Accepted Paper:

Negotiating the threshold of difference: multiculturalism and other national things in Latvia  
Dace Dzenovska (University of Oxford)

Paper short abstract:

In this paper I will consider how, shaped by the hegemonic Latvian self-narrative as one of historical and ongoing colonisation, discourses and practices of multiculturalism in Latvia delineate between acceptable cultural diversity and threatening difference.

Paper long abstract:

Fifteen years after disintegration of the Soviet Union, the hegemonic Latvian self-narrative is one of historical and ongoing colonization. The Soviet past and the European present together render Latvian sovereignty a continuously deferred presence which incites discourses of threat and generates practices of policing borders of self and the territory.* At the same time, the post-Soviet and European present in Latvia is characterized by discourses and practices of multiculturalism. Yet, this historically and geographically specific multiculturalism is not necessarily a counterdiscourse to the hegemonic Latvian self-narrative, but rather a set of technologies for managing and disciplining difference.

On the basis of ethnographic research, I will look at how discourses and practices of multiculturalism in Latvia simultaneously expand and narrow understandings of difference. I will suggest that the current practices of multiculturalism delineate acceptable cultural diversity from threatening difference, as well as draw lines between "our", or Latvian, multiculturalism from "their", or European, multiculturalism.

Through the ethnographic, I will consider whether perhaps in conditions where sovereignty, as Etienne Balibar suggests, is distributed within the population rather than concentrated in the realm of the political, the demise of the nation-state sovereignty and the increasingly rigid immigration and integration policies point to a substantive reconfiguration of the notion of sovereignty rather than to a contradiction. I will invite consideration of the challenges anthropologists face in recognizing culture as both a folk category subject to critical scrutiny and an analytical category that some continue to find useful for critical engagements with politics of difference.

* The notion of "deferred presence" is borrowed from Ssorin-Chaikov, Nikolai. 2003. The Social Life of the State in Subarctic Siberia. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, p. 4.

Panel W014
Anthropology and the politics of multiculturalism (a friendly merger of W014 & W030)