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The Nonperformativity of Antiracism

Author(s): Sara Ahmed


Source: Meridians, Vol. 7, No. 1 (2006), pp. 104-126
Published by: Indiana University Press
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/40338719
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SARAAHMED

of
TheNonperformativity
Antiracism

In thispaper,I reflecton institutional speechacts:thosethatmakeclaims


"about"or"onbehalf ofan institution. Suchspeechactsinvolve actsofnam-
ing:the institutionis named, and in a
being"given" name, the institutionis
also "given"attributes, qualities,andevena character. By"speechacts"I in-
cludenotjustspokenwordsbutwriting andvisualimages- all thematerials
thatgivean institution interiority,as ifithasa face,as wellas feelings,
thoughts, orjudgments. Theymightsay,forexample, "theuniversity regrets,"
orjustsimply, "weregret." Morespecifically, inthispaper,I examinedocu-
mentsthatareauthorized byinstitutions (suchas race-equality policies,
whichareoftensignedby,say,thevice-chancellor onbehalfofaninstitution),
makeclaimsabouttheinstitution (forinstance, bydescribing theinstitution
as havingcertain qualities,suchas beingdiverse), orpointtowardfuture ac-
tion(bycommitting an institution a of
to course action, such as diversityor
equality,whichinturnmightinvolve thecommitment ofresources).
Suchspeechactsdo notdo whattheysay:theydo not,as itwere,commita
person,organization, orstatetoanaction.Instead,theyarenonperformatives.
Theyarespeechactsthatreadas iftheyareperformatives, andthis"reading"
generates itsown effects.For John Langshaw Austina performative refersto
a particularclassofspeech.Anutterance is performative whenitdoeswhatit
says: "theissuing of the utterance is theperforming action"(1975,6).
of an
ForAustin,conditions havetobe inplacetoallowsuchwordstoact,orinhis

[Meridians: transnationalism
race,
Jeminism, 2006,vol.7,no.1,pp.104-126]
©2006bySmith Allrights
College. reserved.

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terms,toallowperformatives tobe "happy."The "action"oftheperforma-
tiveis notinthe"words,"orifitis "in"thewords,itis "in"themonlyin so
faras thewordsare"intherightplace"tosecuretheeffect thattheyname.
Performatives succeedwhentheyareuttered bytherightperson,totheright
people, and in a way that takes the right form. AsJudith Butlerargues,"per-
formativity mustbe understood notas a singularordeliberate 'act',but,
rather as thereiterative and citational practiceby which discourse producesthe
thatitnames"
effects (1993,2, emphasisadded).
Thespeechactsthatcommittheuniversity toequality, I suggest,arenon-
performatives.1 They"work"precisely bynotbringing abouttheeffects that
theyname.ForAustin,failedperformatives are"unhappy": theydo not act
becausetheconditions arenotinplacethatarerequiredfortheactiontosuc-
ceed(forexample,ifthepersonwhoapologizesis insincere thentheapology
wouldbe unhappy). In mymodelofthe"nonperformative", thefailure ofthe
speechacttodo whatitsaysis nota failureofintentorevencircumstance,
butitis actually whatthespeechactis doing.In otherwords,thenonperfor-
mativedoes not"failtoact"becauseofconditions thatareexternal tothe
act:
speech rather, it "works" becauseitfailsto bring about what itnames. My
paperwillbe structured bytakingup fourspecificformsofinstitutional
speechacts:admissions,commitments, performances, anddescriptions.
Second,inthispaper,I wanttosuggestthatthenonperformativity ofanti-
racistspeechactsrequiresa newapproachtotherelationbetweentextsand
socialaction,whichI willbe calling"an ethnography oftexts."Suchan ap-
proach stillconsiders textsas actions, which "do things,"butitalso suggests
that"texts"arenot"finished" as formsofaction,as whatthey"do" depends
on howthey are "taken up." trackwhattextsdo,we needtofollowthem
To
around.Iftextscirculate as documents orobjectswithinpublicculture, then
ourtask is tofollow them, to see how they move as wellas how theyget stuck.
So rather thanjustlookingatuniversity documentation on diversity forwhat
I
itsays,although do this, as close are and
readings important necessary, I
also askwhattheydo,inpartbytalkingtopractitioners whouse thesedocu-
mentstosupporttheiractions. This paper hence draws on interviews with
diversity andequalopportunities officers orstaff frompersonnelunitswith
responsibility fordiversity attenuniversities in theUnitedKingdom,an anal-
ysisofpolicydocuments andmyownparticipation in discussionswithin
universities andpolicyconferences.
Theacademicandpoliticalbackground tothisresearch is provided by

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scholarshipincritical racismin
racestudiesthathas analyzedinstitutional
highereducationintheUnitedKingdom, inallofitscomplexity (Modoodand
Acland1998;ShinerandMadood2002;Law,Phillips,andTurney 2004).My
argument extendsthisworkbypointing toa relationship
between thenewdis-
coursesofracialequalityandtheextension racism.In other
ofinstitutional
words,rather thanconsideringtheturntopromoting as a sign
racialequality
ofovercoming institutional will
racism,myargument explore the"terms" on
whichthispromotion is happeningwithinhighereducation.

Admissions

In ordertoreflect on thepoliticsofinstitutional speechacts,I wanttothink


firstabouta politicsofadmission.I beginbyanalyzing theconceptofinstitu-
tionalracismandtheparadoxesthatfollowwheninstitutional racismbe-
comespartofinstitutional language.Thishas happenedintheUnited
Kingdom, where institutions(inparticular,thepolice)haveeither recognized
themselves as beinginstitutionally racistorhaveadopteda definition ofinsti-
tutionalracismwithintheirrace-equality The
policies. Macpherson Report
(1999)on thepolicehandlingofthemurder ofa youngblackman,Stephen
Lawrence, has beenthekeyinthispublicturn.TheMacpherson Reportis an
important document insofaras itrecognizes thepoliceforceas "institution-
allyracist."According to thereport, institutionalracismamountsto"thecol-
lectivefailureofan organisation toprovidean appropriate andprofessional
servicetopeoplebecauseoftheircolour,culture, orethnicorigin.Itcanbe
seenordetected inprocesses,attitudes, andbehaviour whichamounttodis-
crimination through unwitting prejudice, ignorance, thoughtlessness,and
raciststereotyping whichdisadvantage minority ethnicpeople"(1).
Thelanguageofinstitutional racismwas not,ofcourse,invented bythere-
port,butitdrawson a longhistory ofblackactivism andscholarship. Howis
thislanguageusedhere?Definingan institution as racistinvolvesrecogni-
tionofthecollective ratherthanindividual natureofracism.Moreover, it
forecloses whatis meantbycollective andinstitutional byseeing evidence of
thatcollectivityonlyinwhatinstitutions failtodo. In otherwords,thereport
definesinstitutional racismin sucha waythatracismis notseenas an ongo-
ingseriesofactionsthatshapeinstitutions orthenormsthatgetreproduced
orpositedovertime.We mightwishtosee racismas a formofdoingoreven
a fieldofpositiveaction,rather thanas a formofinaction.Forinstance, we

