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Damani J Partridge. Walmart Tell us if something is incorrect. Book Format: Choose an option. In the United States, in the Grutter v. In having a White woman sue the University of Michigan, the court case also divides the politics of redressing gendered discrimination from redressing racial exclusion. Whiteness operates as the most significant signifier, and minoritized populations cannot be considered as minoritized groups, but only in terms of the individual applications and individual merit under the narrowly tailored rubric of diversity.

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Diversity becomes as the court decision makes clear a question of what is in the interest of the institution and its student body as a whole, not of the specific racialized potential student. According to the court, the university cannot reserve a specific number of spaces or admit a specific percentage of minoritized applicants, because this would impinge on the rights of majoritarian others. Diversity is framed as part of a logic that excludes reparations. While the end should be in sight, according to the court and the university, the best methods for redressing the broader social inequities that make it more difficult for most minoritized students to gain access to elite institutions go without any significant consideration.

Here, the court understands diversity not as a form of limited social justice but as a means toward enriching the educational environment of majoritarian institutions. In other words, law school admission particularly at elite institutions is directly connected to the likelihood of one becoming a governmental administrator who will make decisions about the future of the country as a whole.


It is true that students of color are underrepresented at elite universities, as a result of experiences of discrimination and marginalization the majority opinion does acknowledge some aspect of this , but the point of diversity is not primarily to redress this inequality, and decidedly not to redress the collective implications. It is significant here, however, that Ginsburg joined by Breyer references the international convention, the need for historical redress, and the persistence of racialized discrimination in the United States, which, she notes, is also linked to the history of American slavery.

The logic of diversity, however, obfuscates the question of redress. Instead it sees the institution and the associated students who are also admitted as the primary beneficiaries.

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In our call for papers for the international symposium at the University of Michigan, we asked potential participants to consider several international examples as a basis for beginning the discussion and thinking transnationally. They often end up paying high fees to send their children to the United States or the United Kingdom.

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In Germany, affirmative action was never an option for racialized populations, but governmental institutions and political parties have official quotas for the inclusion of women, and the government offers subsidies for the sustained cultural lives of its official European ethnic minorities. More recently, though, terms such as diversity and s uper diversity Vertovec have been taken up in academic discussions about the futures of European cities and academic institutions.

In South Africa, many years of legal apartheid have given way to the need to redress inequality as formal policy. The most elite academic institutions continue to struggle with the incorporation of Black students. Overall, we use the current discourse of diversity as a lens to think about questions of economic disparity and social justice. Putting diversity in a transnational frame has helped us think more about how diversity claims and practices work in everyday life.

The transnational frame also leads us to consider the following additional questions: Who benefits from diversity, and who might be forgotten? Who does the work for diversity, and what are its effects? How does it work in relation to multiculturalism, quotas, or reservations? What happens when the need for it is denied? Can it ever be in systematic alignment with social justice, that is, the kind of social justice that redresses historical inequality and oppression?

Furthermore, what does it mean to interrogate diversity in the time of Donald Trump, Brexit, xenophobic violence, right-wing populism, and polite liberal racism? Finally, who is advocating diversity? Even if institutions such as universities have come to it out of necessity, where has the call for diversity left the possibilities for advocating for social change?

But the fact remains that diversity is being used as a management tool. Sometimes at points in university life one observes diversity fatigue. Some academics act as if diversity is at odds with excellence. For people of color who are pushed into diversity management Ahmed , there is also the sense that working in this arena might stigmatize them. It might lead their colleagues to take their intellectual contributions less seriously, to value them less.

On the other hand, in countries like Germany, even Black Lives Matter activists want diversity to be established in major institutions such as German universities, where it often seems as if there are no Black faculty or faculty of color more broadly. It is also useful to think through the affective dimensions of the implementation of policies and practices of diversity. What are the affective consequences of the incitement to engage in critical debate around diversity?

What kinds of affects are produced in the call to interrogate diversity at the institutional and individual level? At the individual level, how are affective responses patterned differently among differently positioned subjects? Marginalized groups may be granted entry into academic institutions on the basis of seemingly apolitical diversity discourses, but the extent to which the framework that has facilitated their entry clashes with their political alignments has consequences, including affective ones.

We were struck by the apparent fear and anxiety that the call to interrogate diversity produced among potential participants. In putting this symposium together, we took note of the fear we found in potentially interrogating diversity in public. In private, colleagues told stories of egregious disparities between the progressive ideals touted by those in their fields and the resistance they witnessed when it came to actually hiring even one Native American or African American faculty member in their departments.

Why, we wondered, is there so much fear around interrogating diversity? Are tenured faculty also vulnerable? Will speaking truth to power actually change existing arrangements of power, or will this speaking also lead to suppression? In fields such as anthropology, there has been a historical tension among the analysis of race as a social construction, fights for antiracist justice, and the articulation of an identity politics. Identity politics gets read in terms of a strategy for articulating a political position that ultimately essentializes the position from which one is fighting.

If race does not exist biologically, why should race be used as an organizing strategy? Does identity politics prevent solidarity? On the other hand, one might argue that for White people in majoritarian situations, identity politics often works as standard practice without being named as such.

When one attends informal events such as graduate student parties or student faculty social gatherings, we think that participant researchers should plot distribution graphs of who spent how much time where and with whom. How might distribution graphs reveal the everyday informal social dynamics of race, class, gender, and sexuality?

Where would we see clusters? Who would be alone? Identity politics could be an interest-based politics premised on shared everyday social realities. It does not need to be essentialist, but it does need to be strategic. While a person of color or other minoritized subject might in theory actually be against identity politics, the fact is that there is a White identity politics that goes unmarked, even in left and left-leaning institutions.

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There is a tendency for individuals within academic institutions to maintain their own sense of familiar camaraderie while in effect disrupting the institutional possibility for the camaraderie of others. Of course, it goes without saying that these formations also produce and include problematic social hierarchies. The logic of constituting a critical mass is important to the discussion of diversity and its limits.

In her majority opinion in Grutter v. In other words, the notion of a critical mass recognizes the need to have more than one underrepresented student in the law school class at the university.

On the other hand, the notion of critical mass also reveals a persistent and thorny problem. While the presence of a critical mass is essential to the survival of the minoritized subject noting that surviving is not the same as flourishing , the court and the university are not allowed and do not allow themselves to make the incorporation of minoritized subjects systematic. There is here no language of minimal presence.

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The notion of a mass is fleeting. The need for a systematic shift, however, is revealed in examples such as the following. One of us, Damani Partridge, witnessed a chair of an apparently liberal department at one faculty meeting speak about a suspicious tall Black man who had been seen in the department.

Partridge wanted to say something, but he was only a junior faculty member at the time and did not feel it was wise to do so.