What are we talking about? Who’s ‘we’ anyway?

This is a definition that does not grant special dispensation to one way of cultural being over another, but includes them all, in all their legitimate particularity, under the care of civic process. It is a definition that avoids one of the pitfalls of past discussions of the association between equality and cultural diversity, where it can seem to the majority group that a special dispensation is being granted to any group that isn’t them; and it also sidesteps quite neatly the obverse of that special dispensation, a tendency by those granting it to succumb to the temptation to exoticise, to fetishise, to make inappropriate allowances and exhibit otherwise misguided behaviour towards minority groups - to be patronising towards them, in other words, from the moral high ground.

Matarasso’s definition, by acknowledging difference as common to all groups - this isn’t such a facile statement as it appears - forces an examination of why equality of opportunity might or might not be happening. It has the advantage of including majority groups for consideration. After all, if equality is not for everyone, what’s equal about it?

“I prefer to see cultural diversity as a measure of the variety of cultural expression within a given society, and particularly the degree of legitimacy given to different voices and values by the state itself. Instead of being a term of classification applied to certain people, groups or works, leading to the nonsense of ‘culturally diverse arts’, we can approach cultural diversity as a defining characteristic of the cultural life of communities or states. We can then consider the quality of cultural diversity, as evidenced in the variety of legitimated forms of cultural expression, in different places, societies and times.
This approach has the advantage of including all voices within the concept of diversity, including dominant ones.”
Francois Matarasso
"Getting On; Culture, Diversity and Belonging"
National Museums of Scotland, January 2003

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