The concept of minority for the study of culture

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Journal Article
Continuum, 2017, 31 (1), pp. 92 - 103
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© 2017 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group. Critical tools are needed for navigating the concept of minority and its usefulness for the study of culture. This article reflects on the cultural and political purposes that are served when distinguishing between majorities and minorities, and the various historical and intellectual agendas that have shaped these social practices of classification. It begins by examining Deleuze and Guattari’s concept of ‘minor literature’ as an anti-sociological reworking of minor and minority, then turns its attention toward the policy-driven sociological traditions of the Chicago School, and how this has informed the contemporary construction of ‘minorities’ reflected in Australian immigration debates. As a third key paradigm in the study of the ‘minor’, the article revisits cultural studies’ own embrace of the Popular as a site for political struggles over the meanings attached to ‘major’ and ‘minor’ social identities. Finally, we consider the range of transformative cultural practices addressed in this Minor Culture special issue, and reflect on the utility of the minor in holding together disparate political projects. There are a range of ways in which the minor might productively imagine or construct collective identities, in ways that do not anticipate, or even desire, majoritarian endings. It is argued that minoritised social categories do substantive political and cultural work, while acknowledging that numerical descriptions of minorities can hide as much as they reveal.
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