On "Diversity" as Anti-Racism in Library and Information Studies: A Critique
Keywords:diversity, race, racism, anti-racism, research methodologies
Drawing on a range of critical race and anti-colonial writing, and focusing chiefly on Anglo-Western contexts of librarianship, this paper offers a broad critique of diversity as the dominant mode of anti-racism in LIS. After outlining diversity's core tenets, I examine the ways in which the paradigm's centering of inclusion as a core anti-racist strategy has tended to inhibit meaningful treatment of racism as a structural phenomenon. Situating LIS diversity as a liberal anti-racism, I then turn to diversity's tendency to privilege individualist narratives of (anti-)racism, particularly narratives of cultural competence, and the intersection of such individualism with broader structures of political-economic domination. Diversity's preoccupation with demographic inclusion and individual behavioural competence has, I contend, left little room in the field for substantive engagement with race as a historically contingent phenomenon: race is ultimately reified through LIS diversity discourse, effectively precluding exploration of the ways in which racial formations are differentially produced in the contextually-specific exercise of power itself. I argue that an LIS foregrounding of race as a historical construct - the assumption of its contingency - would enable deeper inquiry into the complex ways in which our field - and indeed the diversity paradigm specifically - aligns with the operations of contemporary regimes of racial subordination in the first place. I conclude with a reflection on the importance of the Journal of Critical Information and Library Studies as a potential site of critical exchange from which to articulate a sustained critique of race in and through our field.
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