Superdiversity, Diaspora and Media

Project Coordinator: Dr Tanja Dreher

Date: 19-20 March 2007
Location: University of Western Sydney, Parramatta campus

This symposium brings together a select group of international scholars with research interests in exploring the relations between cultural diversity and media in the complex communities of the twenty-first century. Focusing on current research into transnationalism and the formation of diasporic public spheres, the symposium aims to foster research connections, share research data and set future research agendas.

The two-day event will begin with a wide-ranging discussion of the dynamics and dilemmas around cultural diversity, drawing on contemporary debates about the emergence of what has been dubbed superdiversity (Vertovec, 2005) – the proliferation of complex forms of cultural difference and connection beyond the established categories of multiculturalism. This superdiversity challenges the assumptions of existing multicultural policy and services yet also lays the foundations for the forms of everyday cosmopolitanism.

In this context, we see the formation of diasporic public spheres (Werbner, 2002) as arenas of conflict and creativity that serve transnational communities and which form complex relations with each other, with what has been normally thought of as the national public sphere, and with global media. Superdiversity and diaspora will be explored through the framework of mediation, highlighting the interrelationships between media audiences, texts and producers. Attention to mediation extends the research agenda beyond critiques of mainstream media representations, to explore the complex ways in which the ubiquity of mass media impacts on social life and shapes social interactions in the context of cultural complexity. Both everyday experiences of cultural diversity and of racism and marginalisation are negotiated through diasporic public spheres and in the mediated exchanges and exclusions between multiple publics and communities.

Within this framework, specific issues around theoretical models, conceptual categories and research methodologies will develop. These could include: the debates about whether these diasporic entities are best understood as communities or publics; how they relate to the resurgence of conservative nationalisms; what are the most productive ways of exploring these entities and the connections and divisions between them; and how they shift the focus of media studies.

As a way of ensuring a shared basis of research orientation, emphasis will be given to the current situation of Arab and Muslim diasporas. This is for a number of reasons. These groups have a peculiar place in current international politics and in the dynamics of western societies as a ‘dangerous other’ that is perceived as posing a threat to cultural cohesion, and therefore represent the limit case for multiculturalism in national imaginaries. These groups also demonstrate the complex processes of diasporic formation, negotiating cultural, ethnic, religious, national and geopolitical differences. They have also engaged in media practices that challenge traditional forms of broadcasting. However, researchers examining a range of groups will be included to give a useful comparative dimension.

Framing Questions

Superdiversity

Media and diversity

Diasporic public spheres

Research agendas

Hosted by the Cultural Research Network and the Centre for Cultural Research, UWS.

For more information, please contact Assoc Prof Greg Noble.