If every story, person, word, object, etc. could only be defined in one way, that would surely make for an awfully boring world and society. As we have discovered, multiculturalism is one of these increasingly dynamic concepts, molded in different ways by separate parts of the globe through various policies and histories. Daniel Goh and Philip Holden, in their chapter “Postcoloniality, Race and Multiculturalism” from the broader work Race and Multiculturalism in Malaysia and Singapore published in 2009, seek to address the differences between multiculturalism in the Western and non-Western/postcolonial sense amongst countries (1). Additionally, Goh and Holden unpack the function of race in categorizing and defining peoples, in identity, in government, and in colonization (3, 5-7).
One of the most compelling arguments presented in this piece is the critique of the general interpretation of multiculturalism as being a construct specific to Western societies, focused on gathering individual cultures under the umbrella of Western (white) populations (Mishra qtd. in Goh and Holden 2). I believe this is somewhat ironic – and quite intriguing – considering that “with regards to multiculturalism in Singapore and Malaysia…these two countries have been touted as the most successful of postcolonial states in managing ethnic differences and conflicts” (Goh and Holden 2). This prompts readers to question exactly how success is interpreted and to what extent these elements of tension influence that interpretation. Further, Goh and Holden justify their claim by contending that the issue is not from a lack of multiculturalism in non-Western societies, but rather by the inherent disparities that exist between the types of multiculturalism across the globe (2). This stems from an understanding that no two countries can possibly execute multicultural principles in the same capacity.
The argument described in this chapter not only diverges, but it is completely lacking from Erna Paris’s article “Canadians Must Never Take Multiculturalism for Granted.” In her writing, Paris claims that Canada is “the world’s most successful multicultural society,” while highlighting the faults of multiculturalism in the U.S. and Europe and conveniently neglecting to mention any non-Western societies (Paris). In my opinion, it is important to acknowledge this subtle distancing of places like Canada from countries like Malaysia. Whether or not Paris did this intentionally, her assertion detracts from the proclaimed successes of Malaysia and Singapore (Goh and Holden 2). Is Paris implying that countries like Canada and the U.S. are on a separate, more elevated playing field in the game of multiculturalism than are non-Western societies?
Goh, Daniel P.S., and Philip Holden. “Postcoloniality, Race and Multiculturalism.” Race and Multiculturalism in Malaysia and Singapore, Routledge, 2009, pp. 1-9.
Paris, Erna. “Canadians Must Never Take Multiculturalism for Granted.” The Globe and
Mail, 7 July 2016, first ed., https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/canadians- must-nevertakemulticulturalism-for-granted/article30773630/. Accessed 11 Apr. 2018.