Belonging and the uses of difference: Young people in Australian urban multiculture

Youth Research Centre Seminar Series 2016

Professor Anita Harris, Alfred Deakin Institute for Citizenship and Globalisation, Deakin University.

Facilitated by Dr Jessica Gerrard, Melbourne Graduate School of Education.

This seminar will examine how young Australians of migrant background make meaning of cultural, ethnic and racial difference to work out belonging in times of ‘super’- or ‘hyper’-diversity (Vertovec, 2007; Noble, 2011). It asks what functions difference might still have for a generation growing up within an environment of proliferating and diversifying diversity which accommodates (and even demands) multiple and fluid constructions of cultural identities. Australian multiculturalism has supported hybridity and cosmopolitanism, with youth at the forefront of these processes. Under these conditions, we might expect that difference would cease to matter very much to young people. However, young people’s negotiation of everyday life in Australia’s diverse cities suggests that difference is still produced and operationalised, sometimes in exclusionary ways, even while cultural fluidity and openness are practiced. This paper explores how and why difference continues to be made meaningful by young people who themselves exemplify the breakdown of old categories and boundaries, and are at the frontline of living diversity in their multicultural neighbourhoods. It suggests that young people’s narratives and practices of difference depend on the space of belonging, and explores how its articulation and deployment occur differently in the contexts of local civic life, the national imaginary and youth culture.


Dr Anita Harris

Anita Harris is a research professor in the Alfred Deakin Institute for Citizenship and Globalisation, Deakin University. She researches in the area of youth identities, cultures and citizenship in changing times. She is the author/editor of several books in youth studies and girls’ studies, including Young People and Everyday Multiculturalism (2013), Next Wave Cultures: Feminism, Subcultures, Activism (ed) (2008), Future Girl (2004), and All About the Girl (ed) (2004) (all Routledge, New York). This seminar draws on her Australian Research Council Future Fellowship project ‘Young People and Social Inclusion in the Multicultural City’, which investigates young people’s intercultural relations and civic engagement in multicultural neighbourhoods across Australia.