez-faire) capitalism implies the reduction of governmental interference in the economic affairs of individuals and society to a minimum. This has been the model adopted by the US, where participation in the capitalist system is synonymous with freedom. Seen by some as an ideal modern and even moral system (Ayn Rand), for its critics however, the liberal capitalism is seen as the driving force of growing disparity between the wealthy and the poor, as well as unsustainable and exploitative. The words ‘capital’ and ‘cattle’ are derived from the same Latin root (caput meaning ‘head’), to denote movable property.

 

Communism

Communism is a socio-economic system structured upon the idea of public ownership of the means of production as the basis of social equality. Within communist society, intended as classless, each person contributes and receives according to their ability and needs. Communism encompasses a wide variety of ideologies, movements and schools, the most prominent of which is associated with Karl Marx’s economic and philosophical theories, as well as his critique of capital. While the possibility of existence of communist states is still a matter of debate, it is widely associated with the former Soviet Union’s political and economic model.

 

Citizen/Subject

A citizen is an individual who is a member, recognised under law, of a sovereign socio-political community, such as a nation state. A person can possess multiple citizenships of different nations, and a person without citizenship is considered a stateless person. The status of subject correlates with citizenship, but often tends to be applied in nations with a monarch as the prime source of authority. Historically, a citizen has civil rights, whereas a subject has none under the domination of a monarch.

 

Civilisation(s)

Widely used in the singular form until late 19th – early 20th century, the term ‘civilisation’ has been understood, in one sense, as an advanced culture and society in contrast with barbarism and ‘primitive’ cultures. It also may refer to the historical progress of humanity, and the totality of its achievements in various facets of life. The shift from Western-centred orientation questioned the single linear progression of history and allowed to talk about civilisations, in plural. The term civilisation is also used as a description of the broadest cultural identities of humanity. In his controversial book The Clash of Civilizations (1996), American Political Scientist Samuel P. Huntington proposes that while the age of ideology had ended after the Cold War, the world had only reverted to a previous ‘normal’ state of affairs characterised by cultural conflict, predicting that the concept of different civilisations, as the highest rank of cultural identity, would become increasingly useful in analysing potential conflicts. He cites examples such as those following the break-up of Yugoslavia, and the partition of India and Pakistan as examples of inter-civilisational conflict.

 

Colonialism

The term colony comes from the Latin word colonus, meaning farmer. Colonialism is a practice of domination, involving the subjugation of one people by another, generally with the aim of economic dominance. In the process of colonisation, colonisers may impose their cultural practices, religion, labour conditions and language on indigenous peoples. The coloniser seeks to benefit from the colonised region's people and resources. Colonialism is strongly associated with the European colonial period beginning in the 15th century. At first, European colonising countries followed policies of mercantilism, aiming to strengthen the home-nation economy, so agreements usually restricted the colonies to trading only with the colonising nation. However, by the mid-19th century, the British Empire gave up mercantilism and adopted the principle of free trade. Belgium controlled the Belgian Congo (today the Democratic Republic of Congo) from 1908 to 1960, and Ruanda-Urundi (Rwanda and Burundi) from 1922 to 1962. The Belgian Congo originated as the personal property of the king Leopold II, before sovereignty was transferred to the Belgian state in 1908. European slave traders, primarily the Portuguese, Spanish, British, Dutch and French empires brought large numbers of African slaves to the Americas. The European colonial system took between 10 to 12 million Africans to the Caribbean and to North and South America as slaves. Christian missionaries were active in most of the European-controlled colonies. It is estimated that by 1914, colonisers had gained control of 84% of the globe. Following the Second World War, colonial powers were forced to retreat, and between 1945–1975, nearly all colonies gained independence, entering into postcolonial relations.

