As I was writing my book on Aristotle’s political thought, I became interested in how and why institutions fail to achieve the end they purport to achieve almost as a matter of course. Institutions seem to shift their goal from the end they were established to fulfill to merely preserving their existence. What happens is that the desire to preserve their existence contravenes their efforts to fulfill the goal for which they were established. I wrote about this in a critique of Stieg Larsson’s Girl With a Dragon Tattoo series. The notion that institutions become more concerned with their preservation than their proclaimed goal now resounds from every corner (eg., protecting the police force trumps the peace and justice the police force is meant to maintain and enforce).
Over the last two months, I have been making my way slowly through Sara Ahmed’s book On Being Included: Racism and Diversity In Institutional Life (Duke University Press 2012). Ahmed argues that institutions institutionalize ‘diversity’ as a way to protect and preserve themselves without ever adequately recognizing diversity. Ahmed exposes the ways that what seems to be institutional recognition becomes institutional justification of ignoring its grave problems. So the rest of this post isn’t so much a review (good reviews can be read at Society and Space, Graduate Journal of Social Science, Erina Frost, Hypatia Reviews Online and the American Association of University Professors), as a list of the ways that diversity works that contribute to how institutions fail to diversify through appeals to their instituted diversity projects.
So the list includes three things: 1) diversity statements function as non-performatives; 2) diversity programs and policies are implemented to protect the institution rather than to further diversify the institution; 3) the language of diversity comes to have commercial value and to reflect the commercial value of the institution.