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mightwishtoexaminehowinstitutions becomewhitethrough thepositing
ofsomebodiesrather thanothersas thesubjectsoftheinstitution (querying,
forexample,whotheinstitution is shapedforandwhoitis shapedby).Rac-
ismwouldnotbe evident inwhatwe failtodo, butwhatwe havealready
done,whereby the"we" is an effect ofthedoing.Therecognition ofinstitu-
tionalracismwithintheMacpherson Reportreproduces thewhitenessofin-
stitutions byseeingracismsimply thefailure providefornonwhite
as to
othersbecauseofa difference thatis somehowtheirs.
Itis worthnotingthatpsychological languagethatcreepsintothedefini-
tion:"processes,attitudes, andbehaviour whichamounttodiscrimination
through unwitting prejudice, ignorance, thoughtlessness, andraciststereo-
typing" (Macpherson Report1999, 1). In a way, the institution becomesrec-
ognizedas racistonlythrough beingpositedas an individual, as someone
whosuffers fromprejudicebutwhocouldbe treated so thattheywouldact
better towardracializedothers.To say"weareracist"is heretranslated into
thestatement itseekstoreplace,"I am racist,"where"ourracism"is de-
scribedas a badpracticethatcanbe changedthrough learningmoretolerant
attitudesandbehavior. Indeed, ifthe institution becomes liketheindividual,
thenone suspectsthattheinstitution also takestheplaceofindividuals: itis
theinstitution thatis thebadpersonrather thanthispersonorthatperson.
In otherwords,thetransformation ofthecollective intoan individual (a col-
lectivewithout individuals) might allow individual actors to deny orrefuse
responsibility forcollective formsofracism.
Butthereis moretounderstanding howinstitutional racismbecomesan
institutional admission.Whatdoes itmeanfora subjectorinstitution to
posititself as being racist?Ifracism is shapedby actions that do not getseen
bythosewhoareitsbeneficiaries, whatdoes itmeanforthosebeneficiaries
I
tosee it? wouldsuggest that such admissionsmightworkbothbyclaiming
tosee racism(inwhattheinstitution failstodo) andbymaintaining thedefi-
nitionofracismas unseeing.Ifracism is defined as unwitting and collective
prejudice, then theclaim to be racist bybeing ableto seeracisminthisorthat
formofpracticeis also a claimnottobe racist thesameway.
in
Theparadoxesofadmitting toone's ownracismareclear:saying"weare
racist"becomesa claimtohaveovercometheconditions(unseenracism)
thatrequirethespeechactinthefirst place.Thelogicis,first, we say,"weare
racist,"andinsofaras we canadmittobeingracist(andracistsareunwit-
"
ting), thenwe showthat"wearenotracist, oratleastthatwe arenotracist

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inthesameway.Whatis important hereis thattheadmissionconverts
swiftlyintoa declarative mode:thespeechact,initsperformance, is takenup
as havingshownthattheinstitution has overcome whatitis thatthespeech
actadmitsto. Simplyput,admissionsofracismbecomereadableas declara-
tionsofcommitment toantiracism. Whatdoes thisconversion ofadmis-
sionsintocommitments do?
In theUnitedKingdom,therehas beena proliferation ofdocuments on
raceequality; we mightevensaythatraceequality is increasinglybeingdocu-
mentedorturnedintodocuments. Thecirculation ofrace-equality docu-
mentsin thepublicsectoris a directresultofthe2000RaceRelations
Amendment Act,whichrequiresall publicbodiestohaveandenforce a race-
equality andactionplan.Thisis an important pieceoflegislation insofaras
raceequalitynowbecomesa positiveduty;something thatorganizations
mustdo. Thefirstspecificdutyundertheactforhigherandfurther educa-
tionorganizations is thattheymustwritea race-equality The
policy. RRAA
has fascinated mepartly as ithas generated a hugeamountofdocumenta-
tion:thedocumentation is, as itwere,one oftheobjectsoftheact,whatit
pointstoward.
Myownexperience ofwriting sucha document as partofa race-equality
teamwas instructive. We adoptedtheMacphersondefinition of"institu-
tionalracism"inthedocument, althoughwe fellshortofnamingourinstitu-
tionitselfas "beinginstitutionally racist."Inworking on thispolicy,we tried
tobringa criticallanguageofantiracism intothewordingofthedocument.
Thismeantthatinthedocument we identified inequalities andracismas the
history behindthedocument:inotherwords,we tookup "diversity" and
"equality" as terms within the document that
given they do notdescribe the
institution.
I was taughta goodlesson,whichofcoursemeansa hardlesson:thelan-
guagewe thinkofas criticalcaneasilylenditselftotheverytechniques of
we
governance critique. So we wrote thedocument, and the universitywas
praisedforitspolicybytheEquality ChallengeUnit(ECU),andthevicechan-
cellorwas abletocongratulate theuniversity on itsperformance: wedidwell.
Ata meeting withstaff, thevicechancellor praisedstaff fortheirexcellent
work,referring to the letter from the ECU. Itwas a feelgoodmoment, but
thoseofus whowrotethedocumentdidnotfeelso good.A documentthat
documented theracismoftheuniversity becameusableas a measureofgood
performance. Here,havinga goodrace-equality policyquickly gottranslated

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intobeinggoodatraceequality.Sucha translation workstoconcealthevery
thatthedocuments
inequalities werewrittentoreveal.Thedocumentbe-
comesa fetishizedobject,something thathas valuebybeingcutofffrom the
processofdocumentation. In otherwords,itsveryexistenceis takenas evi-
dencethattheinstitutionalenvironment documented bythedocument
(racism,inequality, has
injustice) beenovercome; as ifbysayingthatwe "do
it"meansthat'sno longerwhatwe do.

