|London School of Economics and Political Science (United Kingdom)
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This thesis has four separate but connected areas of interest: multiculturalism, autonomy, equality and feminism. These are brought together by considering an important critique of multiculturalism: that of the paradox of multicultural vulnerability. The case of minorities within minorities challenges whether multiculturalism does indeed help within minority groups. One of the ways these disputes have been resolved is through the evaluation of the alleged autonomy women practice in choosing illiberal practices. Whether women (and other at risk members) are considered to be autonomous will determine whether the practice will be tolerated by liberal states or not. However, what do we mean by autonomy. In the thesis I look at three different modern conceptions of autonomy through two intervening variables: socialisation and multiple identities. Theories of autonomy have been criticised by feminists because of the reliance on the idea of atomistic selves. The notion of socialisation places autonomy within embodied experiences, but it also brings to light the issue of adaptive preferences. Intersectionality or multiple identities also highlights the plural self as variable, conflicting and contradictory - all qualities that aptly describe the realities of lived experience. In the thesis I defend a tripartite understanding of autonomy that correlates with a differential understanding of the self. Through this it might become possible to speak about autonomy without essentialising identities, whilst simultaneously being sensitive about inequality.