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Neoliberal Multiculturalism and Productive Inclusion: Beyond the Politics of Fulfillment in Education

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While political theorists have elaborated on the phenomenon of neoliberal multiculturalism, many progressive educational scholars have yet to adequately theorize this nexus. Neoliberalism either remains unproblematized or, in some instances, it is
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  Full Terms & Conditions of access and use can be found athttps://www.tandfonline.com/action/journalInformation?journalCode=tedp20  Journal of Education Policy ISSN: 0268-0939 (Print) 1464-5106 (Online) Journal homepage: https://www.tandfonline.com/loi/tedp20 Neoliberal multiculturalism and productiveinclusion: beyond the politics of fulfillment ineducation Gregory Bourassa To cite this article:  Gregory Bourassa (2019): Neoliberal multiculturalism and productiveinclusion: beyond the politics of fulfillment in education, Journal of Education Policy, DOI:10.1080/02680939.2019.1676472 To link to this article: https://doi.org/10.1080/02680939.2019.1676472 Published online: 15 Oct 2019.Submit your article to this journal View related articles View Crossmark data  Neoliberal multiculturalism and productive inclusion: beyondthe politics of ful 󿬁 llment in education Gregory Bourassa College of Education, University of Northern Iowa, Cedar Falls, IA, USA ABSTRACT While political theorists have elaborated on the phenomenon of neoliberal multiculturalism, many progressive educational scholarshave yet to adequately theorize this nexus. Neoliberalism eitherremains unproblematized or, in some instances, it is imagined asa tendency that is antithetical to and incompatible with multicultur-alism. This essay contributes to a  critical inclusion studies of education and calls attention to the ways in which mobilizations of neoliberal-ism have appropriated, accommodated, and put to use the dis-courses of multiculturalism, diversity, and inclusion. By charting theparameters of neoliberal multiculturalism, the author demonstrateshow a logic of extractive schooling operates through inclusion dis-courses, and particularly a technology of   productive inclusion  thatgoverns and manages permissible forms of subjectivity, knowledge,a ff  ect, and action. Arguing that strategies of inclusion are unable tosubvert capitalism, settler colonialism, white supremacy, heteropa-triarchy,orableism,theauthorconcludeswithacallfortherevitaliza-tion of an antagonistic politics and education of trans 󿬁 guration inorder to challenge the dominant reign of a politics of ful 󿬁 llment ineducation policy, theory, and practice. ARTICLE HISTORY Received 20 February 2019Accepted 1 October 2019 KEYWORDS Education policy; exclusion;extractive schooling;inclusion; multiculturaleducation; neoliberalmulticulturalism Introduction: education and critical inclusion studies Although it has been the subject of increasing critical attention in the sphere of con-temporary theory, many educational researchers still regard inclusion as a key principlefor education policy, theory, and practice. To this latter point, Patricia Hill Collins (2009)notes that school reform, particularly in the U.S. context, has  ‘ embraced policies of  inclusion  of racial/ethnic students in public schools as an important remedy for thehistorical patterns of their  exclusion  from many social institutions ’  (85). Recounting suche ff  orts toward school desegregation, Collins arrives at a rather unsettling conclusion. ‘ Many of these strategies, ’  she suggests,  ‘ may have reached their useful limits ’  and there-fore  ‘ we may need new forms of anti-racist resistance because we confront a new form of racism, which is organized around a politics of   inclusion  rather than one of   exclusion ’ (Collins 2009, 86). This paper explores this development in the politics of western-basededucation, o ff  ering an analysis of inclusion as a technology of power, and also proposingalternative paths of struggle that are apt for this contemporary moment  –  paths that I will CONTACT  Gregory Bourassa Gregory.bourassa@uni.edu College of Education, University of Northern Iowa, 509Schindler Education Center, Cedar Falls, IA 50613, USA JOURNAL OF EDUCATION POLICYhttps://doi.org/10.1080/02680939.2019.1676472 © 2019 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group  suggest veer from the familiar routes of inclusion, and that lead beyond a politics of ful 󿬁 llment. While a politics of ful 󿬁 llment is premised upon the recognition and inclusionof those previously excluded, it largely involves assimilation to already established terms,resulting in the sedimentation of   ‘ the implicit logic of the present ’  (Benhabib 1986, 13).In an e ff  ort to register and reimagine the assumptions that underpin the widespreademphasis on inclusion in education, I follow the lead of a number of theorists who aresketching the contours of an emergent  󿬁 eld of critical inclusion studies. 