This paper departs from the paradox between the omnipresent desire for superdiversity in universities and the actual persistence of the university as a normative space, that constructs certain bodies (white, male) as its natural occupants while excluding others (female, racialized) as deviant ‘space invaders’. Based on Bhabha’s conceptualization of the stereotype, I argue that discourses of diversity display the features of colonial discourse: ambivalent stereotypes of the ‘other’ as either happy and enriching, or as deficient and a challenge for the university, are functional in the confirmation of the Western self-image as a stable, rational and superior subject. Inherent in this process is the fetishization of ‘the other’, serving two main functions. On the one hand, the fetish of diversity serves to disavow the specter of disorder – brought about by the Other’s disturbing presence – by replacing it with the non-threatening image of ‘happy diversity’. On the other hand, it serves to displace one’s own undesirable characteristics – instability, deficiency, inferiority – by projecting them upon the Other, which then becomes the object of the remedying measures of diversity policies. By analyzing diversity policies elaborated at Flemish and Dutch universities, this paper questions what underlies the non-performativity of diversity policies, by exploring how the fetishization of diversity becomes a substitute for the actual experiences, emotions, perspectives of non-normative students. It critically interrogates if and how diversity discourses can be transformative and proposes the strategy of the ‘uncomfortable dialogue’ as a way to dislodge the coloniality of dominant diversity discourses.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 13 Sep 2018
Event10th European Feminist Research Conference: Difference, diversity, diffraction: Confronting hegemonies and dispossessions - Georg_August-Universität, Göttingen, Germany
Duration: 12 Sep 201815 Sep 2018


Conference10th European Feminist Research Conference
Internet address

    Research areas

  • diversity, stereotype

ID: 39608565