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Good & Bad Diversity at the Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research

I will be speaking on ‘Good and Bad Diversity: The Crises of Multiculturalism as a Crisis of Politics’ at the AISSR as part of IMES-Podium (Institute for Migration and Ethnic Studies of the University of Amsterdam) on Friday June 21, 15h-17h (Venue)

Across the West, something called multiculturalism is in crisis. Drawing on The Crises of Multiculturalism: Racism in a Neoliberal Age, my latest book with Gavan Titley, I argue that the commonplace suggestion that we have crossed the ‘colourline’ into a post-racial world allows for the laundering of persistent racism. The idea that multiculturalism is a failed experiment foisted upon overly tolerant liberal elites by braying minorities is the dominant way in which racism finds discursive expression in the West today. Commentators and politicians compete to denounce its corrosive legacies. The common themes, repeatedly rehearsed, include parallel communities threatening social cohesion, enemies within cultivated by irresponsible cultural relativism, mediaeval practices subverting national ‘ways of life’ and universal values. The appropriation of ‘diversity politics’ (Cooper 2004) as a purported solution to multicultural crisis in post-immigration, (post)colonial societies is attenuated by an implicit understanding that there is good diversity which ‘adds value’ and bad – excessive – diversity which dilutes and threatens the supremacy of ‘our’ way of life. The culturalised lens through which social cohesion is now framed elides other possible foci on the material conditions necessary for equality, which are sidelined under neoliberalism (and even further obscured in an era of economic crisis). It is in this sense that the crises of multiculturalism deserve attention, not only in relation to contemporary ‘race relations’, but as a reading of politics under (post)racial neoliberalism.

Discussant: Dr. Darshan Vigneswaran (UvA) Chair: Markus Balkenhol (Meertens Instituut).

Alana Lentin