EASA, 2008: EASA08: Experiencing diversity and mutuality
Ljubljana, 26/08/2008 – 29/08/2008
The uses of diversity
Date and Start Time [TBD] at [TBD]
Like 'culture', 'diversity' needs to be scrutinized and 'unpacked' by anthropologists. Discourses on the richness of cultural diversity should be analysed within a specific history and in the context of contemporary processes of migration, globalization and the reformulation of citizenship and sovereignty.
Diversity has gained ascendancy among the central values of western societies. Both cultural and biological diversity have been extolled as an enriching legacy, or a precondition for unity: a unity which emerges from diversity. The notion of human and cultural diversity has been instrumental in imagining processes of supranational and international integration or 'unification' taking place on the level of global capitalism with its advanced diversification of products and consumers. The growing consensus that cultural diversity is an important asset has found its way into several documents, in particular those formulated by UNESCO such as the declaration Our Creative Diversity (1995) and Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity (2001). An early document of this kind was The Declaration of European Identity from 1973 which proposed the notion of the European identity as the diversity of cultures.
Anthropologists have been facing diversity since the beginning of social/cultural anthropology. It is not only on the supranational level that the notion of diversity has been instrumental, but also on the national level. Yet nation-statist mind-set still assumes that unity and homogeneity is preferable to diversity and difference, cultural monism to cultural plurality. The notion of diversity also draws some of its present meaning from visions of natural diversity, often overlapping ecological, regional and cultural diversities. At a higher level, diversity is also increasingly used as a rhetorical device in discourses on migration, ethnic pluralism, gender and sexuality, disability and so forth. Anthropologists should be able to analyze the tension between social and political calls for diversity and social and political calls for unity. Individual choices and rights often collide with calls for group recognition and definitions of what constitutes the units that, together, provide a 'diverse' environment.
Making a difference: mestizos are not born but made
About a decade ago I coined the notion of cultural fundamentalism to characterize the exclusivist political rethoric with which old world politicians justified the closure of borders to keep migrants out. Not only the notion of culture meaning cultural diversity has become ubiquitous. Ideas such as multiculturalism, mestizaje, hibridity, creolization have gained currency as the political correct response to cultural exclusivisms and discriminations. In my presentation I will present the coming into being of mestizos in the formation of Spanish-american colonial society as a revealing example of the treacherous character of notions of "mixture". For, as I will show, all fasionable proposals to overcome social exclusion by means of cultural mestizaje, etc. in fact presuppose pure cultures.
The UNESCO doctrine of cultural and genetic diversity of humankind, from the aftermath of the Second World War until today
Nowadays, the issue of cultural diversity seems to be separate entirely from the problem of genetic diversity of humans. However, both question were frequently tackled together during the XXth century. This was the case in the aftermath of the Second World War. Created by the victorious Allies, UNESCO attempted to propose a doctrine able to explain the genetic and cultural diversity of humankind. The purpose was twofold: to undermine the Nazi doctrine of racial inequality and to establish the basis of an international cooperation between societies divided by deep cultural differences.
This doctrine materialized in a series of official UNESCO statements. It understated the genetic diversity of humankind and focused on cultural diversity, a part of which had to be protected, whereas some others parts were destined to disappear thanks to UNESCO educational action launched in order to build a global civilisation of peace.
Half a century later, the context is radically different. On the one hand, the idea of genetic diversity of humans has been anew legitimized by recent researches in human genomics. On the other hand, cultural unification lost its positive connotation, commonly perceived as a threat to the right of the people to protect their "ancestral traditions", henceforth likened to a precious legacy.
I will reconstruct the post-war creation and subsequent transformations of the UNESCO doctrine of genetic and cultural diversity of humans. This reconstruction is aimed at a better understanding of interactions between the UNESCO doxa and our vernacular and/or scholarly representations of human diversity.