Commitments

Suchdocuments as statements
function ofcommitment in-
toraceequality:
deed, suchcommitments areoftenmade inthefirst
sentencesofthepolicies.
Havinga race-equality havinga "goodrace-equality
policy,especially policy,"
commitment
is aboutmakinganinstitutional public.The documents areread
as signsofcommitment andinturnseemtocommittheinstitution todoing
something. Ordo they?
Letmequotefromtheopeningparagraphs oftworace-equalitypolicies:

TheRaceRelations(Amendment) Act2000 (RRAA2000)placesa require-


menton a widerangeofpublicauthorities, including and
all Further
HigherEducationinstitutions, topromoteraceequality ina proactive
way
through all theirfunctionsandtopublisha RaceEqualityPolicy.This
RaceEquality Policyhas beenpublishedtoinform all [xxx]staff
and stu-
dentsandall otherpartners commitment
ofourinstitutional underthere-
quirements ofthe RRAA 2000. [xxx] that
recognises byembracing
itcanachieveitsultimate
diversity goal tobecomea 'worldclassUniver-
sity'andpursueexcellenceinresearch, teachingandclinicalservice.

[xxx]valuesitsdiversecommunity andis opposedtoracisminall its


The
forms. [xxx] is to
committed the ofall indi-
fairandequaltreatment
vidualsandaimstoensurethatno-onein the[xxx]community is disad-
vantagedon the of
grounds race, culturalbackground, or
ethnic national
originorreligiousbelief.
Thesedocuments waysinwhichtheuniversity
showthedifferent is imag-
inedas a subjectwitha commitment In thefirst
toraceequality. one,thepol-
icybegins withlaw: it the
frames commitment
institutional in termsof

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compliancewithlaw.In a way,then,thedocumentnamesitscommitment
byframing thatcommitment as a requirement: we commitinsofaras we are
requiredtodo so. Commitment hereis literallyunderthelaw.Wemightnote
thatwhilethisinstitutional commitment is named,itis notnamedas a com-
mitment we
tosomething; aresimply committed towhatever thelawcom-
mitsus todo.
Thesecondquoteseemstotakeus further, insofar as itnamesracismand
declarestheorganization as beingopposedtoracism.Atthesametime,the
statement also functions tobringtheorganization intothepolicyas being
a self-declaration
antiracist, thatironicallycanparticipate intheconcealment
ofracismwithintheuniversity. Declaringa commitment toopposingracism
might function as a form of organizational pride:antiracism as a speechact
mightthenaccumulate valuefortheorganization, as a signofitsowncommit-
ment.A university thatcommits toantiracism mightalso be onethatdoesnot
recognizeracismas an ongoingreality, orifitdidrecognizesuchracism,then
itwouldbe morelikelytosee thatracismas comingfrom"strangers" outside
oftheinstitution rather than"natives" insideit.Itis as iftheuniversity now
says,ifwe are committed to antiracism (and we have said we are), thenhow
canwe be racists? Declarations ofcommitment canblockrecognition of
racism.Paradoxically, therecognition ofracismcanbe takenup as a signof
commitment, whichinturnblockstherecognition ofracism.Theworkof
suchspeechactsseemstobeprecisely howtheyfunction tohinderrather than
enableaction.In otherwords,thefailure, orthenonperformativity, ofanti-
racistspeechactsis a mechanism forthereproduction ofinstitutional author-
ity,whichconcealstheongoingreality ofracism.
In one 2005 newspaperarticleaboutracismexperienced byinternational
students atRoyalHolloway, we can see exactly thismechanism atwork.Stu-
dentsfromKoreacomplainedaboutracismexperienced on campusand
aboutthefailure ofthecollegetorespondadequately: "Students, particularly
eastAsianstudents, feelfearfuloftheseattacksandaredeeplyconcerned
thatsomething shouldbe done.But,theyhaveno properchannelsofcom-
plaintand areworried thattoomuchnoisewouldhavea negative effect
on
theirstatusatcollege"(Pai 2005,3). Thearticlehighlights themultiples
ways that racism can affect theexperiences ofblack and Asian students: it
caninvolvedirectviolence,anditalso affects howstudents respondtosuch
violence,fearing thatreporting racismwouldlead tofurther marginaliza-
tion.Buttheresponseofthecollegetothisreport was todenythestudents'

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said: 'Thiscouldnotbe further
charges:"RoyalHolloway'sspokeswoman
fromthetruth.Thecollege onitslevelsofpastoralcarey"
pridesitself (Pai 2005, 3,
emphasisadded).Inotherwords,organizational prideandtheself-perception
ofbeinggoodblocktherecognition ofracism.Organizational prideinbeing
at the
good hearingmessagesprevents messagegetting through. Sucha
speechactdoesexactly whatitsaysthatitdoes notdo: itrefusestohearcom-
plaint in thevery moment itsaysthatitdoes hearcomplaint. Ifcollegeshave
prideintheirpoliciesofpastoralcareandantiracism, thentheyalso failto
hearaboutracism.Being committed toantiracism canfunction as a perverse
performance ofracism:"you"arewrongtodescribeus as uncaring andracist
because"we"arecommitted tobeingantiracist.
Antiracism functions here
as a discourseoforganizational pride.
AsI havesuggested, manyoftherace-equality documents function as state-
mentsofcommitment andtakea simpleform:"wearecommitted to "
Suchstatements ofcommitment mightworktolimitrather thanenableac-
tion, insofar as theyblockrecognitionof theongoing nature ofwhatitis the
organization is committed toopposing.However, we canstillasktheques-
tion, what do statementsof commitment commit institutions todo?
Whenaskingpractitioners aboutthisprocessofwriting race-equality pol-
icies, I ask about
specifically statementsofcommitment. What do they do
(or
they?) committheuniversity todo?In thefollowing exchangebetweenme
andthreeinterviewees fromthepersonneldepartment ofa university, we can
see thehesitation thatfollowssucha question.

ofcommitment
Question:It'sa statement as manyofthemare,do
clearly
youfeelthatthestatement tosomething?
itselfcommitstheuniversity

Responses:
I wouldsayyesbutdon'tsaywhy.
Yesitdoes,butmyangle,I suppose,is thatyouhavetohavereminders,
examples,arguments all thetime.
AndI thinkit'sa goodworking documentthatpeoplecantakewith
them.
Butpeopledon'tlikebeingtoldtoreadit.
Yestheydon'tlikeit.
We don'tlikebeingtoldwe havetoticktheseboxes.

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Itis true,butitexists,andI thinkit'sa reference
document
andpeople
willgo backandreaditiftheywantedtofindoutsomething. Butpeople
don'twanttobe toldtoreadit.

