Is identity politics undermining democracy?
Saturday 27 October, 10.30am until 12.00pm, Henry Moore Gallery Battle Talk

Much has been made recently of the putative return of religion as a force in politics, but it is striking that ‘faith-based’ politics are often about religion as an identity rather than a set of ideas or practices. Arguably, the term ‘Muslim’ has simply replaced ‘Asian’ as the preferred term for Britons of Pakistani and Bangladeshi origin. Rather than the return of religion, are we seeing the consolidation of identity politics?

Throughout the West, people with different ethnic and cultural heritages increasingly live side by side. One response to this phenomenon has been multiculturalism, which celebrates the differences between people who share the same public space. But recently critics have argued that this encourages minorities to feel a sense of distinction from other citizens, and separation from mainstream politics. Increasingly people seem to engage with the democratic process, and assert their rights, as members of a minority group rather than as individual citizens. What does the struggle between competitive identities say about the state of politics in the West today? Could this undermine the possibility of universal values and equal citizenship?

 Speakers

Kenan Malik
writer and broadcaster; author, The Quest for a Moral Compass: A Global History of Ethics and From Fatwa to Jihad
Paul Kelly
professor of political theory and head, department of government, LSE; author, Liberalism; editor, Multiculturalism Reconsidered and British Political Theory in the Twentieth Century
Chair:
Munira Mirza
advisor on arts and philanthropy; former deputy mayor of London for education and culture; author, The Politics of Culture: the case for universalism

 Produced by

Amol Rajan columnist, Independent titles; advisor to Evgeny Lebedev; author, Twirlymen: the unlikely history of cricket’s greatest spin doctors
 Recommended readings

Do we have to treat Muslims as Muslims?
By courting various Muslim organisations as if they're representative of a large body of British citizens, the Government reduces the latter's public existence to their religious affiliation
Dean Godson, The Times, 18 July 2007

Multiculturalism and 7/7: neither problem nor solution
Whether advocating Britishness or sticking up for multiculturalism, both sides are locked into the 'dead end of identity politics'
Paul Kelly, openDemocracy, 19 October 2005

Identity and migration
Multiculturalism is merely the culmination of an identity politics that has its roots in the Reformation
Francis Fukuyama, Prospect, January 2007

Making a difference: culture, race and social policy
Why have we become obsessed with cultural differences at a time when real cultural differences have less and less meaning in our lives?
Kenan Malik, Patterns of Prejudice, November 2005

recommended by spiked

Whose Britain is it anyway?
Nathalie Rothschild, 13 June 2007

End this Muslim-Mania
Mick Hume, 9 October 2006

Getting to the root of 'homegrown terrorism'
Munira Mirza, 29 August 2006

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