Australian multiculturalism and political theory Balancing rights and responsibilities in a diverse society

The workshop is being held to initiate consideration of two understudied questions in the area of political theory and multiculturalism: (1) how current arguments and concerns about multiculturalism in political theory bear upon, or might be brought to bear upon, Australian multicultural policy, and (2) how the Australian case might contribute to political thought on multiculturalism more generally.

Multiculturalism has been one of the dominant themes of research and reflection in political theory over the last decade. Among other issues, attention has focused on how multiculturalism relates to liberal principles of individual autonomy, toleration, equality, and justice; where, and on what basis, the limits of liberal toleration should be drawn; and the implications of multiculturalism for current and emerging conceptions of citizenship. For the most part, these debates have been conducted at a fairly abstract level or else have been informed by, or applied to, the Canadian, American and, increasingly, the European contexts. Political theorists (including Australian political theorists) have devoted scant attention to Australia’s national policy of multiculturalism (in contrast to their recent attention on indigenous rights). The scholarly literature on Australian multiculturalism has tended rather to come from cultural studies and the empirical social sciences.

The workshop seeks to redress this lacuna. The immediate goal is to bring together a group of political theorists and other scholars to critically examine for the first time Australian multicultural policy from the perspective of the concerns and arguments developed in multicultural political theory.

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