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From Diversity Management to Alterity Politics - Qualifying Otherness

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The diversity domain seems currently in a struggle, having critical debates about the futuredirection of diversity studies as well as diversity programs and actions. It seems to haveneglected theoretical reflections on notions of ‘diversity,’ ‘difference,’ or the ‘other.’ Thepurpose of this paper is to think theoretically about diversity, arguing that it is the thinkingitself that has to become different and that a different thinking will make a difference inaddressing policies and actions. The main point we try to make is that diversity is not amatter of constructing identities but of a moving alterity.We will depart from the current debates in diversity management, in which we identifymainly four issues: a narrow or broad definition of diversity, a stable or dynamic conceptionof identity, the role of power, and the importance of the socio-historical context. With thediscussion of these four issues, we will try to indicate the implicit ‘theoretical’ choicesprioritizing the concept of ‘identity’, turning the issues of diversity into a managing ofindividuals and ‘their’ identities. Rather than pursuing the route of identity, we try to exploreanother route, paving a possible way of conceiving the other from the position of the otherand 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 tothe philosophical work of Deleuze and Guattari, and Serres; the writings of Collins on theBlack-feminist standpoint, and recent political studies on democracy. The qualifications thatwe connect and associate to alterity, are: its relation to an ontology of becoming, its crossingout of the identifiable into becoming anonymous, its dependence on safe, social-culturalspaces, and on open, empty public spaces. To conclude, we reflect on the different ways inwhich this alterity-thinking is related to the four critical issues of the diversity literature anddiscuss its qualifications as possible conditions for what we might sum up as an ‘alteritypolitics.’

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Maddy Janssens, Chris Steyaert

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