Cultural Difference or Cultural Hegemony? Contextualizing the Danish Cartoon Controversy within Migration Spaces

In: Middle East Journal of Culture and Communication
Sari Hanafi
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This article will argue that the growing polarization between what is perceived as Western society and Muslim 'communities' can neither be analyzed as a clash between identities nor as a reflection of cultural differences. This polarization operates in a context of cultural hegemony, a sort of cultural logic of late capitalism, through which power and global capital are allied and where the migrants are either invisible or hyper-visible. I will take the example of the Danish cartoon episode as a controversy that reflects the cultural hegemony and power structure deployed against undesirable groups such as migrants living in Europe. Yet, to recall Antonio Gramsci, it is in this moment of crisis where migrants' agency will be in position to destabilize the hegemonic forces because migrants are not merely victims – they hold a responsibility toward their situation. After contextualizing this controversy within the migration space, I will argue that the controversy does not concern censorship and freedom of expression. It is a question of how one can define universalism. This has implications for how multiculturalism is perceived; this article argues that issues of multiculturalism and geopolitics cannot be detached from one another.

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