a wrong way of thinking about diversity 錯誤的文化多元
13, Feb 2008 10:21
i've got to lay it on the table. although i am an avid supporter of diversity in the workplace, classroom, church, public space, and government, diversity talk and programs often make me anxious. i hesitate to express such anxieties because, well, i appear "non-diverse." at most, rednecks who read me might scream homophobic epithets in my direction. most of the time, what you see is a white guy. in a recent meeting and conversation, i noted that "diversity" and "multiculturalism" have been confused with pigment. excuse me for saying this, but presentism, combined with a strange notion of authenticity informs "diversity" as it is usually defined and institutionally elaborated
which brings me to taiwan. on taiwan multiculturalism has spread through textbooks, public spaces, and public events. sometimes, the multicultural signifier is an index, such as an aboriginal motif appearing as a border on a museum installation which, as it turns out, has nothing to do with indigenous taiwanese people. more often, the pattern is for each of the "four major ethnic groups" to have a single representative in the space or at the event. for example, at the newly reopened taiwan democracy memorial hall (formerly the chiang kai-shek memorial hall), an exhibit of masks and kites represents a multicultural taiwan through a confusion of peking opera masks, kites shaped like flying fish, and masks based on taiwanese opera or puppet show characters. a recent concert at the hall predictably featured mandarin language, hakka, hoklo, and indigenous singers. to each community its place. all represented, of course by authentic spokespersons. the problem with this type of thinking is that the very inauthenticity of spokespersons best demonstrates the diversity of a place like taiwan. rather than communal identities, which multiculturalism insists upon and thus renders problematic (i.e., the focus of a set of ethical and political problems), the multiple languages and inflections of everyday life on taiwan sound out a multiplicity within the subject which diverts and subverts the fictions and fixtures of a single identity. multiculturalism could model and facilitate this process of self-making as a person of diverse interests, abilities, and experiences. generally, however, it just builds slots for authorized spokespersons
the u.s. supplied the model for this definition of diversity, which tends to deny diverse experience and education in favor of personal authenticity. in the u.s., it also often means visible diversity, thus missing differences in class and regional background. more damagingly, it depends upon a model of the self that denies the possibility of a "sea change, into something rich and strange." how might we augment this model in favor of something truly diverse?