Whiteness and discursive closures: When the garb of multiculturalism comes tumbling

Multiculturalism is a performance of Whiteness in neoliberal times. Multiculturalism is a performance of Whiteness for neoliberal times. Multiculturalism is a performance in the service of neoliberalism, establishing the neocolonial hegemony of Whiteness through the codes of appropriate speech in the service of democracy and the market.

A performance that works through the norms of civility, decorum, and speech code to silence difference. The image of multiculturalism thus established at the global sites of neoliberal articulation is based on White ideas of acceptable speech, constituted in relationship to the market.

A performance that works to uphold a neocolonial narrative that justifies violence, torture, and imperial invasion under the guise of democracy and promotion of freedom.

As the multicultural narrative works to reproduce imperial power by paradoxically marking symbolic articulations of cultural voices as inappropriate and therefore unacceptable, it reproduces unmarked ideas of communication as culture mirrored in the language of the market. In my own work on communication and neoliberalism, I have referred to these communication strategies of neoliberalism as "communicative inversions." These strategies work precisely because they silence difference.

Whiteness, the taken-for-granted notion of White norms serving White agendas as universals of human aspiration, extends neoliberal assumptions of the free market, capitalism, and democracy  through its adoption of a multicultural narrative that equates the market with the cacophony of ideas, cultures, and voices. The ideas, cultures, and voices that do get included within this multicultural framework are aligned with the agendas of the market, dictated by normative ideas of communication and participation intrinsically immersed in Whiteness.

What is acceptable, what can be discussed, and how it can be discussed are dictated by the White structure, using criteria of multiculturalism. Cultural speech codes that threaten the hegemony of Whiteness are written off as violent, uncivil, and barbaric.

Whiteness thus is fundamentally built on a hypocrisy, a hypocrisy that assumes the norms of Whiteness as the guiding standards for communication in cultural spaces, further silencing ideas and voices that challenge the garb of multiculturalism.

To create spaces for diverse cultural voices calls for closely interrogating the language of multiculturalism embedded in the norms of Whiteness and in the service of the market.


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