Critical literature has questioned British state-sponsored multiculturalism's capacity to confront racism and facilitate cross-community alliances; instead, multiculturalism is perceived to constitute groups in ethnically defined communities and essentialist cultures. Exploring two ethnographic examples — an Irish arts centre and St Patrick's Day — this article considers attempts by the London-Irish to make Irishness inclusive and to create cross-community alliances under government-sponsored `multicultural' initiatives. Invoking Bateson's `doublebind', I argue multiculturalism is characterized by a paradoxical injunction that curbs the possibility for `ethnic minorities' to withdraw from their circumscribed status. On the one hand, groups such as the Irish are often encouraged, within multiculturalism, to make their cultures inclusive in order to contribute towards a celebration of `cosmopolitan' diversity; on the other, it is explicitly forbidden to threaten their particularism; to do so would threaten their claim to resources as a distinctive group.
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