Urban indians and cultural rights: the limits of multicultural liberalism

In this article, i assess the limits of liberal multiculturalism to describe and evaluate the reality of contemporary indians. Liberal multiculturalism structures indian identity appealing to the following five categories: ancestral territory, rural territory, wild nature, atavic cultural practices, and subsistence economy. This way of understanding indian identity, moreover, is the basis to justify who is entitled to the cultural rights that are compatible with liberalism. However, this description of indian identity collides with the reality of a great number of contemporary indians. The life of an important part of these individuals and groups is closely linked to urban contexts that are outside their ancestral territories. In Mexico, for example, approximately 30% of Indians live in cities, in Canada 50%, and in Australia 75% do so. Today, 61% of u.s. indians and 21% of Colombian Indians live in urban areas. Contemporary indians are in great part urban indians that are part of the market economy. Yet, multicultural liberalism, its descriptive and normative categories, does not have the capacity to recognize and accommodate them properly to the polity.

Multiculturalism; Liberalism; Indians; Identity

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