Ifwe tookstatements ofcommitment as performatives, wewouldsaythat


they commit a to
person something. But such performativity is notassumedby
practitioners. Thefirst responseis thatthestatement ofcommitment does
"commit", but for unknown reasons. This uncertainty is itselftelling,forit
suggeststhatcommitment is insomewaymysterious andwouldneedtobe
explained. In other words, the commitment does notsimply followtheletter
ofthedocument. Theword"commitment" doesnotdo whatitsays.Thesec-
ondresponsealso is a "yes"buta qualifiedone:thestatement ofcommitment
doescommit, butithastobe supplemented byotherformsofinstitutional
pressure(reminders, examples, and so on). otherwords,thecommitment
In
is notgivenbythedocument butdependson theworkgenerated aroundthe
document. Itis interesting thatthenextintervention begins with further qual-
ification:"butpeopledon'tliketobe toldtoreadit."Ifthestatement ofcom-
mitment doesnotnecessarily committheuniversity todoinganything, then
practitioners havetokeepup thepressure;itis thispressurethatcanmean
thatdocuments do notwork.Thisis a tellingpressurefordiversity workers:
we havetoputpressureon thedocument becauseitdoesnotwork,andthe
pressure on documents iswhat makes them notwork.Thecompulsion toread
thedocument meansthatitlosesrather thangainscurrency. Ifpeoplearere-
quired toread it,then they "don't likeit." the
Indeed, following utterance
movesfrom"theydon'tlikeit"to"wedon'tlikebeingtoldtotickthese
boxes."Thecommitment itselfbecomesa "tick"inthebox.Now"commit-
ment"is usuallydescribed inoppositiontothe"tickbox";a tickboxapproach
todiversity wouldbewhereinstitutions go alongwiththeprocess,butarenot
"behind"theaction.Forcommitment tobecomea tickintheboxis tosuggest
that"beingbehind"canitselfbe a matter ofinstitutional performance. We
createtheillusionofbeingbehindan action,evenatthemomenttheactionis
notperformed.
Thefinalutterance describesthestatement ofcommitment as a "reference
document" thatpeoplecanuse.Thisdocument thenexistsinsofar as people
refer backtoit,as something thatcanhelpthemtodo things.Suchdocuments
can
byimplication onlyworkiftheyarenotobligatory: ifpeopledo nothaveto
use them,thentheymightwork.Whatthissequencesofutterance showsis

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notonlyhowdocuments ofcommitment areperceivedas non-commitments
inandofthemselvesbutalso howthislackofcommitment inthedocument-
whichimpliesthatwe havetobe committedtothemtomakethemwork- is
whatmakesthemlesslikelytogenerate commitment inothers.
Thequestionthenbecomeswherecommitment is located,ifitis notinthe
ofcommitment
statements orinthepeoplewhogeneratesuchstatements.
Whydoes commitment matter so muchtodiversity
andequality work,ifit
seemsalwaysnottobe whereitshouldbe?I askedwhystatements ofcom-
mitmentmattertoanotherpractitioner:

Oh that'shard.I thinkyoucannotnothavethem,ifyoudon'thavethem,
welltomeas a practitioner it'sa startingpoint,againit'swhether that
getsfittedintopractice.Commitments can'tcomewithout otheractions.
So thecommitment tomeis aboutwhattheinstitution believesinand
whatitintendstodo- itcan'tstandalone,ithas tocomewithhowyou're
goingtodo it.I thinkiftheyweren'ttherethen,wellI refer
actually to
themquitea lotas youwellknow,ifyou'retrying to,let'ssaythere'san
issuethat'scomeup and is
somebody not,maybe there's an issueandper-
hapsthey're racistinwhattheybringup in theirpracticeorsomething
likethat,andit'sgoodtorefer backtothesedocuments, butactually
an
you're employee ofthe university and theuniversity madea state-
has
mentaboutthis.So in termsofwatching theothermembersofstaffand
inmyownexperience, I'veuseditforthat.

Thesentence"commitments can'tcomewithout otheractions"is instruc-


tivebecauseitsuggeststhatcommitment is an action,butitis one thatdoes
notacton itsown.Instead,itdependson otheractions,oronwhatis done
withit.Commitment mightbe,inotherwords,a technology thatcanbe used
ordeployed within specificsettings.The work ofcommitment is howyouact
on theaction:itis aboutwhattheactionallowsthepractitioner todo. The
statement ofcommitment is also described as a referencepoint,something
you can use,when how
challenging people actwithin theinstitution. In other
words,thestatement ofcommitment doesnot commit the institutiontoany-
thing,butitallowsthepractitioner tosupporttheirclaimsfororagainstspe-
cificaction.Thestatement functions as a supporting device.
So althougha statement ofcommitment canblockactionbyconstructing
theuniversityororganization as alreadycommitted toraceequality, these
statements also cansupportotheractionsprecisely bygiving thisillusionof

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beingbehind.Practitioners use suchstatements tochallengepeoplewithinthe
organization, byshowingtheyare"outofline"withthedirection oftheorga-
nization,even ifthis lineis itselfimaginary and does notdirectinstitutional
action.Documentsdo notsimplyhavea referential ordescriptivefunction: it
is notsimply thattheydescribeprinciples thata university has.
already Indeed,
ina way,thedocuments mightevenperform a lieinsofaras theyrepresentthe
universityas ifithas principles thatitdoes not have. Butthis canbe a lie:
useful
byproducing theuniversity as ifitwas a subjectwithsuchprinciples, thedoc-
umentsthenbecomeusableas theyallowpractitioners tomakemembers of
theuniversity as wellas theuniversity itselfas an imaginedentity subjectto
thoseprinciples. Statements ofcommitment thenmightdo something, notin
andofthemselves, butbecausetheyenabletheexposureofa gapbetween
whatorganizations saytheydo,andwhattheyactually do: indeed,theymight
"do something" insofaras theyfailtodescribewhatorganizations do.

Performing
Equality

So whatworkarethesedocuments doingin theirfailuretobringaboutthe


effects thattheyname?Suchdocuments arguably areformsofinstitutional
performance. Theyarewaysinwhichuniversities perform an imageofthem-
selves,tobe sure,buttheyarealso waysinwhichuniversities performinthe
senseof"doingwell."To return tomyownexperience ofwritinga diversity
document:thedocumentthatdocumentsracismbecomesusableas a mea-
sureofgoodperformance. Whatdoes itmeanfor"equality" and "diversity"
tobe seenas measurablein thefirst place?Aretheybecomingboxestobe
ticked?Ora "papertrail"thatgoes nowhere?
Diversityandequalityareincreasingly discussedintheUnitedKingdom
an on
through emphasis goodpractice.Although goodpracticeis oftenseen
as "beyondthetickbox"(orrather, thetickboxapproachis seenas badprac-
tice),I would suggestthat "thetickbox"and the"goodpractice"arepartof
thesamevocabulary. Thetickboxshowswe havedoneit(whatever we do)
whilethegoodpracticeshowswe havedoneit(whatever we do),wherethe
"it"is takenas a signofgoodperformance. Good practiceguidesandtool-
kitsareproducedbasedon theprinciple thatthebestwayofimproving insti-
tutionalperformance is tosharegood practice.Thesedocuments toomove
around.Anexamplecanbe takenfromtheECU toolkiton communications,
"GoodTalking:TheHE Communicators EqualityandDiversityToolkit,"

