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Title: Between universalism and diversity : contradictions of local cultural policy in Tower Hamlets and Oldham
Author: Mirza, Munira
ISNI:       0000 0004 2674 4753
Awarding Body: University of Kent
Current Institution: University of Kent
Date of Award: 2009
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In the past two decades, there has been a substantial growth in the importance of cultural policy in the UK. This is most clearly manifest in the increased rhetoric and resources devoted to culture at local government level. Cultural policy is presumed to confer a number of benefits for individuals and communities, addressing issues of urban regeneration, social inclusion, community cohesion and well-being. Social and economic problems are also increasingly discussed in terms of their cultural dimension, especially in relation to 'identity' and 'community'. This thesis argues that there is a tendency in academic literature to understand this 'turn to culture' in terms of economic, profit-seeking motivations. As a result, there is less critical attention paid to other rationales, more specifically a shift in political discourse towards a therapeutic, identity-oriented understanding of subjectivity. One aspect of this is how local government has adopted an understanding of culture as something that can promote the principle of 'diversity', as opposed to the universalist orientation of traditional liberal-humanist cultural policy. This study investigates the development and implementation of cultural strategies in two local authorities: the London Borough of Tower Hamlets and Oldham Metropolitan Borough. The case studies reveal variations in how and why cultural policy develops according to local social, institutional and economic expectations. However, I also demonstrate the persistence of certain contradictions in approach, which arise out of the application of 'diversity' in practice. Ultimately, a major tension exists between the universalist and identity-based approaches to culture and this creates problems in dealing with questions of cultural authority, community engagement and identity. To conclude, there are severe limitations in using cultural policy in this way to achieve a range of social and political objectives.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: H Social Sciences