 

Culture

The word culture comes from the Latin meaning to ‘cultivate’. Culture is a complex term used to describe social behaviour, norms and activities found in societies, including their shared knowledge, beliefs, arts, laws, customs, traditions and habits. Groups develop culture through processes of local enculturation and socialisation, as demonstrated by the diversity of cultures across societies. A ‘cultural norm’ serves as a guideline for behaviour, language, dress and general demeanour in a cultural context. Accepting only a monoculture in a social group can bear risks, just as a single species of crop can wither in the face of environmental change, for lack of ability to deal to the change. One understanding of the term culture is the degree to which an individual or group have cultivated a particular level of sophistication in the arts, sciences, education or manners. This was sometimes used historically to distinguish ‘civilisations’ from less complex societies. Such hegemonic perspectives on culture are also found in class-based distinctions between a high culture of the social elite and low culture, popular or folk culture of the lower classes.

 

Culture War

The phrase culture war is a translation from the German Kulturkampf and was first used in the second half of the 19th century to refer to the power struggle between the Roman Catholic Church and the German government under Reich Chancellor Otto von Bismarck. The concept is now used more generally to refer to the struggle between conflicting cultural values within a society. With his theory of cultural hegemony, Italian Marxist journalist, philosopher and politician Antonio Gramsci stated in the 1920s how a culturally diverse society is dominated by the group that controls the mass media, education and other major institutions. In the early 1990s, sociologist James Davison Hunter introduced the concept of culture war to the US, to describe the polarisation of society along ideological lines, between ‘conservatives’ and ‘progressives’. The so-called School Wars (schoolstrijd, guerre scolaire) in the 19th and 20th centuries, which were crises over the issue of religion in education, and of subsidies from the state, are seen as examples of culture war in Belgium.

 

Counterculture

A counterculture is a culture or community whose values and norms of behaviour differ substantially from, or stand in opposition to, those of mainstream society. Some countercultures even reach such a momentum that they cause wider cultural change. Historical examples of countercultures in the Western world include the Non-conformists of the 1930s, the hippie movement of the 1960s, as well as punk of the 1970s and 1980s, and rave of the 1980s and 1990s. Some consider permaculture as a counterculture, believing in sustainable agriculture systems. Countercultures can emerge across the social and ideological spectrum. More recently, phenomena such as the Alt-Right, Me Too or Black Lives Matter in the US have also been considered as countercultural movements.

 

Conservativism

Conservatism is a political and cultural philosophy that promotes traditional institutions in the context of a social group. Though historically associated with right-wing politics, the term has been used to describe a wide range of views. In fact, there is no fixed set of policies or principles considered as conservative, as the meaning of conservatism depends on what is considered traditional in a given context. Some central tenets of conservatism might be identified, including tradition, authority, property rights, preservation of heritage, religious institutions, and parliamentary government, with the aim of emphasising social stability and continuity. Social conservatism is based on the belief that society is built upon relationships that need to be upheld through the preservation of morality and social mores, and opposing radical social change. Conservatives in many countries support a traditional definition of family values, of marriage as being a contract between one man and one woman, take views that are anti-abortion, and oppose atheism. Conservatives may also take the view that artistic practices should remain traditional, and thus see contemporary artistic practice as a liberal pursuit.

 

Decolonisation

Decolonisation is the process by which a colony becomes independent of its coloniser. The concept has particularly applied to the colonies that gained independence from European colonial powers during the second half of the 20th century, though many colonies still exist. Based on the fundamental right to self-determination, decolonisation continues to be claimed, also within independent states, as in the case of indigenous peoples who seek autonomy.

Decolonisation is sometimes conflated with decoloniality, however, though not-unrelated, it is a separate concept. Decoloniality is a school of thought that focuses on the process of untangling the production of ideas and knowledge from a Eurocentric or hegemonic core. It critiques the perceived universality of Western knowledge and the superiority of Western culture. Therefore, from a decolonial perspective, Western imperialism is also based on a cultural hegemony.

