Post-multicultural cities and the politics of diversity

Post-multicultural cities and the politics of diversity

Maria Schiller


The concept of diversity has been taken up by many European municipalities in recent years for marking a change in accommodating the settlement of migrants in the city. Local diversity policies are meant to address not only ethnic differences, but the intention is to create an integrated municipal approach towards differences based on ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation and disability. To date it is however unclear whether the aim is to activate individual talents to make society more productive or to continue pursuing equality of particular minorities. Is diversity just continuing with the ideas and activities of previous multicultural policies under a new label? This project investigates the implementation of these local diversity policies based on qualitative data from Amsterdam, Antwerp, and Leeds and assesses how the notion of ‘diversity’ becomes defined in practice. Three journal articles are currently in preparation from this project. One article explores the structural changes within municipal organizations resulting from diversity policies. It demonstrates how separate structures, expertise and activities for a variety of categories have been combined in diversity units and pinpoints the resulting re-definition of municipalities’ approach of difference. Another article investigates the self-representation of municipal officers, who were recruited for implementing diversity policies, and ongoing processes of negotiating the competences and knowledge needed to work on ‘diversity’. It illustrates the interplay of organizational expectations and officers’ own motivations and exposes the resulting fault-lines among diversity officers. The third article discusses the alleged replacement of policies that were characterized as ‘multicultural’ by way of introducing ‘diversity’ policies. Based on examining the activities carried out under the header of ‘diversity’, it identifies a continued presence of ideas of multiculturalism, but demonstrates how these ideas are combined with not necessarily compatible ideas and principles tied to the concept of diversity.