“White Diversity”: Paradoxes of Deracializing Antidiscrimination
2. A Diversity Turn in Academia?
2.1. Superdiversity and Twenty-First Century Global Migrations
[The first factor is the] rapid differentiation which has been taking place amongst the so-called ethnic minorities, undermining the tired notion of an undifferentiated block of ‘ethnic minority’ people, homogenously characterised by their ‘otherness’ (Them), versus an equally homogeneous white ‘majority’ (Us) […] These fundamentally binary terms in which British race relations have been mapped have essentially collapsed.
Britain can now be characterized by ‘super-diversity,’ a notion intended to underline a level and kind of complexity surpassing anything the country has previously experienced. Such a condition is distinguished by a dynamic interplay of variables among an increased number of new, small and scattered, multiple-origin, transnationally connected, socio-economically differentiated and legally stratified immigrants who have arrived over the last decade.
2.2. (Super)diversity and Post-Multiculturalism
2.3. Superdiversity and Intersectionality
The mutations of intersectionality and its depoliticizing rest not merely on the economic logics of neoliberalism, but also on its cultural logics, particularly the ability of neoliberalism to speak a complex language of diversity.(2013, p. 408)
Post-feminism positively draws on and invokes feminism as that which can be taken into account, to suggest that equality is achieved, in order to install a whole repertoire of new meanings which emphasize that it is no longer needed, it is a spent force.
3. Diversity Policies: Education, Immigration, Corporations
3.1. Diversity as Liberal Meritocracy
3.2. Diversity as Immigration Governmentality
[These new meanings of tolerance] include the legitimation of a new form of imperial state action in the twenty-first century, a legitimation tethered to a constructed opposition between a cosmopolitan West and its putatively fundamentalist Other. Tolerance thus emerges as part of a civilizational discourse that identifies both tolerance and the tolerable with the West, marking nonliberal societies and practices as candidates for an intolerable barbarism.(ibid, p. 6)
3.3. Corporate Diversity at the Risk of Its Ideological Reversal
In the disciplines, one started from a norm, and it was in relation to the training (dressage) carried out in reference to the norm that the normal could be distinguished from the abnormal […] The normal being precisely that which can conform to the norm (ibid., p. 62) Here, instead, we have a plotting of the normal and the abnormal, of different curves of normality, and the operation of normalization consists in establishing an interplay between these different distributions of normality and [in] acting to bring the most unfavourable in line with those that are more favourable […] The normal comes first and the norm is deduced from it.(ibid., p. 63)
There is and should not fail to be a fundamental relationship between the norm and the law, and that every system of law is related to a system of norms […] but this normativity intrinsic to the law should not be confused with normalization […] Techniques of normalization develop from and below a system of law, in its margins and maybe even against the law.(ibid., p. 57)
Conflicts of Interest
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Regents of the University of California v. Bakke (1978). Considered as the founding act of diversity policies, the Bakke case also laid the foundation for a productive vision of diversity that “benefits all”, and of race as a “plus-factor”.
However, this outlook does not have the ambition of being exhaustive. Many other disciplinary applications could be mentioned, ranging from microeconomics to biology (with the notion of biodiversity, for example) or geography and linguistics, around work on multilingualism. Here, I focus on those that, in the field of social sciences, most directly address issues of citizenship and inequality. For more on this point, see also Doytcheva (2017).
Such as “recognition”, “multiculturalism”, “intersectionality”, to mention a few.
Rather than a sociological specificity—an issue that should not be dismissed but remains outside the scope of this article—I stress here an intellectual and scholarly environment that might have emerged as conducive to the institutionalization of the superdiversity framework; despite or because of the rather “global” proper objectives of the latter from the start. In addition, the important UK scholarship on theories and practices of multiculturalism—although partly skeptical, see Meer and Modood in this section—has offered another important asset for the scholarly reception and acclimatization of these new ideas and debates.
Following the definition by James, “This notion of multiculture is conditioned by, but not fixed to, national boundaries and racialised kinship groups. It attends to the global flows of culture and people that have connected the social life of Newham to the rest of the world. This is multiculture in the context of diaspora […] It attends to the performance and citation of diasporic flows in specific locations. It is concerned with how young people’s performance of culture today is different from, but related to, what came before” (James 2015, p. 18).
It should be noted, however, how this position disregards the work carried out on ethnicity and categorical distinctions from a relational and subjectivist perspective that draws upon the pioneering work by Fredrik Barth (1969) and the important developments it generated on both sides of the Atlantic (Poutignat et al. 2008). For other relational approaches to categorical inequalities, elaborating in particular on Charles Tilly’s work—see Castañeda (2017, chp. 1).
In U.S. scholarship, in addition to Walzer’s reflection on “dispersed diversity”, the notion of “diversification of diversity”, in its positive acceptance, is to be found notably in Hollinger’s (1995) work, although with far fewer ramifications. According to Vertovec (2019) himself, the U.S. forms an exception in the global dynamic of diffusion and enthusiastic reception of the superdiversity concept, which he mainly associates with a stronger “institutionalization” of inter-racial relations.
