New Wine in New Wineskins? the Emergence of Superdiversity and Its Mixed Potential for Theory, Policy and Research

Tuesday, 12 July 2016: 09:20
Location: Hörsaal 18 (Juridicum)
Oral Presentation
Paolo BOCCAGNI, University of Trento, Trento, Italy
This paper analyzes the discursive, conceptual and practical interface between the notions of diversity [D] and super-diversity [SD]. What does the latter term add to the former (if anything), under what conditions, and why? While this interface may apply to diversity studies as a whole, it is particularly salient in the debate on immigrant and ethnic minority incorporation. Against a background of pervasive rejection of “multiculturalism”, the notion of SD points to the need to move beyond all narrowly ethno-cultural readings of diversity. Theoretically speaking, though, this lexical innovation seems to be ended in deadlock. Much of the discussion on SD has so far resulted in a simple split between its supporters and sceptics. Much more remains to be done in order to interrogate the distinctive analytical value added of SD, its implications for everyday boundary-making (on ethnic lines or otherwise), and its suitability as a representation of the majority-minority field. This mapping exercise is critical to assess the contribution of SD in terms of theory-, policy- and research-making. Politically speaking, the jargon of SD has a potential to relaunch a progressive agenda of minority recognition without over-culturalizing or ethnicizing difference. Sociologically speaking, nonetheless, its foundations are unclear. Does super stand only for an increase in societal diversity, or does it hold a theoretical value in itself? Does it really point to a changing configuration in majority-minority relations and in the underlying alignments and identifications? What “units of analysis” are more consistent with a SD perspective, when it comes to empirical research? It is on this threefold terrain – what the super label adds, what its policy implications are, how it feeds into fieldwork – that the SD approach needs to be interrogated further, to assess its innovative potential within diversity studies.