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whichincludesthefollowing as an exampleof"generalgoodpractice":
"University ofSouthampton hasproducedinstitutional equality anddiversity
giftsand novelties thatare in greatdemand." Fordiversity novelties tobe-
comea signofgoodpracticeis clearevidenceofhowdiversity is beingre-
packaged,as ifitwas a property ofobjectsthatcanbe passedaround.So an
organization evengetsa "tick"foritsnovelties.
TheRRAAsignalsa shiftwithinthepublicsectorstowardseeingequality
anddiversity as performance indicators,as thingsthatcanbe measured.
HeidiMirza(2005)hasdescribedthisas the"bureaucratisation ofdiversity."
Indeed, the RRAA has encouraged the shifttoward seeingdiversity and
equalityworkas auditable.Auditculture notonlymeasuresperformance but
itdependson thereliability ofsuchmeasurements. Italso associatesgood
performance withaccountability, efficiency,andquality, assumedgoalsfor
organizations (Powers1994,1). Race equalitywould be something thatcould
be measured,suchthatdoingwellwouldbecomean indicator ofinstitu-
tionalgoodperformance. In otherwords,raceequality wouldbe a signofac-
countability,efficiency, andquality.
Practitioners expressedmixedfeelingsaboutequalityanddiversity be-
comingauditable.Somesuggestedthattoauditequality anddiversity would
be a goodthing,as universities only takeseriouslythe activities thatareau-
ditedandattachedtofinancial returns orpenalties.As one interviewee de-
scribes,"I think itwould be useful in theHE sectorbecause itwouldn't have
beendone,justthinking abouthowtheycouldoperateandhowthey've been
laggingbehind, itwas the push,you know you had todo it."Audit becomes
herea "stick"thatwouldcompelaction,as a compulsionthatenergizesor
createsan institutional drive.Otherssuggestedthatauditwouldnotneces-
sarilywork,givenhowauditculture worksas a kindofawarenessofitself.As
onedirector ofpersonnelelaborates:

Anauditcanestablishifwe havegonethrough processes,itcan'treally


determine whether we arealteringculturehere.Itcanperhapsshow
whether we arereaching sayyouknow,thesameteacher
varioustargets,
ofleadership whocomefromvariousbackgrounds
staff overtime.Butthe
troubleis whendealingwithaudityoutendalwaystorespondintermsof
processyouknow,we'vedonethisreport, we'vegota planoutandall that
sortofstuff.AndI couldsee thatyoucouldgeta roughideaifuniversities
wereputting intodiversity
effort bydoingthat,butthetroubleis thatin

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we'vegotan audit-aware
universities Andso
cultureinadministrations.
athowtoshowauditorsthatprocessesarebeing
peoplearepracticed
gonethrough.
So ifdiversity
andequality wereaudited,thenuniversities wouldbe ableto
showtheyhavegonethrough therightprocesses, however theydefinethose
processes.In otherwords,personnel canbecomegoodatauditbyproducing
auditabledocuments, whichwouldmeantheuniversities thatdidwellonrace
equality wouldbesimply theonesthatweregoodatcreating auditablesystems.
Whatitis important tonotehereis thatauditculturetoois verymuch
aboutthepoliticsofdocumentation. Onedoesnotauditsomething thatis al-
in
ready place. The audit a
generates system bygenerating documents that
areauditable.AsMichaelPowersargues,auditculture is what"makesthings
auditable"(1994,33). Or,as ChrisShoreand SusanWright describeintheir
excellent accountofauditinhighereducation:"Theresulthas beenthein-
ventionofa hostof'auditablestructures' andpapertrailstodemonstrate 'ev-
idenceofsystem'tovisiting inspectors" (2000,72). Thedocument is the
paper in sucha trail.
The auditabledocument would be the document that
"refers back"tothetermssetupan inauditingsystem. Benchmarking works
bygenerating documents thatrefer
back to thebenchmarks, producesa fam-
ilyofdocuments aroundtheterms.Itis notthenthat"diversity" and "equal-
are
ity" simply in thedocuments: instead,they areterms used bydocuments,
in reference totermsthathavealreadybeenmade.Whenwe measuresuch
documents, we mightthenbe measuring howtheirtermscorrespond with
otherterms,suchas thosesetup bytheRaceRelationsAmendment Actit-
for
self.Whatdoes itmean thecorrespondence of terms to be a measure of
goodperformance? Whatis beingmeasuredwhendiversity becomesa mea-
sureofinstitutional performance?
I askedthisquestiontoone diversity practitionerwhoseuniversity re-
ceivedan excellent rankfortheirrace-equality policy,and she suggested that:
"Wearegoodatwriting documents." I replied,without thinking, "Wellyes,
onewonders,"andwe bothlaughed.Ourwonderis skeptical: we wonder
whether whatis beingmeasuredarelevelsofinstitutional competence in
producing documentsrather thanwhattheuniversity is doingintermsof
raceequality. As thispractitionerfurther describes:

formeandsomeoftheother
I was veryawarethatitwasn'tverydifficult
peopletowritea wonderfulaspirationaldocument.I thinkwe all have

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greatwritingskills,andwe canjustdo that,becausewe aregoodatit,
that'swhatwe areexpertat.Andtherecomeswiththatawarenessa real
anxietythatthewriting becomesan endinitself,therealityis beingborn
outby,say,forexample,wewerecommended on ourpolicies,andwhen
theECUreviewed ourImplementation Planslastyeartherewerea number
ofquiteseriouscriticisms abouttimeslippages,aboutthefactthatwe
weren'treachingout intothemainstream andtheissueshadn'treallyper-
meatedtheinstitution andthemoneyimplemented incertainspecificar-
eas.Anditwasn't that therewas it
hostility,was much moreofthiskindof
marshmallow feeling.
In thisfascinating statement aboutthepoliticsofdiversity as an institutional
performance, thepractitioner describesherskillandexpertise in termsof
writing a "wonderful aspirationaldocument." at
Beinggood writing docu-
mentsbecomesa competency thatis also an obstaclefordiversity work,as it
means that theuniversity as
getsjudged good becauseof the document. Itis
thisvery judgment aboutthedocumentthatblocksaction,producing a kind
of"marshmallow a
feeling," feeling that we are doingenough, doingwell
or
enough,oreventhatthereis nothinglefttodo.
Manypractitioners andacademicshaveexpressedconcernsthatwriting
documents orhavinggoodpoliciesbecomesa substitute foraction:as this
practitioner end
goesontosay,"you updoing the document rather thandoing
thedoing."Theworkthatgoesintowriting thedocument endsup blocking
otherkindsofaction.Or,tomakean evenstronger argument: theorientation
towardwriting gooddocuments canblockaction,insofaras thedocument
thengetstakenupas evidencethatwe havedonethework.Asanotherpracti-
tionerdescribes, "WellI thinkintermsofthepolicies,people'sviewsare'well
we'vegotthemnowso that'sdone,it'sfinished.' I thinkactually,I'mnotsureif
even
that's worsethanhaving nothing,thatideainpeople'sheadsthatwe'vedone
race,whenwevery clearlyhaven'tdonerace."Theideathatthedocument is it-
selfan actionis whatcouldallowtheinstitution toblockrecognition ofthe
workthatthereis todo. Thesystem ofrewarding organizations fortheirper-
formance ondiversityandequality notonlyrisksconcealingformsofinequal-
ityandracismbutalso supports formsoforganizational pride,whichreorient
thepoliticsofdiversity workawayfromchallenging howinstitutions consti-
tutetheiridentity andtowarda promotion ofthatidentity.
As oneofmyinterviewees suggests,diversity workhas becomepromo-