1 Mezzadra andNeilson (2013) claim that there is  ‘ an urgent need to question the widespread notion thatinclusion is always an unambiguous good that facilitates a diminution of social andeconomic inequalities ’  (159). I want to suggest that crucial questions are foreclosed wheninclusion is presumed to be unequivocally bene 󿬁 cial. One such question is,  ‘ Inclusion intowhat? ’  Moreover, consideration of the terms and conditions of inclusion is crucial in whitesupremacist, settler colonial, heteropatriarchal, ableist, and capitalist contexts. Withouta critical line of inquirytroubling the practices and conditions of inclusion, understandingsof deeply entrenched relations of domination and subordination are easily glossed over,and a sense of   who  gets to include  whom  into  what   can either escape consideration or betaken-for-grantedasanormativearrangement.Infact,alackofattentiontothesedynamicsmight contribute to assumptions that inclusion is a benign and benevolent process thatbene 󿬁 ts all involved. Consequently, such assumptions can celebrate and absolve those whoseemingly make concessions to be more inclusive. This is a process that simultaneously produces  󿬁 gures of otherness and reinforces the  ‘ normate ’  subject (Garland-Thomson1997). What is important to note here is that the processes of   strangering   become institu-tionalized. As Sara Ahmed (2000) has suggested, it is both the process of   expelling   (theexclusion of the unassimilable di ff  erence of the stranger) and  welcoming   (the conditionaland partial inclusion of the assimilable di ff  erences of the stranger)  ‘ that produce the  󿬁 gureof the stranger in the  󿬁 rst place ’  (4). Not only do practices of inclusion make visible andunderscore the marginality of those who are to be included (Stiker 1999), they also concealand normalize the practices, social relations, and policy formations that invest in privilegedontologies and epistemologies at the expense of others. Thus, while inclusion is oftenimagined as a counter and remedy to violent and repressive forms of exclusion, I arguethat the two are not diametrically opposed. Instead, they should both be understood astechnologies of power that complement one another through biopolitical mechanisms of capture, control, discipline, governmentality, and management. This is in line withRoderick Ferguson ’ s (2012) suggestion that there is an  ‘ inseparability of inclusion andexclusion, ’ andwethereforemustattendto ‘ thewaysinwhichinclusionisalsoanoperationof power ’  (200). In what follows, I build on these insights and contribute to a  critical inclusion studies of education  by o ff  ering the concept of   productive inclusion . Productive inclusion  describes a number of mechanisms that operate by absorbing,coopting, channelling, extracting, and appropriating that which has previously beendeemed abject and outside  –  even antagonistic to  –  the logics of capital, and enlisting itwithin the circuits of capitalist accumulation. To better understand the concept of produc-tive inclusion, and its primary operations, I point to the shifting terrain and logics of capitalist accumulation, which are today reliant on extracting and appropriating the wealthof aggregate forms of living labor (Bourassa 2018b; Mitchell 2003). I suggest that capitalism requires our living labor, and enlists our sociality. While this has always been the case,capitalism today faces profound limitations on its ability to regenerate, prompting 2 G. BOURASSA  tendencies to mine, capture, and utilizesociality ininnovative ways (Fleming 2014). In fact,though it is in no way uniform, contemporary organizations and institutions have beenshifting from a tendency of culture management to biopolitical regulation. The formerinvolves attempts to produce an archetypal subject while the latter is predicated on theappropriation of forms of di ff  erence that are already at hand and available for capitalism.Schools are undoubtedly key sites where this extractive process unfolds (Pierce 2013).Registering the shift to biopolitical forms of regulation isalso instructive for charting subtlerecon 󿬁 gurations in the operation of social reproduction. Bowles and Gintis (2011) theo-rized how the development of social relations through school practices sustain the condi-tions of capitalism by   ‘ facilitating a smooth integration of youth into the labor force ’  (4).The biopolitical analysis o ff  ered here is slightly di ff  erent. I emphasize that productiveinclusion is a practice that itself is productive rather than one that merely sustains theconditions for future production. In other words, biopolitical regulation and practices of productive inclusion are a source of capitalist value not only because they might cultivatefuture labor but because they attempt to register every aspect of life as an immediateresource for capitalist accumulation. U.S. education policy in the wake of No Child LeftBehind has responded to this shift by emphasizing, as a matter of economic and thusnational security, the cultivation of human capital and  󿬂 exible, self-governing subjective 󿬁 gures. These new   󿬁 gures of subjectivity are not necessarily prepared for employment butemployability, which it is their responsibility to maintain through practices and skills of lifelong learning. In addition, and related to this shift to personal responsibility, themobilization of practices of productive inclusion also operate to manage and mitigatedemands for institutional change.Central to this process is how, under the pretense of diversity and multiculturalism,capitalism has managed to remain exclusive while  󿬁 nding nourishment through thelexicon of inclusion: the proliferation of diversity rhetoric in institutions (Ahmed2012), the widespread adoption of multiculturalism as state policy (Thobani 2007), the insidious