Multiculturalism and Culture as a Technique of Whiteness

Deirdre Howard-Wagner*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


In the foreword to Joe Kinchenloe’s book White Reign, Michael Apple argues that we need to observe how whiteness as a culture generates norms and ways of thinking about culture itself, an argument Frankenberg also made in her seminal text the Social Construction of Whiteness. It is through this lens that this chapter explores the bearing of whiteness on the construction of a normative culture and cultural identities in Australian federal multicultural policy during the Howard era (1996-2007) and how such cultural imaginaries disseminated down to the level of practise in terms of shaping a local cultural ecosystem in Newcastle, Australia. This chapter explores how whiteness is discursively privileged through the containment of cultural life, at the federal and a local level, within the parameters of mainstream Australian values. It begins by examining the discursive shift and construction of multiculturalism and cultural diversity during the Howard years. It then draws on extracts from policy and media statements that evidence the shift in meaning of culture, cultural diversity and multiculturalism around this time, demonstrating how multiculturalism now operated as a discursive site for the governing of populations and in its earlier form by contrast, aimed to endow citizens with specific nationalised attributes. It ends by exploring the performativity of whiteness in shaping celebrations of multiculturalism and cultural diversity at festivals in Newcastle, drawing on ethnographic research to explore how such representations at the federal level affected a local shift in representations of culture and cultural diversity. In doing so, it explores how cultural festivals operate as a means of controlling and ordering cultural spaces as white spaces.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationOn Whiteness
Number of pages10
ISBN (Electronic)9781848881051
ISBN (Print)9789004404021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2020
Externally publishedYes


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