 

Ethics

Ethics is a branch of philosophy that involves the critical reflection, defence and development of moral concepts, values and notions of right and wrong in a society. As a way to determine a morality of action, one question at the heart of ethical investigation is: what behaviour is best for sentient beings to live? Ethics covers a wide area of fields, from animal welfare to human rights, warfare, political and public practices, and even artistic expression. The exact definitions of ethics are typically specified by a single social group. Political ethics is the practice of making moral judgements about political actions and agents. Public sector ethics is a set of principles that guide public officials and institutions in their service to their constituents, based on what best serves the interests of the latter.

 

Ethnicity

Ethnicity is a category of identification for a group of people based on a belief in descent-based attributes. It is usually an inherited concept, based on a shared history, mythology, homeland, language or religion, as well as common customs and rituals, cuisine, dressing style, arts and crafts. It is possible for individuals to leave one ethnic group and become part of another, through language change, assimilation, and religious conversion. In this sense, ethnicity can be considered as a cultural construction. An equivalent term in English is ‘folk’, or ‘volk’ in Dutch. The term ‘ethnic minority’ has been used to denote ethnic groups living in a country or region where they are statistically smaller in number than the majority group. Ethnocentricity has been identified as a key characteristic in authoritarianism and even extremism by ethnographers and psychoanalysts.

 

Ethnonationalism

The central political idea of ethnonationalism (or ethnic nationalism) is that ethnic groups can be identified unambiguously as the people of a nation. In contrast to the understanding of ethnicity as a cultural construct, ethnonationalism can be an essentialist understanding of the same concept. It is seen in increasingly politicised forms of homogenous identification by members of different ethnic groups and nations, in many countries this is particularly in the context of debates over multiculturalism.

 

Europe

Europe is the westernmost subcontinent of the supercontinent of Eurasia. A cultural definition of Europe was first used in the 9th century, demarcating the sphere of influence of Latin Christendom, in opposition to the Islamic world and the Eastern Orthodox churches. Europe, specifically Ancient Greece is considered the “birthplace of Western civilisation”. The name Europe is derived from the Europa of Greek Mythology, the Phoenician princess from the modern-day region of Syria and Lebanon who was abducted by Zeus and taken to Crete.

 

Freedom

Freedom is the notion of being and acting ‘free’ with regards to such social and political phenomena as civil liberties, free will, freedom of speech, political freedom, and autonomy in life and society. Many governments institute freedom to ensure that it is guaranteed as a right. Freedom has become a politicised and contentious term, with for example libertarian groups in America advocating freedom as the privilege of personal autonomy over state power, whether through such factors as personal wealth and ownership or the right to bear arms.

 

Gender

The term gender was introduced in order to designate the social construction of masculinity and femininity as distinct from the notion of biological sex. Most cultures use a gender binary (boy or girl, man or woman), and those who exist outside these groups fall under the umbrella term non-binary or genderqueer. Some societies have specific genders besides ‘man’ and ‘woman’, for example the Hijra people of South Asia, often referred to as third genders (or fourth genders, etc.). Philosopher Judith Butler describes her theory of ‘gender performativity’, wherein masculinities and femininities are something continuously created by repeated (speech) actions, and recognisable only as repetitions and patterns. According to Butler there are no core gender identities preceding language and actions – our actions are what make us understand both ourselves and others as gendered bodies and individuals.

 

Globalisation

Globalisation is the process of integration and interaction among people, economies and governments around the world. Though many analysts see the origins of globalisation in the modern era, others trace its history back several centuries and even millennia. The term itself first appeared in the early 20th century and came into popular use in the 1990s. Globalisation as a process has accelerated since the 19th century due to a variety of technological advancements, particularly those of communication and travel. It is primarily an economic process of harmonisation that is also associated with migration and the exchange of knowledge. Globalisation has been criticised for several reasons – for the operations and institutions of globalisation which supersede nation-states, for the neo-colonialism of multi-national corporations that exploit natural resources, and for a vastly increasing imbalance of wealth that exacerbates class relations. Environmental concerns such as global warming and water or air pollution have been linked to globalisation, as has the risk of global pandemics.

