Pitfalls and promises of researching super-diversity

23 November 2017, 5.00 PM - 23 November 2017, 6.30 PM

G4/5, 10 Woodland Road

The Centre for Ethnicity and Citizenship Seminar Series

Susanne Wessendorf (International Inequalities Institute and London School of Economics)

Pitfalls and promises of researching super-diversity 

Ever since the notion of super-diversity was first coined in 2007 (Vertovec 2007), the idea of a concept which captures the increasing diversification of immigration-related diversity has gained much academic and policy attention. Despite being criticised by some as merely descriptive, oblivious to inequality and racism, and theoretically thin, the notion has taken on its own life, and it has been widely used across the social sciences and policy, both in the UK and internationally. This lecture addresses how the notion of super-diversity emerged and the kinds of criticism it has met. By using empirical examples from two ethnographic research projects, the lecture shows how the concept of super-diversity has helped move research on migration and ethnicity away from methodological nationalism, allowing for more nuanced interpretations of the social categories which make a difference for people of migrant origin. These include, for example, legal status, cultural capital, language, gender, religion and race. While acknowledging the limitations of the concept, the paper shows how a ‘super-diversity lens’ allows for a more finely tuned ethnographic analysis of ethnic minorities’ and migrants’ life-worlds and the social, economic, political and socio-cultural factors which shape their lives.

 

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