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tionalwork, orwhatshecallsa formof"R andR,"thatis,aboutriskandrep-
utation.Diversity
involvespromoting organizations throughremaking their
image.In one ofmyinterviews, we discussed a research that
project had been
fundedas partoftheuniversity's commitment whichis de-
toraceequality,
data"(datathatgathershowpeopleperceive
scribedas "perception an orga-
nization).Thisresearchprojectwas a targetmetbytheuniversity underits
actionplan,so ofcourseitis alreadya tick.Whatdidtheresearchreveal?

OK yes.Itwasaboutuncoveringperceptions, um,aboutthe[xxx]as an em-


ployer was
[xxx] consideredtobe an old as theycalledit,
boysnetwork,
andwhitemaledominated, andtheydidn'thavetherightperceptions ofthe
andwhatitbringstotheacademia.I think
[xxx]intermsofwhatitoffers
mostoftheexternalpeoplehadthewrongperceptions aboutthe[xxx].

AndI mean,quotes,thereweresuchfunny quotes,likelibrarians


they
weresitting
therewiththeircardigans,you know. Um, and like
things
that,theywereshockingreports abouthowpeople,exter-
toread,really,
nalpeople,perceivethe[xxx]so we havetotrytoachieve,youknow,we
havetotrytomakethe[xxx]an attractiveemployer.
andequalityhas becomeaboutimagemanage-
Thepoliticsofdiversity
ment:diversityandequalityworkis aboutgenerating therightimageand
the
correcting wrong one.According to thislogic,peoplehavethewrong
perceptionwhentheysee theorganization as white,elite,male,and/or old-
fashioned.In otherwords,whatis behindtheshockis a beliefthatthewhite-
nessis intheimagerather thanintheorganization. Diversityandequality
workhencebecomesaboutchangingperceptions ofwhiteness ratherthan
changingthewhiteness oforganizations. A goodperformance wouldthen
be aboutbeingperceivedas a diverseandequalorganization thatis commit-
tedtodiversity Theperception
andequality. itselfwouldbe theachievement
andwouldbe takenas a signofgoodperformance. Theperception thenbe-
comestakenup as description:as ifbeingperceived as diverseis whatgives
theorganization suchqualities.

DescribingDiversity

documents
Race-equality workas iftheyaredescriptions:theydescribethe
notonlyas havingcertainprinciples,
university butalso as havingcertain

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and styles.Theyareoftenaccompaniedbyimages
qualities,characteristics,
thatgivetheuniversitya facebyadoptingthediversefacesofitsinhabitants.
Through such images and documents, universitiesareconstitutedas ifthey
havethesequalities.One ofthemostobviousfeatures ofthisdescriptive pur-
chasein the contextofthe RRAA is theuse oftheword "diversity."
Diversity
enterssuchdocuments notonlyas something theuniversityis committed to
alreadyhas,byvirtueofthekindsofstaff
butas a qualitytheuniversity and
students thatalreadyexistwithintheorganization. We can turnagainto
someopeningsentencesofrace-equality policies.
ThisRaceEqualityPolicyhas beenpublishedtoinform all [xxx]staff
and
students ofourinstitutional
andallotherpartners commitment underthe
requirements oftheRRAA2000. [xxx]recognisesthatbyembracing di-
it
versity can its
achieve ultimategoal tobecomea 'world classUniversity'
andpursueexcellenceinresearch, teachingandclinicalservice.

andis opposedtoracisminall its


[xxx]valuesitsdiversecommunity
tothefairand equaltreatment
forms.The [xxx]is committed ofall indi-
vidualsandaimstoensurethatno one inthe[xxx]community is disad-
vantagedon thegroundsofrace,cultural
background, ethnicornational
or
origin religious belief.

Theseareinteresting documents toreadintermsofshowingthedifferent


waysthattheuniversity is imaginedas a subjectwithcommitments as wellas
In thefirst
characteristics. sentenceofthefirst quote, the word "equality"is
associatedwithlawand seemstopointnottotheuniversity's commitment
buttotheforce of law.The document then moves from equalitytodiversity.
Diversityseemsmorereadily embraced, as something thatis bothtakenon
in
andtaken within the constitutionof theuniversitya subjectcommunity.
as
We mightnote,then,thatdiversity is takeninprecisely as itis associated
withbeinga "world class it
university"; functions in a wayas a termthatal-
lowstheuniversity tomeasureup toitsego idealoritsidealimage.Diversity
is takeninas an orientation towardthemarket, a wayofbeing"worldclass."
Onewaytorearticulate thisstatement mightbe,"Wearecommitted todiver-
sityinsofaras we arecommitted tobeingworldclass."Diversity mighteven
workthrough itsproximity totheself-image oforganizations.
Thesecondquotebeginswithdiversity as a property, as something theor-
ganization has. The discourse ofvaluingdiversity is, ofcourse, mainstream,