 

Homogeneity/Heterogeneity

In societal terms, homogeneity is used to describe the state of uniformity of a constituent body, including its ethnicity, culture and social practices. Heterogeneity, in this context, refers to a society or group that includes those of differing ethnicities, sexes, genders, political partialities and other backgrounds. Homogeneity and heterogeneity are not necessarily mutually exclusive, as a heterogeneous group can still be behaviourally homogeneous, and vice-versa.

 

Identitarianism

Identitarianism is the belief in the distinction and protection of different homogeneous cultural identities. It places identity as the central determination of the self within the context of the specific society or national culture one identifies with, which is primarily based on perceived determinations of race and often connecting it intrinsically with such factors as religion, culture and geographic territory. Radicalised forms of identitarianism seek to protect this monocultural understanding of one’s society, and therefore seek to counter the presence of, and in extreme cases eradicate, those deemed to be changing or threatening the nature of a national or regional identity. Early usage of the term was used by French sociologists describing a “repli identitaire” (“identitarian withdrawal”) to describe lack of integration among immigrants due to discrimination, and also among the lower-classes of the ‘indigenous’ population due to their racism.

 

Immigrant

An immigrant is a person who moves to a new country or destination where they do not immediately possess citizenship, in order to reside and settle. People migrate internationally for different social and economic reasons, often to become a permanent resident or naturalised citizen, or to take up employment as a migrant worker. People also migrate to seek asylum due to such factors as persecution, genocide, war and social marginalisation. Immigration has taken place throughout human history and has been fundamental in the formation and development of societies around the world.

 

Indigeneity

Indigenous people are often identified as the descendants of the First People of a specific region at the time when people of a different culture or ethnic origin arrived there from other parts of the world, overcame them by conquest, and settled. Indigeneity came into use during the 1990s, when many colonised communities fought against erasure, genocide, and forced acculturation. Placed under the state structure of the dominant group alien to their own, indigenous people and communities are often minorities within contemporary populations, and work to preserve their customs, traditions and other aspects of their ethnic identities, as well as their ancestral territories, for future generations.

 

Individual

An individual is someone that exists as a distinct entity with unique personality. Individuality (or selfhood) is the state or quality of being an individual, separate from others and with one’s own needs, imagination, desires, rights and responsibilities. The concept of the individual features in diverse fields, including biology, law and philosophy. Individualism is a philosophical position emphasising the moral precedence of the individual over the collective and government. Promoting self-determination and self-reliance, individualism has also been used to denote personality, related to possessing personal artistic interests and lifestyles.

 

Integration

Integration is a social process based in which newcomers or minorities are incorporated into the social structure of a host society. Assimilation is the process where a minority group adopts the social norms and attitudes of the host. Similarly, it can also be based on the principle of acculturation – cultural change based on the meeting of different cultures. Integration requires adaptation and participation within a population group in order to find a stable society through coexistence and cohesive social relations.

 

Internationalism

Internationalism is a cultural or political principle that advocates greater cooperation among nations and peoples. It is sometimes associated with political and ideological movements, but internationalism can also be strived for in a non-political context. It follows the belief that people should unite across national, political, cultural, racial, or class boundaries for the common good. Internationalism is sometimes characterised by its opposition to nationalism or isolationism, and promotes mutual respect of other cultures. Internationalism also describes one of the key characteristics of contemporary art since the 1990s, when the Western art world opened up to artists, practices and scenes from other parts of the globe.

 

Sexuality

Sexuality is the capacity express oneself, as well as to others, as a sexual being. This involves individuals having erotic experiences and exploring sexual orientations, which manifest themselves in biological, emotional or social sustenance. Opinions differ along ideological lines on the origins of an individual's sexual orientation, based typically around a debate of “nature versus nurture” – whether sexuality is defined by socio-cultural factors or through biological instinct. Homosexuality is considered sinful in the mainstream of many major religions such as Christianity, Judaism and Islam, however gay liberation movements of the 20th century have worked to provide homosexuals, and others who do not identify as heterosexual, with legal rights and protections in numerous countries.

