Legal Values: Multiculturalism and Intra-Group Vulnerability

Quick Info
(3593G.03)  Seminar
M. Zucker, Adjunct Professor
3 credit(s)  2 hour(s);
Lectures, guest speakers, class discussions, student-led discussion questions and
presentations. Students will be expected to attend class, to have read the assigned material for class, and to come prepared to engage in class discussion.
Upper Year Research & Writing Requirement

In the last fifty years, we have witnessed a pendulum swing concerning the relationships between the liberal state, the individual, and cultural minorities. The pendulum began to move during the last three decades of the twentieth century, when assimilationist and monocultural nation-state models were contested and increasingly displaced by newer multicultural models. These new models acknowledge the recognition of cultural minority groups as a prerequisite for the ability of their members to equally enjoy their freedoms and rights. But it was not without criticism that this multicultural swing swept the Western developed world. Critical works, which are collectively known as the literature on “minorities within minorities”, have drawn attention to inequalities within cultural minority groups and the way that these groups can oppress their own internal minorities – who might be women, children, LGBTQ+ individuals, members of a lower caste, low-income individuals, and other groups of (less powerful) members. This problem of intra-group vulnerability is the focus of the seminar.
The seminar will bridge legal and theoretical materials to inform our understanding of this problem. Classroom time will focus on critically examining theoretical approaches to addressing intra-group vulnerability concerns, considering their application to actual contexts (to a range of religious, immigrant, and Indigenous communities in Canada and other multicultural societies), and identifying zones of uncertainty and disagreement. Some of the issues that will be discussed include the criminalization of polygamy and forced marriage practices, the protection of children of minority faiths, and bans on wearing Muslim head or face coverings (including the recent debate around Quebec’s Bill 21). These issues will be considered with attention to developments that mark a perceptible retreat from multicultural and diversity-accommodating agendas across the globe – indicating yet another swing in the state-individual-minority relations pendulum.