Thursday, May 31, 2007

We have this problem called diversity

It's been quite a hectic week which can be also seen in the frequency of posts during the last few days. I am currently rather busy with organising a journalistic workshop taking place next week in Morocco and also preparing a big funding application to the European Commission. At times I must confess that I feel more like a juggler than an organiser.

We had a chat at work about our current focus, personal experience of diversity. The ECF is working on a publication showing how we as an organisation address the issue in our work. I have promised to contribute on youth cultures so need to find time for some intellectual work during the next weeks.

The thing I find myself constantly pondering is the concept of community. Especially when working with immigrant groups, the word community is a frequent visitor in the sentences. People wish to address certain communities, get an access to a community and what have you. On a political level this is very much the way multiculturalism is seen, a society consisting of smaller communities.

I find myself running into problems with this notion especially when dealing with youth. I fear often that we impose an identity on people without asking them whether they want it and then we make assumption on what does this identity - as in ethnic or religious background - means to them and their daily life. I know several friends of mine with an immigrant background who have been driven into situations where they are being asked to interpret something that people with the same background are doing, like for instance a Moroccan businessman would by definition have some greater knowledge into the minds of Moroccan teens.

What I would like to see us working on are identities that people choose themselves and working with communities people associate themselves with. On a simple level I could see this working in a way that we see the online gaming community as a relevant community and the visitors of a local mosque as another relevant community (sometimes overlapping) but we do not expect that someone from the gaming community could by definition represent all teenagers owning computer games or that an imam can by definition represent all Muslims in his neigbourhood.

The headline of this post is a sentence I hear very often. The mindset behind it advocates for a simple straight-cut solution that would "take care" of diversity for good. I really detest this approach. With the educational level and access to information most of us, we should be able to do better and accept complexity and mediation as an exciting daily practice.

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