 

Identity Politics

Identity politics is a term that describes cultural or social movements seeking social visibility, justice and equality for particular groups or individuals, based on race, gender, sexuality, social class, religion or any other identifying factor that, through societal injustice, are subject to processes of marginalisation. With the goal of causing social and political change through greater visibility, identity politics is considered a particular means for achieving a progressive and free society. Identity politics is also used to refer to the modes employed by artistic movements from the 1970s and 1980s, such as the Black Artists Movements and Feminist Movement in the US and Great Britain, which have seen a certain resurgence in the current era.

 

Ideology

Ideology is an action-orientated collection of ideas that expresses the interests, ideals, beliefs, and overarching world-view of particular groups, which either sanction an existing distribution of power in society or demands for its radical transformation. Ideologies can become dominant forces within geopolitics, and dominant ideologies of the 20th century included National Socialism (Nazism), Communism and Capitalism. Ideologies often compete within a society, manifesting in groups identifying for example as ‘conservatives’ or ‘progressives’, and which often translate into political affiliations. The term is often used in a negative sense to describe a collective illusionary form of social consciousness or indoctrination.

 

Language

A language is a structured system of communication. Language, in a broader sense, is the method of communication that involves the use of – particularly human – languages. It is estimated by linguists that there are between 5000 and 7000 languages worldwide, however these estimates are imprecise, with arbitrary distinction between dialects and languages. Languages evolve and diversify over time, developing into language families. The Indo-European family is the most widely spoken and includes languages as diverse as Portuguese, Russian, Urdu, English, Dutch and Farsi. From a sociolinguistic perspective, language can play both a unifying and differentiating role in society. The English language is considered the world’s main lingua franca. Philosopher Philippe Van Parijs has developed the concept of ‘linguistic justice’ to address the privilege English has, through various measures including a language tax paid by English-speaking countries, along with other territorial principles to protect weaker languages. Languages traditionally develop as aspects of a culture, however there have also been examples of artificial languages, with the intentions to create new lingua franca or universal languages, the most renowned of which being Esperanto.

 

Liberalism

Cultural liberalism describes progressive ethical and social values on socio-cultural issues ranging from societal equality, minority rights, abortion, sexual freedom, freedom of religion and free expression. 19th Century philosopher Henry David Thoreau understood liberalism as a perspective on society that stresses the freedom of individuals from any pre-prescribed cultural norms with the rights to "march to the beat of a different drummer". Cultural liberals believe in open tolerant society, but that society should not strictly impose specific codes of behaviour. They see themselves as defending the rights to express individuality as long as they do not harm anyone else. Liberalism can also refer to human perception, and the level of openness when experiencing new things.

 

Modernity

Modernity, a topic in the humanities and social sciences, is both a historical period (the modern era) and the ensemble of particular socio-cultural norms, attitudes and practices that form a specific condition of cultural existence that arose in the processes of transitioning from “traditional” communities to modern societies. Often associated with rationality, modernity incorporates a wide scope of historical processes and cultural phenomena, from art to food production to warfare, and can also refer to the existential experience of the conditions they produce, and their ongoing impact on culture, work, institutions and politics. It also encompasses the social relations associated with the life under capitalism, and the shifts in attitudes associated with secularisation and post-industrial life. In social sciences, modernity is also understood as a historical period and the development of particular socio-cultural norms, attitudes and practices that arose out of the Renaissance and also the 18th century "Enlightenment". In art, it is closely linked to aesthetic modernism and developments such as existentialism. In the late 19th and 20th centuries, modern art became dominant movement in Western Europe and North America. The movement broadly desired for the creation of new forms of art in reflection of the newly emerging industrial world. A particular characteristic of modernism is a self-consciousness of artistic and social traditions, along with experimentation and the use of techniques that rationalise the processes and materials used in the making of artworks. The attempt to explain the relationship between geo-cultural differences presents a foundational challenge to understand the condition of modernity. The belief in its supposed universality has been criticised by postmodernism, while the dominance and export of modernism from Western Europe and America over other continents has been criticised by postcolonial theory.

