Dr Tim Soutphommasane wins NSW Premier's Literary Award
22 May, 2013
Dr Tim Soutphommasane has been awarded the prestigious NSW Premier's Literary Award (Community Relations Commission Award) for his book on multi-culturalism in Australia, Don't Go Back to Where You Came From.
European governments are declaring multiculturalism a failure, with many conservatives in Australia hastening to agree. But is a multicultural approach to integration and diversity really as destructive as critics say? Have we been too quick to declare its demise? Offering an unflinching and informed defence of cultural diversity, Soutphommasane shows that multiculturalism is more than laksa, kebabs or souvlaki and that it doesn’t automatically spell cultural relativism, ethnic ghettos or reverse racism. In fact, multicultural Australia has been a national success story.
Tim Soutphommasane’s Don’t Go Back to Where You Came From is a timely and vital intervention in the discussion around multiculturalism in Australia. It makes no apology for its agenda; it is, as the introduction announces, ‘a defence of multiculturalism grounded in liberal political philosophy’. An Asian Australian academic who has become an erudite social and political commentator, Soutphommasane is amply qualified for the task. He shuns the scholarly treatise and, though impassioned about the vitality of Australian multiculturalismHis voice is lively but composed and lucid as he gives a comprehensive tour through his subject and mounts a compelling case for cultural diversity. He doesn’t gloss over difficult issues like migrants’ civil responsibilities, their right to retain their culture, or the conflict between liberalism and patriotism, but navigates them with panache and wisdom.
In positioning Australian multiculturalism in the regional and global contexts, Soutphommasane not only showcases Australia as ‘an international exemplar’ but also reveals how transnational flows of people and ideas are rapidly changing what multiculturalism means. Don’t Go Back to Where You Came From is much more than a handbook to Australian multiculturalism. It is an honest, balanced enquiry, an engaged and enlightened survey of multiculturalism in practice.
In a time when multiculturalism is being put on trial in Europe, Soutphommasane creates a compelling case in its defence, a cogent argument for civic involvement in its continuing narrative. It is a book that will make those who embrace cultural plurality passively think deeply about the complexities and challenges of inter-ethnic and cross-cultural exchange, and persuade the sceptics and critics to take a second look. It is a must-read for all and merits a place in the school curriculum.