Celebrating Multiculturalism: Multicultural Fairs and the Art of Consumption

Tuesday, July 15, 2014: 6:30 PM
Room: 313+314
Oral Presentation
Mónica IBANEZ ANGULO , Sociology, Universidad de Burgos, Burgos, Spain
In countries like Spain where transnational immigration is a relatively new phenomenon, it is not uncommon the celebration of multicultural fairs and events sought to represent the cultural diversity brought by transnational immigrants.  Yet, as I will show, those fairs are not so much a celebration of cultural diversity but a reification of culture and of cultural production.  In this paper I will pay attention to three interrelated set of issues: first, I will analyze the (institutional) discourse behind the organization of such fairs as well as the processes through which only certain cultures are invited to participate; as I will show, the choice of cultures invited to participate reproduce the idea of otherness and alterity of immigrants in so far as the ‘exotic’ element (food, music, dance) seems to be a decisive aspect in defining who will and who will not participate.  Second, I will examine the extent to which these fairs are organized around consumption and how the reduction of culture to a set of market commodities further contributes to reproduce the image of alterity and otherness in so far as these commodities are not integrated within the contexts where they are produced; and third, I will explore how and to what extent the fact that these fairs are organized in terms of ‘national’ cultures contributes to homogeneize and to erase the cultural diversity within each nation-state reproducing the 19th century ideal of (culturally) homogeneous nation-states.  As I will show, the way in which these fairs are organized emphasize the processes of exotization, commoditisation and homogenization of the cultural productions of immigrants to the expense of issues of citizenship and of immigrants’ rights contribute to reinforce the social imaginary that regards cultural production as an impediment to full citizenship instead of viewing culture as the vehicle through which citizenship is constructed.