 

Monoculture

In societal terms, monoculture can be defined as the homogeneous expression and mode of living of a particular social or ethnic group. As a political practice, monoculturalism seeks to safeguard a national culture by excluding external influences. It can sometimes support the belief of superiority within the dominant group over minorities in any given society. In this context, monoculturalism may involve the process of assimilation whereby minority groups have to adopt to the dominant culture and practices, forming cultural homogeneity. Like ‘culture’, monoculture comes from agriculture, where it is used to describe the practice of producing or growing a single crop or livestock species in a farming system. This technique has resulted in plants that are in fact clones, however it is taken for granted that they have reached the ‘original’ or ‘pure’ form of the plant. Monoculture is widely used in both industrial and organic farming, and has allowed increased efficiency in production and harvesting, while simultaneously increasing the risk of exposure to diseases or pests.

 

Multiculture

Multiculture can be defined as the diversity of expression and modes of living in a particular social group. As a socio-political ideology, multiculturalism advocates the practice of equal respect to various cultures in a society, promoting and embracing cultural and ethnic diversity. In reference to politics, multiculturalism can be defined as a state's capacity to effectively and efficiently deal with cultural plurality within its sovereign borders. It is considered the aim of either a natural or artificial process within the community of a nation or geopolitical entity. On a large scale, it can occur as a result of either legal or illegal migration. Groups associated with aboriginal, indigenous or ‘autochthonous’ (literally “native to the soil”) ethnic groups and settler-descended ethnic groups are often given focus under multiculturalism

 

Nation State

A nation state is a political entity regulated under a system of government which holds power within its defined territory, and conducts international relations with other states. It was the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, ending the European wars of religion, which created the blueprint for a new political order based upon the principle of co-existing sovereign states and national self-determination. A nation may also include a diaspora or refugees who live outside its area. Some states are sovereign states, whilst others are subject to external sovereignty or hegemony, such as in the case of a colony, where supreme authority lies in another state. A state where no one ethnic group dominates can also be considered a multicultural state.

 

Nationalism

Nationalism is an idea and movement that promotes the interests of a particular group of people who identify themselves with a particular nation. Nationalism demands each nation should govern itself with self-determination as the core. It typically aims to build and maintain a single national identity based on shared social characteristics of culture, ethnicity, geographic location, language, politics, religion, traditions, and belief in a shared singular history. Nationalism, therefore, seeks to preserve and foster a nation's traditional cultures, and cultural revivals have been associated with nationalist movements. Nationalism is often combined with other ideologies, such as national conservatism or left-wing socialism. Ethnic nationalism defines the nation in terms of shared ethnicity, heritage and culture, and civic nationalism defines a nation in terms of shared citizenship, values and institutions, and is linked to constitutional patriotism. In his book Imagined Communities (1983) analysing nationalism, historian Benedict Anderson posits ‘nation’ as a socially constructed community, in which people imagine they are part of a group, influenced by stereotypes and images perpetuated through print media. He stated nationalism: "is imagined because the members of even the smallest nation will never know most of their fellow-members, meet them, or even hear of them, yet in the minds of each lives the image of their communion". Nationalism can also be seen in opposition to internationalism, thus against greater political or economic cooperation between nations.