rise of neoliberal multiculturalism as a form of governance (Hale 2005;Melamed 2011), and the enlisting of   ‘ diversity  ’  and  ‘ multiculturalism ’  into the framework of neoliberalism (Duggan 2003). If we follow Ahmed ’ s suggestion that inclusion be readas a technology of governance, we can better understand how policy employing therhetoric of multiculturalism and diversity inscribes, secures, and manages di ff  erencesbetween subjects. As Ahmed (2007) points out, the openness of a term like diversity  ‘ means that the work it does depends on who gets to de 󿬁 ne the term and for whom.Diversity can be de 󿬁 ned in ways that reproduce rather than challenge social privilege ’ (240). Rinaldo Walcott (2018) adds that  ‘ claims of diversity, anti-racism, equity, andsocial justice are institutional performative non-performativity in service of the statusquo ’  (89). This is evident in Sunera Thobani ’ s (2007) analysis, which demonstrates how  these terms have been central to policies and practices in Canada,  ‘ producing certainsubjects as exalted (nationals), others as marked for physical and cultural extinction orutter marginalization (Indians), and yet others for perpetual estrangement or conditionalinclusion as supplicants (Immigrants, migrants, and refugees) ’  (6).In focusing on productive inclusion, I am suggesting that these policy articulations of diversity and multiculturalism do not simply operate  ‘ as a form of repair ’  for theostensibly crumbling structures of capitalism, heteropatriarchy, settler colonialism, able-ism, and white supremacy (Ahmed 2000, 164). I want to suggest that these formulations JOURNAL OF EDUCATION POLICY 3  attempt to make inclusion productive for the maintenance and expansion of capitalismand its novel forms of valorization (Harney  2006), and they do so by preserving andoperationalizing forms of exclusion right alongside practices of partial and conditionalinclusion. By focusing on the extractive logics of productive inclusion, I attempt tohighlight the uneven distribution of di ff  erential inclusion as a practice of parsing proper(capital-enhancing) and improper (disposable) bodies, knowledge, and a ff  ects. In doingso, I also hope to make clear that both exclusion and inclusion continue to serve a vitalfunction for capitalist accumulation.If mobilizations of neoliberalism have cast multiculturalism, diversity, and inclusionin the market lexicon, presenting individuated models of inclusion  –  however partial  –  asa conduit for self-investment and a less precarious future, then there is an urgent need tounderstand the coordinates of this matrix. Interrogating the nexus of neoliberalism andmulticulturalism might better position us to challenge education policies, theories, andpractices that uncritically employ the language of inclusion, diversity, and multicultur-alism. It should prompt us to ask larger sets of questions about power, capital, epistemol-ogy, the political economy of schooling, and the very purpose and (im)potential of education. Finally, it should prompt alternative educational imaginaries and practicesthat start from a di ff  erent set of coordinates. An inquiry into the nexus of neoliberalism and multiculturalism While political theorists such as Charles Hale (2002, 2005) and Jodi Melamed (2011) have elaborated on the phenomenon of neoliberal multiculturalism, many progressive educa-tional scholars have yet to adequately theorize this nexus. Neoliberalism is a politicalproject that aims to govern all aspects of life (economic, epistemic, a ff  ective, cultural, andsocial), and attempts to re-establish conditions for capital accumulation and the restora-tion of power to economic elites (Brown 2015; Harvey  2005). And, yet, neoliberalism often remains unproblematized or is imagined as a tendency that is simply incompatiblewith and fundamentally opposed to multiculturalism and various practices, pedagogies,and approaches that have been articulated in diagonal relation to it, such as culturally relevant teaching (e.g. Sleeter 2012). 2 For instance, Janelle Scott ’ s (2012) analysis suggeststhat market reform and policy is in tension with culturally relevant pedagogies. Whilethis may be the case, such conclusions fail to interrogate the ways in which the logics of neoliberalism have pervaded  –  and may even be constitutive of   –  locations, traditions,and practices in ways that we may not be attentive to precisely because these locationsarticulate commitments to social justice (Tuck and Wayne Yang 2018). While Scottdemonstrates how reformers appropriate civil rights rhetoric, practices like culturally relevant teaching are often presented as if they are immune to neoliberal terms of order,as if they are unscathed by perverse human capital logics, and impervious to a largerpolitical economy that delineates  ‘ capital-enhancing ’  subjects and knowledge from  ‘ dis-posable ’  subjects and knowledge. In challenging such positions and inquiring into thenexus of neoliberalism and multiculturalism, I consider the implications of our currentmoment in which neoliberalism has thoroughly appropriated, accommodated, and put touse, the discourses of multiculturalism, diversity, and inclusion (Mitchell 2003). To beclear, this a ff  ects not just multicultural education but education policy, practice, andresearch that orbits within, against, and beyond it. 4 G. BOURASSA
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