Although quite different in approach, Ghassan Hage’s book also takes to task white arrogance. Pakistanis in the British midlands, North Africans in urban France, Indo-Chinese in suburban Australia: all have felt the sting of betrayal that comes by living in what might officially be a ‘multicultural’ nation. White Nation: fantasies of white supremacy in a multicultural society is a journey through the lived, rather than the official, realities of Western multiculturalism. An anthropologist, Hage dismantles that peculiar feature of dominant white groups that so generously ‘allow’ others to co-exist with them.
His main target is the self-congratulatory smugness of the white middle-class, inner-city dwelling liberals who see migrants as little more than a range of interesting cuisine. Hage introduces some helpful terms, such as ‘ethnic caging’ and ‘national will’, and teases out the discourses of ‘enrichment’ as well as the colonial art of collecting ‘otherness’. He believes whiteness has more to do with state of mind than with race. Thus migrants can ‘accumulate’ whiteness.
The energy in this book shows that Hage remains positive. The reactionary ‘worriers’ who express endless concern about migrant levels or origins, says Hage, represent merely the ‘last resort of the weak’. There is the usual call for radical change – in particular to de-whiten the police, courts and media. What is less usual is the tone of the work: uncompromisingly passionate and full of hope.*George Fisher*