 

Other

The notion of the Other is one of the central philosophical and sociocultural categories. The definition and interpretation of the term varies, but in its most general sense, it refers to the relationship between a subject and another person or group defined as the non-self. The condition of Otherness is deeply related with processes of marginalisation and subordination of those ‘alien’ to mainstream social identity. In philosophy, for example in phenomenology and existentialism, the encounter with the Other is understood as a key factor in the formation of the Self, even though the relationship with the Other is often seen as antagonistic. Art critic and historian Thomas McEvilley has stated: “Each, in its sameselfness, knows itself and is unknown to the other. Each in its difference, is known to the other and unknown to itself. […] It is not merely that the other is a mystery to the self; it is that the other is a mystery of the self. […] The self can never reach the other and can never do without it. […] The self-reached for the veil of the other trembling to see itself. The other slips beneath the skin of the self and becomes its desire and its terror”. The concept, often understood in the context of a binary dominator–dominated relationship, has also been important historically for postcolonial and gender studies.

 

‘Outsider art’

The contentious term ‘outsider art’ is the English equivalent of art brut’, referring to idiosyncratic art practices existing outside of the boundaries of the conventional art world, often by self-taught or ‘naïve’ makers. First associated mainly with art of psychiatric patients, the term has extended to include a range of other marginalised practices. The relations of outsider art to the mainstream art world is ambivalent. While praised by some modern artists especially Surrealist artists who were not only inspired by outsider art, but also exhibited it alongside their own artworks, ‘outsider art’ is typically displayed in separate contexts and within its own reference frames. The term ‘outsider art’ is contentious as creativity and psychiatric vulnerability are considered by psychoanalysts and being closely connected. And thus the ‘outsider’ aspect is considered a false category.

 

Populism

Populism could be defined as a political stance and strategy which proposes that citizens, or ‘the people’ are exploited by the dominant political ‘elite’, who does not serve the interests of the many. Populism is neither defined by, nor typical of the left, right or centre of the political ideological spectrum. Its ambition is guided by the belief that political and social change should be achieved by the opinion and direct action of the masses. When in office in liberal democracies, right-wing populists have often been responsible for democratic backsliding, as they undermine independent institutions such as the media or judiciary which they consider hostile to the "will of the people".

 

Race

The term ‘race’ has historically referred to shared physical traits, including but not limited to skin colour, of a group of people. However, race has no inherent physical or biological meaning, although one sometimes speaks of 'the human race', which means the species homo sapiens, or the subspecies homo-sapiens sapiens – modern man. There is a broad scientific agreement that essentialist or typological conceptualisation of race is untenable, and in contemporary discourse race is now increasingly used to refer to a social construct. The association of race with the discredited theories of Eugenics and scientific racism has contributed to race becoming increasingly seen as a largely pseudoscientific system of classification. In 1795, German doctor Johann Friedrich Blumenbach described five human types: Caucasians, Mongolians, Ethiopians, Americans and Malays, with Caucasians the most attractive of them all. ‘Caucasian’ normally refers to people who live in the mountainous region between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea, but under Blumenbach’s sweeping definition, encompassed everyone from Europe to India and North Africa. His vague human taxonomy would have lasting consequences – ‘Caucasian’ is the polite word still used today to describe white people of European descent.

 

Religion

Religion is a set of cultural systems which designate practices, world-views, rituals and ethics, that position the human as the receiver of teachings from transcendental or spiritual orders of existence, gods or the divine. Religion and the observance of faith has diverse practices globally, including rituals, sermons, initiations, commemoration ceremonies, meditation and prayer. The Abrahamic Religions are religious communities that claim to originate from the practices of ancient Israelites and specifically the teachings of the Prophet Abraham. They are Semitic religions originating in the present-day Middle East, with the three largest being Christianity, Islam and Judaism. The largest religions globally are Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism, however according to some conservative estimates there are approximately 4200 religions in the world, with new religions and denominations continuing to emerge. Atheism is the rejection of the existence of gods or deities. Some modern societies possess a plurality of both non-belief and belief.

 

Syncretism

In a broad sense, syncretism refers to the amalgamation of diverse phenomena or opposing principles. The term is widely used in theology and philosophy to describe a fusion of different beliefs, practices, and schools of thought. Syncretic movements are often met with resistance and denunciation from prevailing systems of belief. In such context, the term might be employed with pejorative overtones. In relation to politics, syncretism refers to the idea of the ‘Third Way’, which combines the approaches of conflicting political positions with the aim of their reconciliation.

