What's the difference? Visual representations of Multiculturalism
© Werner Hammerstingl, 1998

Many of us have already entered a world where the traditional ideas of what is constituted by "self" have all but eroded.
Questions of gender, age, appearance etc. have little place in the virtual world in which more and more individuals are spending more and more time.
But in our physical world obvious individual differences distinguish us; differences which include ethnicity and race alongside the elements that signify age, social status, positioning within gender and sexuality structures etc. continue to play a large and problematic role in the social exchanges within our society.
Beyond these often very visible differences are others such as social and religious believes and of course physical and mental abilities and dis-abilities.
As you can see, I have used a rather wide and embracive interpretation of multiculturalism. The term "multiculturalism" has been used for many diverse purposes over it's rather short (just over 50 years) history.
In fact a deconstruction of what the word implies seems to steer us to a reading or interpretation focused more strongly on a cultural diversity based on education, morality, taste belief and value and less on race, gender, sexual orientation, physical and mental ability.
But the term multi-culturalism has had to become a very large coat indeed, in second world countries such as the Americas and, Canada and Australia, to cover the dual effect of migration and ethnic populations as well as all the other groupings usually umbrella'd by "multiculturalism".


Australia is presently undergoing a process of self-examination about it's stance on multi-culturalism. A situation brought into sudden sharp focus by issues related to the aboriginal/white relationship(s) such as Wik, the "stolen generation", Pauline Hansons comments in and out of Parliament.
In this lecture we will examine the visual representation, primarily via photographic depiction, of Aborigines-first by white photographers and finally by other aboriginals.

We will also discuss ( cognizant of it's present "flavor of the month" status) the visual representation of migrants in Australia. This area of representation has, just like the example of aboriginal depiction above, also shifted from external models and actions of representation to one of self-representation. I am going to rely on verbal models to describe images in this category(so that we can examine the underlying codes of such communication). 

But the survey of examples will also map a wider field including:

To demonstrate that concerned photographers, ususally from within the specific subculture, can remove some of the stereotype imposed by the "sanctioned" photographer who simply attempts to re-state the systems view of a social stereotype or ,worse, milk the subculture and it's signification for personal gain (i.e. Benetton)

In this era when "mass media" controls public consciousness, we have become aware of the many fragments that make up the multicultural whole. What remains to be answered is: "what is the difference?".

The list of categories which make up multiculturalism is long. (Much longer than the abbreviated one given below)

Terms of reference for this discussion of multiculturalism
(I used the Merriam Websters dictionary on the Internet)

Main Entry: mul-ti-cul-tur-al
Pronunciation: "m&l-tE-'k&lch-r&l, -"tI-, -'k&l-ch&-
Function: adjective
Date: 1941 : of, relating to, reflecting, or adapted to diverse cultures <a multicultural society> <multicultural education> <a multicultural menu>
- mul-ti-cul-tur-al-ism /-r&-"li-z&m/ noun

Obviously the word multiculturalism has had such a brief historical presence that we can gain added insights into it's meaning by looking at culture and multi:
Main Entry: 1cul-ture
Pronunciation: 'k&l-ch&r
Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English, from Middle French, from Latin cultura, from cultus, past participle
Date: 15th century
cultura : cultivation
2 : the act of developing the intellectual and moral faculties especially by education
3 : expert care and training <beauty culture>
4 a : enlightenment and excellence of taste acquired by intellectual and aesthetic training b : acquaintance with and
taste in fine arts, humanities, and broad aspects of science as distinguished from vocational and technical skills
5 a : the integrated pattern of human knowledge, belief, and behavior that depends upon man's capacity for
learning and transmitting knowledge to succeeding generations b : the customary beliefs, social forms, and
material traits of a racial, religious, or social group c : the set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that
characterizes a company or corporation
6 : cultivation of living material in prepared nutrient media; also : a product of such cultivation

Main Entry: 2culture
Function: transitive verb
Inflected Form(s): cul-tured; cul-tur-ing /'k&lch-ri[ng], 'k&l-ch&-/
Date: 1510
2 a : to grow in a prepared medium b : to start a culture from
The opposite to "multi" is of-course "mono".
Mono-cultures still exist for example: isolated tribal cultures.

Main Entry: di-verse
Pronunciation: dI-'v&rs, d&-', 'dI-"
Function: adjective
Etymology: Middle English divers, diverse, from Old French & Latin; Old French divers, from Latin
diversus, from past participle of divertere
Date: 14th century
1 : differing from one another : UNLIKE
2 : composed of distinct or unlike elements or qualities
synonym see DIFFERENT
- di·verse·ly adverb
- di·verse·ness noun

List of groups and interests serviced by the concept of "multiculturalism"

Ownership and capital culture Alternative culture Sexual culture Reactionary culture Religious culture Culture of gender Culture of disease Culture of race
As the listing above demonstrates, many, and often unlikely components make up the multicultural machine.
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