Race, class, and interculturality: Insights from qualitative longitudinal research

Year: 2018

Author: Mahoney, Caroline

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

In this paper I explore how the analytic affordances of a longitudinal approach contribute to our understanding of processes of interculturality. While qualitative longitudinal research has contributed significantly to knowledge of young people’s subjectivities and life trajectories, its potential for enhancing studies of interculturality remains underutilised. In this paper, I consider interculturality to mean ways of thinking about and interacting with other people in respectful and equitable ways, while also being aware of one’s own cultural background and positionality as well as the power relations inherent within all encounters.
The paper draws on interviews with Kylie (a pseudonym), conducted annually for three years between the ages of 13 and 15, as part of a larger study of young women and interculturality. While she does not come from a particularly wealthy family, Kylie attends an elite girls’ school in a well-established, affluent suburb of Melbourne. Drawing from conceptual debates encompassing globalisation, social advantage, family histories, and everyday racism, I demonstrate how intersections of privilege, class histories, mobility and gender shape Kylie’s constructions of difference and otherness.
My argument traverses Kylie’s experiences of diversity in her local environment, migration and travel histories to show the effects of constructs of difference, feelings of cultural superiority and the problematic nature of charity towards others deemed to be ‘less fortunate’. The paper foregrounds and demonstrates the analytic purchase of a longitudinal approach and attention to temporal processes and discusses how different histories and experiences come together over time to shape Kylie’s thinking about diversity and others.
This paper contributes to knowledge of how forms of interculturality are constructed, contested, engaged with and shaped over time. It shows the need for and value of understanding interculturality not as an abstracted ideal but as a lived, daily practice.