On Diversity Within Diversity: Communities, Voice and Political Thought
The emergence of so-called alternative political voices in culturally diverse societies, such as the UK, is not a surprising phenomenon. In this paper I argue that, despite intuitions to the contrary, the simple adding-on of alternative political theories to the canon of Western political thought will not bring about the hoped for benefits. Rather than taking a bird's eye view of diversity in seeking to establish the importance of non-Western political thought, this endeavour must treat intra-cultural diversity equally seriously. The predominance of not only Western political thought but also of spokespersonship within cultural communities most certainly affects the setting of the terms of political debates. The particular problems confronting either marginalized sections of communities or of second and third generation citizens who are able to commit to neither the dominant discourses of the 'country of citizenship' nor to those of the 'country and community of origin' cannot be resolved through political dialogue across broad cultural divides alone. Expanding the canon of Western political thought along with the simultaneous examination of diversity within so-called alternative modes of thinking would lead to more exacting tests of their coherence, authenticity and normative implications. It is expected that we should find competing ideas within communities, establish cross-connections between different modes of thinking, and be able to hone in on specific and salient political issues. If given adequate institutional backing in the form of academic and other intellectual work, it is hoped that understanding diversity within diversity will mean that the differentiated voices of cultural communities will become more substantive rather than remaining the general 'Other', will become more engaged in cross-cultural dialogues and will also become more powerful on their own terms.
Keywords: Non-Western political thought, Intra-cultural diversity, Spokespersonship
Dr Eva-Maria Nag
Visiting Lecturer, Department of Government, London School of Economics and Political Science