The majority-minority discourse in Canada doesn’t seem to differ from the discourse here in Norway “Anglo culture is dominant and taken for granted; minority cultures are automatically ‘different’", Yasmin Jiwani writes in the Vancouver Sun. There, recent media attention focusing on the murders of women from the South Asian-Canadian community has invoked a now-familiar refrain – “it’s the culture.”
But as Jiwani - associate professor in the department of communication studies at Concordia University in Montreal - stresses:
The interpretation of culture favoured by proponents of this view tends to dilute the complexity of the issues and presents a static, monolithic view of culture. Cultures are dynamic, as any self-respecting anthropologist will tell you.
If we embrace the culturalist argument, we are adhering to a view that cultural groups are static relics isolated from the mainstream. More than this, we are positing that individuals within a particular cultural formation represent the entirety of that culture.
If this were indeed true, we would have to agree that someone like Willy Pickton, an alleged mass murderer, is representative of the dominant Anglo culture. Further, whatever crimes Pickton has been charged with, it follows that such crimes are endemic to and reflective of his whole culture. There are some who would agree with this viewpoint.
That aside, the Anglo culture is a dominant culture – its norms are often taken for granted and normalized, whereas minority cultures such as South Asian come under heavy scrutiny and their practices are often highlighted as markers of cultural difference, separating these groups from the mainstream.
For instance, each time a woman from an Anglo background is murdered, do we have reporters dwelling on her cultural background? We don’t, for example, get lengthy descriptions regaling the cultural facets of the burial, the wedding, or how they met despite or in spite of the fact that all of these practices and actions are undoubtedly culturally grounded.
These descriptions, if they are mentioned, are not culturalized but rather normalized as the dominant ways of doing things. Even which culture is categorized as a “culture” depends on who is doing the defining, the classifying and for what purpose.
The lesson in this is that if the cultural group you are critiquing is powerful, chances are your critique will be silenced. If however, the cultural group you are slamming or stereotyping is not so powerful, then there is little likelihood of the critique being challenged with the same force and with the same alliances from powerful political elites.