From Diversity Management to Alterity Politics: Qualifying Otherness

Maddy Janssens, Chris Steyaert

Research output: Working paperResearch

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The diversity domain seems currently in a struggle, having critical debates about the future direction of diversity studies as well as diversity programs and actions. It seems to have neglected theoretical reflections on notions of ‘diversity,’ ‘difference,’ or the ‘other.’ The purpose of this paper is to think theoretically about diversity, arguing that it is the thinking itself that has to become different and that a different thinking will make a difference in addressing policies and actions. The main point we try to make is that diversity is not a matter of constructing identities but of a moving alterity. We will depart from the current debates in diversity management, in which we identify mainly four issues: a narrow or broad definition of diversity, a stable or dynamic conception of identity, the role of power, and the importance of the socio-historical context. With the discussion of these four issues, we will try to indicate the implicit ‘theoretical’ choices prioritizing the concept of ‘identity’, turning the issues of diversity into a managing of individuals and ‘their’ identities. Rather than pursuing the route of identity, we try to explore another route, paving a possible way of conceiving the other from the position of the other and not from fixed norms and possibilities. We therefor turn to the concept of ‘alterity.’ The aim of the paper is then to develop an alterity-thinking by connecting and relating to the philosophical work of Deleuze and Guattari, and Serres; the writings of Collins on the Black-feminist standpoint, and recent political studies on democracy. The qualifications that we connect and associate to alterity, are: its relation to an ontology of becoming, its crossing out of the identifiable into becoming anonymous, its dependence on safe, social-cultural spaces, and on open, empty public spaces. To conclude, we reflect on the different ways in which this alterity-thinking is related to the four critical issues of the diversity literature and discuss its qualifications as possible conditions for what we might sum up as an ‘alterity politics.’
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationCopenhagen
PublisherLOK Research Center. CBS
Number of pages30
ISBN (Print)8791023122
Publication statusPublished - 2001
Externally publishedYes
SeriesLOK Working Paper

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