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IRiS joint seminar with Tamsin Barber and Emma Mitchell

Courtyard Room, Park House, University of Birmingham
Lectures Talks and Workshops, Social Sciences
Thursday 5th November 2015 (14:00-16:00)
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Ann Bolstridge

This IRiS joint seminar drew together two studies concerned with superdiversity, one relating to multicultural perspectives of welfare in the Australian context, and the other concerned with processes of identification among second-generation Vietnamese in a superdiverse context.'

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More information about the Institute for Research into Superdiversity (IRiS)


Dr Tamsin Barber – Oxford Brookes University ‘Oriental’ identities in Super-diverse Britain: the young Vietnamese in London

A growing scholarship on super-diversity now considers questions of identity, belonging and the visibility of difference within super-diverse contexts (Gidley 2013, Knowles 2013, Wessendorf 2013). Notably, amidst this proliferation of difference, new challenges are raised about how we categorise people and how we might encounter them (Valentine 2013). Taking the focus of everyday lived experiences, this paper interrogates the role of super-diversity in shaping encounters across difference by exploring its dynamic effects upon individual and collective identities and belonging. Using the case study of the British-born Vietnamese as an overlooked and ‘invisible’ minority population in super-diverse London, it raises questions about whether or not super-diversity obscures the boundaries between groups leading to an increased inability to recognise or distinguish between groups and identities, and why this matters. Findings from empirical research with British-born Vietnamese suggest that super-diversity may offer new opportunities for the identity construction of groups (like the Vietnamese) by concealing ‘undesirable’ differences, while at other times, inhibiting these by reinforcing crude distinctions and marking the boundaries between ‘us’ and ‘them’ (the other/ stranger). The research explores the complex and creative ways in which the British-born Vietnamese are compelled to actively manage their identities within super-diverse contexts to negotiate a range of shifting and contradictory discourses of coercive Orientalisms, racial visibility and public invisibility in Britain.

Biography: I am Senior Lecturer in Sociology at Oxford Brookes University. My research interests are in the area of race, ethnicity, migration and identity and my recent book ‘Oriental Identities in Super-Diverse Britain’ focuses upon the Vietnamese community in Britain.  

Emma Mitchell, Macquarie University and Visiting Doctoral Student Vulnerability in superdiversity

The language of vulnerability is in popular usage in many spheres of public life, not least social policy. However, with the currency of the concept has come critique of the ways in which social groups come to stand as indicators of vulnerability and become categorised as ‘the vulnerable’, standing in for an analysis of the dynamics of vulnerability to specific risks – the how and the what of vulnerability (Levine 2004; Brown 2011). This paper thinks through the resonances of refining the conceptualisation of vulnerability with the (conceptual, methodological and policy) orientations of superdiversity. Superdiversity responds to the primacy of ethnic and racial categories over-determining research design and findings by highlighting increasing diversification in terms of migration and legal status, labour, along with gender and age (Vertovec 2007). Recent efforts to refine the analytic promise of the concept reiterate processes rather than categories of differentiation and diversification (Meissener and Vertovec 2014). Yet both concepts potentially lend themselves to the allure of categorisation when operationalised in social policy, betraying the conceptual promise of dynamic process. The conceptual exercise of relating superdiversity to debates about the rise of vulnerability may help refine the former. It is relevant also given that research on superdiversity remains inclined to focus on dynamics of marginalisation and disadvantage. The paper is drawn from an empirical study of multicultural perspectives of welfare and the cultural politics of welfare reform in Australia.

Biography: I am a PhD candidate in the Department of Sociology at Macquarie University. My doctoral research explores diverse moral and material economies of support and how they interact with welfare state provision. In particular I'm interested in how responsibility and vulnerability are experienced and expressed by those who are typically identified as vulnerable and compelled to be responsible in contemporary social policy

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