'Planning for Hyper-diversity in a Global City: The Politics of Diversity in London'

Aston Webb (R6 on campus map) - WG12
Lectures Talks and Workshops, Life and Environmental Sciences, Research
Wednesday 11th May 2016 (13:00-14:00)
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Part of the School Seminar Series

Speaker: Professor Mike Raco (UCL)

Host: Phil Jones / Peter Kraftl

In this paper we explore dominant narratives of diversity planning in one of Europe’s most diverse and globally-oriented cities, London.  We draw on an on-going research project that is exploring the ways in which diversity is conceptualised in policy frameworks. We argue that there are multiple trends occurring and that forms of, what Zizek (2011) terms, ‘radical ambiguities’ between the needs of economic growth and socio-cultural demands now permeate policy thinking.  We show that one part of this ambiguity is characterised by an active attempt to use the term diversity as a ‘containment strategy’ or a consensual term that is celebrated as a ‘good’ thing and on which all can agree (see Swan, 2008).  London’s diverse population is thus to be ‘pragmatically embraced’, celebrated and commodified.  It is an approach that is justified as being both morally progressive and grounded in a hard-headed understanding of the needs of competitive, successful businesses.  However, at the same time more difficult policy questions concerning the impacts of global models of economic growth remain firmly off the agenda within London. There is little discussion of class differences and how dominant models of capitalist growth are generating heightened inequality in (and beyond) the city.  Diversity is celebrated as something that contributes to London’s globally-focussed growth model, with little recognition that this type of development increases inequalities between London’s citizens, whilst also propagating forms of urban development that enhance segregation (see Imrie and Lees, 2014).  Moreover, this way of promoting diversity, we claim, becomes what Ahmed (2008) has termed a ‘hegemonic fantasy’ that ‘conceals [existing] forms of racism, violence and inequality as if the organisation/national can now say: how can you experience racism when we are committed to diversity?’ (p.2). In openly celebrating diversity, policy-makers individualise explanations for the persistence or enhancement of inequality and discrimination.