Post-multicultural cities and the politics of diversity 

Maria Schiller

- completed -

The concept of diversity has been taken up by many European municipalities in recent years, marking a change in accommodating the settlement of migrants in the city. Local diversity policies are meant to address not only ethnic differences, but to create an integrated municipal approach towards differences based on ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation and disability. To date, however, it has been unclear whether the aim is to activate individual talents to make society more productive, or to continue pursuing equality between 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 arising out of this project are currently in preparation. One explores the structural changes in municipal organizations that result 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 to questions of difference. Another article investigates the self-representation of municipal officers who have been recruited to implement diversity policies and the ongoing processes of negotiating the competences and knowledge needed to work on ‘diversity’. It illustrates the interplay between organizational expectations and officers’ own motivations, thus exposing the resulting fault lines among diversity officers. The third article discusses the alleged replacement of policies that had been characterized as ‘multicultural’ by introducing ‘diversity’ policies. Based on an examination of activities carried out under the heading of ‘diversity’, it identifies the continued existence of ideas of multiculturalism, while also demonstrating how these ideas are combined with not necessarily compatible ideas and principles tied to the concept of diversity.

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