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anditlingersbetweendiscoursesofeconomicvalue(thebusinesscase for
andmoralvalue(thesocialjusticecase). Thismodelofdiversity
diversity) si-
multaneously reifiesdifference as that
something already existsin thebodies
ofothers("we"arediversebecause"they"arehere).Italso transforms differ-
enceintoa property: ifdifference is something theyare, thenitis something
we canhave.Itis thismodelofdiversity as something othersbringtotheor-
ganizationthatwe cansee atworkintheuse ofvisualimagesofdiverseorga-
nizations:imagesofcolorful, happyfaces,whichshowthediversity ofthe
as
university something it has embraced.
Itis worthnotingherethepowerful critiques oftheturntodiversity within
higher education offered by feminist and critical management scholars.
Suchcritiques havesuggestedthatdiversity entershighereducationthrough
"marketization": thetermis seenas comingfrommanagement andfromthe
imperative tomanagediversity ortovaluediversity as ifitwerea humanre-
source.Sucha managerial focuson diversity, beenargued,workstoin-
ithas
dividuate difference andtoconcealthecontinuation ofsystematic
inequalitieswithinorganizations suchas universities (KandolaandFullerton
1994;Lorbiecki 2001;KirtonandGreene2000). Theseimportant critiques
attendtotheword"diversity" itself, whichhas beenattributed witha prob-
lematicgenealogy, havingnotonlydubiousoriginsbutalso uncertain and
potentiallydamagingeffects. DeemandOzga (1997)suggestthat"thecon-
of and
cepts equity equalopportunities implyan underlying conceptofsocial
justiceforall,"while"thenotionofdiversity invokestheexistence ofdiffer-
enceandvariety without anynecessary commitment to actionor redistribu-
tivejustice"(33). Similarly, Benschop(2001)suggeststhat"'diversity' does
notso powerfully appeal to our sense ofsocial justice" (1166).For Deem and
Ozga,theword"diversity" invokesdifference butdoes notnecessarily evoke
commitment toactionorredistributive justice. What is problematic aboutdi-
versity,byimplication, is thatitcanbe cutofffromtheprograms thatseekto
challengeinequalities within organizations, and itmight even take theplace
ofsuchprograms indefining thesocialmissionofuniversities. We cancer-
tainlysee thiscut-off point. For these scholars,amongothers, institu-
the
tionalpreference fortheterm"diversity" is a signofthelackofcommitment
tochangeandmightevenallowuniversities toconcealtheoperation ofsys-
tematicinequalities underthefaceofdiversity.
In lightofthesecritiques, whatdoes theword"diversity" do?Itis because
diversitydoes notseemtoevokesuchhistories ofstruggle thatmanypracti-

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tionersarecritical oftheinstitutional
desireforthisterm.Asonepractitioner
putit,"I thinktheconceptofdiversity, inthewaythatitis nowusedinequal-
rather
ity, than as a
'diversity' word, which I don'treallythinkithas muchre-
lationship to,I thinkit'susedas a completeanduttercop-out.I thinkit'sa
dreadful concept."Indeed,thispractitioner feltso strongly aboutthe"cop-
out"ofdiversity thatsherefusestodescribeherself as an equality
and diver-
sitypractitioner eventhoughherjob titleinvolves bothterms.Shegoes on to
describe"diversity" as a "cuddly"conceptthatextendstheuniversity's self-
imageas beinggood:
So nowwe'lltalkaboutdiversity,andthatmeanseverybody's differentbut
equal anditsall niceandcuddlyandwe can feel
good aboutitand feel
like
we'vesolvedit,whenactually we'renowherenearsolvingit,andwe need
to,I think, as a conceptfitsinmuchbetter
havethat,well,diversity with
theuniversity'sideaofwhatit'sdoingaboutbeingthegreatbenefactor.

Wecoulddescribediversity as a politicsoffeeling good,whichallowspeople


torelaxandfeelless threatened, as ifwe havealready"solvedit"andthereis
nothing else to do. I asked another practitioner whyshethinksthattheword
"diversity"is appealing.Shearguedthatdiversity appealsbecause"itob-
scurestheissues Itcan,diversity is likea bigshinyredappleright, andit
all lookswonderful. Thisis an exampleactually a memberofstaffcameup
withinmyfocusgroupaboutgenderissues,she says,butifyouactuallycut
intothatapplethere'sa rotten corein there,andyouknowthatit'sactually
all rotting
away and it'snotactually beingaddressed.Itall lookswonderful
buttheinequalities aren'tbeingaddressed."
the
Again, suggestion hereis thattheappealofdiversity is aboutlooking
andfeeling good,as an orientation thatobscuresinequalities liketheobscur-
ingofa rotten core behind a shiny surface. Diversity as a term has a market-
ingappeal:itallowstheuniversity tosellitselfbypresenting itselfas a happy
are
place,a placewheredifferences celebrated, welcomed, enjoyed.Di-
and
versitybecomesa formoforganizational pride.Notonlydoes thisrebrand-
ingoftheuniversity as beingdiverse worktoconcealracismbutitalso works
toreimagine theuniversity as beingantiracist, evenbeyondrace- as ifthe
colorsofdifferent raceshaveintegrated tocreatea newhybrid or,even,a
bronzedface.
Andyet,thispractitioner also acknowledges thattherearesomebenefits
todiversity inthesenseitcan "starttoengagepeople."Itis a givenhowdi-

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mightmakepeoplefeelgood,thatitcanbe a usefulterm,as itallows
versity
peoplein: oncetheyarein,we canthendo different thingsorevenuse a dif-
ferentsetofterms.In otherwords,theword"equality," whichis associated
withthelaw,mightbe less usefulas peopleturnawayfromitand/or are
threatened bythework that itasksthem todo. Ifwe use the word "diversity,"
we mighthavea better chanceofgetting through. So itis preciselyhowdiver-
sitymight work to concealracism thatmight make ita term that can do
things.In otherwords,whatmakesdiversity usefulis howitis appealing.If
wordsdo things, whattheydo dependson howtheyarebeingusedandhow
theycanhookpeopleorbringthemin.Indeed,mostpractitioners describe
theirworkas a questionof"whatworks,"ofusingwhatever languageworks
forthedifferentaudiencestowhomtheyspeak.Diversity workis strategic,
evenifithas certainpoliticalprinciplesbehind it.So diversityis usedby
someprecisely becauseitis a comfortable termthatallowspeopletoengage
moreeasilywiththiskindofwork. As a result,practitionersarepositive
abouttheterm"diversity" fortheveryreasonssomearecritical oftheterm.
As one intervieweedescribes:

I thinkformewithequality, as I said,thereis somelegalframework, and


I thinksometimes overemphasised. There's a because
tension,really, you
needtomakepeopleawareofthelegality, butyouwanttogo beyondthat
don'tyou?Youdon'twantittobe aboutcompliance, so forme,I actually
think a farmorepositive
isactually
"diversity" wordthan"equality" so forme
it'saboutcelebration.
Whereasequality feelsa bitmoreabout,oh,youknow,
meetings, legalrequirements almost,I don'tknow,that'sjustpersonal.

