Doing Diversity, Being Diversity

  • Toyin Agbetu UCL Anthropology


For many public institutions, ‘doing diversity’ exists as a performative act; a dance choreographed through acts of policy espousing a laudable song based on equality. The reality is somewhat different when it comes to implementation, as lofty ambitions give way to impermanent initiatives that are both strategically and tonally off-key. Today, many universities across the UK express their egalitarian aims based on progressive and sometimes decolonising theories of change, but all fail to deliver the pragmatic praxis demanded by their staff, students and collaborative research partners. This should not be so, especially for British anthropology departments which have sufficient authority to implement the structural changes required to make themselves representative of the worlds they study. Looking at this matter from the perspective of ‘race’, this paper calls for a pedagogical rebalancing of our discipline. It suggests a revaluation of the utility of meritocratic systems of evaluation and the employment of permanent ‘native’ staff in strategic roles to displace structural enclaves of hegemonic ‘whiteness’ could be enough to transform anthropology departments from doing diversity - into being it.