See in particular the statements of Nicolas Sarkozy in France: http://www.liberation.fr/france/2011/02/11/sarkozy-estime-que-le-multiculturalisme-est-un-echec_714298; Angela Merkel in Germany: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2010/oct/17/angela-merkel-germany-multiculturalism-failures; David Cameron in Great Britain: https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/pms-speech-at-munich-security-conference (accessed on 30 October 2018).
“Some people believe that the very distinction between permanent and temporary migration is breaking down and that we will soon be living in a world of “superdiversity” with a multitude of legal statuses that are neither wholly temporary nor wholly permanent, but rather have varying degrees and levels of conditionality and precariousness (…) I am far from sure that such a world is desirable. I am even less sure what would be the source of solidarity in such a world of liquid mobility”. (ibid.)
This includes a comprehensive dataset of more than 80 in-depth sociological interviews (N = 86) conducted with public officials, political and civil society leaders and organizations, professional associations, activist networks; backed with ethnographic work and biographical accounts by minority students and job candidates mentored through diversity schemes.
Considered as the founding act of diversity policies, U.S. Supreme Court Bakke decision (1978) has been also foundational for a productive and instrumental vision of differences that “benefit all”, as well as of race as a “plus-factor”. This perspective since is upheld in Grutter v. Bollinger (2003).
As it has been also recently the case in France with the report by France Stratégie (2016), a public agency under the authority of the Prime Minister, which has been charged to assess “the economic cost of discrimination”: http://www.strategie.gouv.fr/publications/cout-economique-discriminations (accessed on 15 October 2019). See also upstream the survey carried out by the Think-Tank Different with public funding: Virginie Martin, Marie-Cécile Naves. 2015. Talents gâchés [Spoiled talents]. Editions de l’Aube: 2015.
Sigal Alon, “How Diversity Destroyed Affirmative Action”, The Nation, 16 December 2016. The column follows the debates around Fisher v. University of Texas, which goes back to the Supreme Court for the second time in three years to establish the constitutionality of diversity policies in university admissions. As reflected in debates relayed by the press on this occasion: “If diversity is the only justification for affirmative action programs at university, what is the justification for diversity?” The latter seems to have changed considerably since the Bakke’s Supreme Court decision in 1978, considered as the founding act of these policies (Alon 2016).
Although the debate sparked in France as early as the beginning of the 1990s: see the special issue by the journal Mots, “Without distinction of ... race”, no. 33, December 1992.
On the language of “gender equality” and “sexual democracy” as a means of Western immigration and integration governmentality (Fassin 2010).
Part of an “anniversary issue”, intended to place “classical papers in context”.
The most blatant example here is provided by fieldwork with a call centre (Doytcheva 2018b). While employers in the sector use the argument of “some kind of tolerance” (e.g., towards the wearing of the veil) as an employees’ retention scheme within a tight job market, at the same time, they have the usual practice of asking employees to change names—from Fatima to Marie—so as not to shock “clients’ sensibilities”. See also, Léa Balage, “La fin des discriminations au travail, c’est pour quand?” [When will the end of discrimination at work be achieved?], https://blogs.mediapart.fr/edition/les-invites-de-mediapart/article/170516/la-fin-des-discriminations-au-travail-c-est-pour-quand (accessed on 15 October 2019).
This increase is also manifest at the EU level. From six categories initially provided for in Article 13 of the 1997 Treaty of Amsterdam, which is the founding act of EU legal and policy framework against discrimination (i.e. “racial or ethnic origin, religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation”), the protected classes rose to 17 only a few years later in the 2000 EU Charter of Fundamental Rights.
Exploring the procedures of their justification, I have shown three main rationales used by companies to selectively categorise diversity: a tactical reasoning, first, predicated on the “most numerous” categories (e.g. sex and age), which are expected to “trigger” the diversity action plans; a participatory approach, second, based on democratic legitimacy and, according to which, since these commitments are voluntary they should “speak to the employees”, perhaps even “touch their heartstrings” (which benefits disability); finally, expertise, which is often self-expertise (based on brainstorming, internal polls), and actually allows for the dismissal of racism, commonly construed as a matter of “lower priority”, or which needs to be “pushed” and ultimately “should follow”.
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Doytcheva, M. “White Diversity”: Paradoxes of Deracializing Antidiscrimination. Soc. Sci. 2020, 9, 50. https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci9040050
Doytcheva M. “White Diversity”: Paradoxes of Deracializing Antidiscrimination. Social Sciences. 2020; 9(4):50. https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci9040050Chicago/Turabian Style
Doytcheva, Milena. 2020. "“White Diversity”: Paradoxes of Deracializing Antidiscrimination" Social Sciences 9, no. 4: 50. https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci9040050