This course engages a broad range of issues concerning the politics of multiculturalism and explores diverse political-theoretical perspectives on these issues. We begin by exploring key questions and texts from the vibrant and influential 1990s debate in normative political theory about multiculturalism, group rights, identity politics and liberal principles. Thus, we ask, for example: in a culturally pluralistic society, what rights, if any, should groups or individuals have to preserve their cultures against forces of change, especially if they are immigrants or indigenous people? When groups and individuals seek what philosophers call ‘recognition’ for their distinctive ways of life from others, and from the state, what political or ethical obligations for providing recognition should other groups or the state assume in response? Does the pursuit of ‘identity politics’ conflict or cohere with efforts to advance socioeconomic justice in capitalist societies? Do human beings need strong attachments to particular cultures, or are cosmopolitans right to argue that we should embrace cultural flux and hybrid identities? What does it mean to advocate these cosmopolitan values, and to seek mutual understanding, in a world burdened with deep histories of cultural, economic and political imperialism?

In the second part of the course, we look at critical theorists’ accounts of a series of cultural movements, intertwined with the politics of race, class, gender and sexuality, to consider how cultural politics might either detract from or invigorate efforts to fight social domination. We examine British working-class youth subcultures in the 1970s, the Chicano and Puerto Rican movements in the US in the 1960s and 1970s, Canadian indigenous movements from the 1980s through recent years, and controversies concerning religious images and Muslims in Europe. We end by contemplating the role of violence in shaping identity and a sense of 'home' in Israel-Palestine. With the help of these methodologically innovative texts, we reflect on varying approaches to what ‘political theory’ means, what approaches it can involve and how it can relate to political science and other empirical forms of inquiry.