Re-imagining Diversity: Towards an Anthropology for Disruption in UK Higher Education

  • Alison Macdonald UCL

Abstract

From Athena Swan accreditations to Access and Widening Participation agendas, diversity training and renewed pedagogic approaches to inclusive learning, the higher education landscape is now awash with the language of ‘diversity’ as policy and practice. The institutionalisation of ‘diversity’ is a welcome method of inclusion, yet it is often reproduced as ‘happy talk’ (Bell and Hartmann 2007) that pacifies the call for meaningful structural and institutional change, silencing and even reinforcing the inequality it seeks remedy (i.e. Ahmed, 2012; Alexander, 2005; Archer, Hutchings & Ross 2003; Kirton, Greene & Dean 2007; Mohanty, 2003; Puwar, 2004). Taking these paradoxical dimensions of diversity as ethnographic and conceptual points of departure, this special issue seeks to unravel some of the everyday experiences, practices and policies encoded in diversity ‘speak’ and ‘diversity work’ (Ahmed 2012) across anthropology departments in the UK. By giving credence to accounts of the daily graft of ‘diversity work’, together with embodied and lived experiences of what ‘being diverse’ entails on the ground, we strive to productively mobilise decentred ‘situated knowledges’ (Haraway, 1988) in order to displace the continued centrality of white / elite / heteronormative / ableist reference points at the heart of much higher education institutional diversity strategies and inclusion agendas (cf. also Puwar, 2004). For us, the term ‘re-imagining’ is a call for positive political transformation in which we hope the difficult, uncomfortable - but hopefully - fruitful questions and critiques posed by papers in this special issue galvanise a space for diverse-led action. It is thus against this backdrop that we try to re-imagine diversity in a new light: to bear witness to those who live its effects and thereby reveal the potential to democratically and holistically re-structure anthropology from the ground up.

Published
2021-07-02