 

Society

A society is a large group in persistent social relations and interactions, typically sharing the same spatial or social territory, with same cultural expectations and subject to the same political authority.  Societies share a distinctive economic, social, industrial or cultural infrastructure. A society may be described as the sum total of such relationships among its constituents. Societies construct patterns of behaviour by deeming certain actions or speech as acceptable or unacceptable, known as societal norms. Societies, and their norms, undergo gradual and perpetual change. Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher rejected the notion of society in favour of neo-liberalism, privileging individualism. She famously stated: "They are casting their problems at society. And, you know, there's no such thing as society. There are individual men and women and there are families. And no government can do anything except through people, and people must look after themselves first. It is our duty to look after ourselves and then, also, to look after our neighbours".

 

Third World

The term Third World, a literal translation of the French tiers monde, was coined during the Cold War to define states that remained non-aligned with any of the two leading powers and economic systems of the time – the Western and Soviet blocks. Mostly, these were also economically ‘developing’ countries, including many with colonial pasts in Africa, Latin America, Oceania and Asia. It is the latter meaning in particular that has prevailed. The Third World also fitted into the world-systemic economic division for ‘periphery’ countries dominated by the First World countries who comprise the economic core. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, it became largely considered to be outdated and pejorative, with other terms, not themselves without contention, such as ‘developing countries’ and ‘global south’ replacing it increasingly.

 

Tolerance

Tolerance is the ability, attitude and willingness to refute bigotry and accept other beliefs, opinions, ideas, practices and behaviour which differ from one’s own. The term has a progressive connotation. In the West, the term has come to be used frequently in relation to migrant communities. In this instance, there can be a distinct power relation – the dominant community enacts tolerance towards minorities, but minorities have to accept, rather than tolerate, the dominant culture.

 

Totalitarianism

Totalitarianism is a political system or form of government that prohibits opposition parties, supresses opposition to the state, and exercises an extremely high degree of control over a society. Totalitarianism attempts to control virtually all aspects of the social life, economy, education, art, science, private life and morality of citizens. It is regarded as the most extreme form of authoritarianism. Totalitarian regimes are often characterised by political repression, lack of democratic institutions, cult of personality, economic control, censorship, limited freedom of movement and wide use of state terrorism. Other aspects of a totalitarian regime include the use of concentration camps, persecution of religious and other minorities, and potentially state-sponsored mass murder or genocide. In The Origins of Totalitarianism (1951), political theorist Hannah Arendt states: “The ideal subject of totalitarian rule is not the convinced Nazi or the convinced Communist, but people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction (i.e., the reality of experience) and the distinction between true and false (i.e., the standards of thought) no longer exist”.

 

Universality

In philosophy, universality is the idea that universal facts exist and can be discovered, as opposed to relativism, which asserts that all facts are merely relative to one's perspective. It posits that it is possible to apply generalised norms, values and ethics to all people and cultures, regardless of the contexts in which they are located. These norms may include a focus on human needs, rights, or biological and psychological processes, and are based on the perspective that all people are essentially equivalent. Universalism has been critiqued by post-modern and post-colonial thinkers, who find lack of evidence for any ideas or values that can be applied truly universally. In his book European Universalism: The Rhetoric of Power (2006), sociologist and economic historian Immanuel Wallerstein considers universalism as a successor to colonialism as a means of speaking on behalf of the developing world and interfering in the business of other countries. He charts how the Western world has attempted repeatedly to create universals since the Enlightenment, from such things as modernism as an attempted universal language or condition, though to such things as human rights. In his understanding, universalism can be seen as the shift from the Western stereotypical perspective of the East (historically described as ‘orientalism’ by Edward Said), to a Western sense of something shared, to which the Non-Western might not always conform. As universalism is ascribed the status of being natural law by the West, non-conformity permits the right to intervention, whether through aid, cultural intervention or even warfare.