Here,diversity is something positive:itis aboutcelebration orcanbe cele-


brated.Thisis whyitis a usefulterm."Equality" evokescomplianceand
meetinglegalrequirements. It is no accident that is describedas
diversity
havingan energizing effect.
Formanypractitioners thequestionbecomes
thennotso muchwhether touse theterm"diversity" buthowtouse it.Ifthe
successofthetermis thatitcanbe detachedfromthehistory ofstruggle for
equalities,thenits successmightparadoxically on
depend being reattached
tothoseveryhistories. Practitioners henceuse theword"diversity" as a way
ofgetting institutionalattention, but then theyuse the word alongsideother
moreworrisome words,orwhatI callelsewhere, signs,"suchas
"sticky
and
"equality justice"(Ahmed2004b,89-92). As one practitionersuggests:

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I havegoneforbothequality anddiversity,so as an institution
we do not
use theterm"diversity" inisolation,nordo we use equalityinisolation.
Equalityis todo with compliance, is morequalitative
diversity andcanbe
internallydrivenandthatpremisesuitsus. Therearepocketsoftheinsti-
tutionwherediversity is moreproactivethanotherareasandcompliance
is moreofpriority in someareasas well.Andthebothhavetoworkto-
gether,they have to be married becauseifyoujustgo downto
together,
thecompliancelevelthere'sno rewardinitfortheinstitution andbecause
ofthepositiveimagesaroundequality anddiversity thatwe project,itis
important forus thatbothworktogether. AndI thinkwe havegonefor
thatrather thanjustdiversity.ButI knowsomeuniversities havejustgone
and
diversity itdepends how youpackage it.

So whattheword"diversity"does mightdependon thewordsitis placed


associatesthepoliticalandlegal
withequality
alongside:usingdiversity
to with
challenge inequalities thequalitiesoffeelingattachedtothecelebra-
Theaimofsuchworkwouldbe torestickthesewordsto-
tionofdifference.
getherso thatwhenpeopleheartheword"diversity,"theyheara challengeto
inequality.
Atthesametime,inordertobe heard,practitionersalsoworkbyattaching
theword"diversity"totheotherwordsthataretakenas keytotheorganiza-
mission,whether
tion'sstrategic itbe excellence, orwid-
internationalism,
oftheterm"diversity"
In otherwords,itis theproximity
eningparticipation.
totheself-image thatallowsthetermtoaccruevalue.Take
oforganizations
thefollowingquotation:
ouraiminthediversity
Forme,I thinkthatthe,wellcertainly, projectis to
helptheorganisation tosee howdiversitywillhelpmeetthestrategic
plans.So how can diversity
helpmake us toptenin2010?Whatwillthink-
ingaboutdiversityenablea headofa schoolthatis alreadyverysuccessful
tobe moresuccessful? Thatwouldbe myrealaimandtoliveourvisionfor
race,whichis excellencethroughdiversity.

pridegetstranslated
Organizational intodiversity
pridebyattaching diver-
As thispractitioner
sitytothepursuitofexcellence. goes on todescribe,
" is it doeswant tobuilda reputation
[xxx] verymuch,well,youknow, really
andtobe seentobe atthefront,evenifthat'sa bitrisky." Doingdiversityis
notso muchaboutputting in
diversity front butabout the
putting organiza-

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tioninfront andmakingdiversity whatfollows.Indeed,anotherpractitioner
suggeststhatdiversity is simplyaboutgetting thebestpeopleforthejob,
whichforheris abouttheorganizational missionofexcellence:"People
reallycareaboutexcellence, theyreallygethackedoffwhensomebodysec-
ondrateis appointedtoanything andtheydon'tcarewhattheylooklike."
Interestingly, thispractitioner worksatan eliteandwhiteorganization,
whichis perhapsso secureinitsprivilege thatitdoesnothavetodefenditself
againstthosewholookdifferent. Diversitycanbe takeninprecisely insofar
as itbecomesa signofindifference todifference:"They don't carewhat they
looklike."
In following theword"diversity" around,we cansee thatitgetsembraced
byorganizations insofaras itis proximate totheidealimagesorganizations
alreadyhaveofthemselves. To add "diversity" toa missionstatement hence
doesnotnecessarily addanything, but,rather,itputsan educational mission
indifferent terms.Andyetthiswordstillhasbaggageandstillgetsassociated
withpeoplewholookdifferent. AsNirmalPuwarpointsout,"Inpolicyterms,
diversityhas overwhelmingly cometomeantheinclusionofpeoplewholook
different" 1).
(2004, Ironically, thehopeofputting diversityintouniversity
documentation is thatthiswordwillkeeptheseassociations, however prob-
lematictheymaybe. Thepointwouldnotbe toconstitute racialothersas the
originofdiversity, as whataddscolortothewhitefaceoftheuniversity.
Rather, insofar as diversitysignifiesthepresenceofracialothers, thenitmight
also pointtohoworganizations areorientated aroundwhiteness, around
thosewhoarealreadyinplace.Thehappysmilingfaceofdiversity wouldnot
thensimply rebrand theuniversity butpointinsteadtowhatgetsconcealedby
thisvery image: inequalities arebehinditandgiveita surface
the that appeal.
In otherwords,thestrategy ofassociatingdiversity withtheorganizational
prideis thatthewordmightyetworktochallengetheidealimageoftheorga-
nization.Itis pride,after all,whichis thecondition ofthepossibility forbeing
shamedforexposinggapsbetweenidealsandactions.
Ifwe considerthepoliticsofdescribing we can see thatsuchde-
diversity,
scriptions create fantasy images ofthe organizations theyapparently repre-
sent.Thedocumentsayswe arediverse, as ifsayingitmakesitso. In a way,
ourtaskmustbe torefusetoreadsuchdocuments as performatives,as ifthey
bringintoeffect whattheyname.Thatis nottosaythatsuchdocuments do
notmatter, orthattheydo notdo anywork.Theydo. Indeed,thisnon-
performativity is whatmakesthemtoolsthatcanbe usedbypractitioners as

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thingsthatworkinsofaras theyfailtodescribeorproducewhatis ongoing
orgoingonwithinorganizations. In otherwords,byputting commitments
inwriting -as commitments thatarenotfollowedbyotheractions- such
documents canbe usedas supportive devices,byexposinggaps between
wordsanddeeds.This not saywe shouldnotbe critical
is to inthehopein-
vestedin suchdocuments. We mustbe critical. Atthesametime,we must
also considerhowsuchdocuments howtheymovearound,and
circulate,
howtheygetstuck.Followingdocuments aroundbeginswithan uncertainty
aboutwhatthesedocuments willdo. Theymight,atcertainpoints,even
causetrouble.

NOTE
ofantiracism
I. Thispaperdevelopsthethesison thenonperformativity originally
madeinAhmed(2004a).

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