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On Being Included


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Sara Ahmed argues that a commitment to diversity is frequently substituted for a commitment to actual change. Institutions will produce programs promoting diversity, or sponsor committees to study it, rather than actually engaging in affirmative action hiring or anti-racist, anti-discrimination actions. Ahmed traces the work that diversity does, examining how the term is used and the way it serves to make questions about racism seem impertinent. Ahmed's study is based in universities and her research is primarily in the UK and Australia, but the argument is equally valid in North America and for a wider range of institutions.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix
Introduction. On Arrival 1
1. Institutional Life 19
2. The Language of Diversity 51
3. Equality and Performance Culture 83
4. Commitment as a Non-performative 113
5. Speaking about Racism 141
Conclusion. A Phenomenological Practice 173
Notes 191
References 221
Index 235

About the Author

Sara Ahmed is Professor of Race and Cultural Studies at Goldsmiths College, University of London. Her books include The Cultural Politics of Emotion; Strange Encounters: Embodied Others in Post-Coloniality; and Differences that Matter: Feminist Theory and Postmodernism.


"There are no other books of this rigor and calibre examining the institutional culture of diversity in higher education. Sara Ahmed not only offers a rigorous empirical study of how diversity operates in the real world; she also develops a brilliant theoretical framework exploring the affective reproduction of inequality. At the same time, as a black feminist, she draws on her own embodiment of difference and experience as a diversity practitioner." Heidi Safia Mirza, author of Race, Gender, and Educational Desire: Why Black Women Succeed and Fail "Just when you think everything that could possibly be said about diversity in higher education has been said, Sara Ahmed comes along with this startlingly original, deeply engaging ethnography of diversity work. On Being Included is an insightful, smart reflection on the embodied, profoundly political phenomenology of doing and performing diversity in predominantly white institutions. As Ahmed queers even the most mundane formulations of diversity, she creates one eureka moment after another. I could not put this book down. It is a must-read for everyone committed to antiracist, feminist work as key to institutional transformation in higher education." - Chandra Talpade Mohanty, author of Feminism without Borders: Decolonizing Theory, Practicing Solidarity "Sara Ahmed's sensitive and respectful analysis of the complexities faced by diversity workers in higher education institutions arrives at a moment when we urgently need ways to rethink institutional dynamics and the animating effects of policy regimes and processes. This is a vital book: vital as a compass guiding the eye, heart, and mind to the knowledge that can emerge from the labor of institutional transformation, and vital in the sense of being life-giving to those involved in the process." - Gail Lewis, coauthor of Citizenship: Personal Lives and Social Policy "Sara Ahmed's valuable new book is something of a departure from her previous work in phenomenology and cultural criticism, which has focused particularly on emotion and "affect" as understood by feminist, postcolonial, and queer theory. On Being Included is a practical book about institutional practices based on qualitative empirical research - a set of semistructured interviews as well as more "fleeting encounters" with "diversity practitioners" at a variety of institutions in the United Kingdom and Australia - and on her own experience as a member of her university's policy-writing "race equality team" and with a cross-disciplinary, externally funded research project." Meryl Altman,, January 2013 "In her book, On Being Included: Racism and Diversity in Institutional Life, Sara Ahmed sets out to explore what diversity does and what we do using the language of diversity. Throughout, diversity is approached as an open question. Rather than seeing it as a solution with fixed connotations, Ahmed follows it around to explore not only how it is circulated but also how it gets stuck...If diversity workers need to become the blockage points in order to disturb the habitual flows of the institutionality of whiteness and racism, this book itself functions to circulate the language of diversity as unfinished and unfolding actions, and as a blockage point that makes the reader pause to consider the haps and possibilities that might become possible."--NORA - Nordic Journal of Feminist and Gender Research

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