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Three Faces of Diversity Rhetoric: Managerialization, marketing and ambiguity
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Sociology.
2019 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Over the past decades, the language of diversity management has spread from the US to many parts of the world, including Sweden, where it emerged in the mid 1990’s. Consisting of three papers, this thesis contributes to the field of critical diversity studies by examining the multifaceted character of diversity rhetoric among Swedish diversity consultants. A central point of debate in previous research has been the relationship between, on one hand, diversity management rhetoric, and on the other hand, equal opportunities and antidiscrimination law. Scholars suggest that Scandinavian and Swedish “diversity” are strongly associated with ideals of equality, antidiscrimination and corporate social responsibility. This thesis gives nuance to this picture by focusing on the views of consultants.

Paper 1 tries to answer this question: Do Swedish diversity consultants managerialize antidiscrimination law? Research on the US and the UK asserts a conflict between legal equality and the instrumental rhetoric of diversity management. However, studies on continental Europe and Scandinavia tend to posit diversity rhetoric as linked to ethnicity and tempered by legal and social equality. Building on interviews with diversity consultants, this paper shows that their diversity constructions conform to the managerialization thesis. 

Paper 2 argues that diversity’s three common rhetorical moves—its broad scope, its business case, and its dissociation from legal frames—are more open to interpretation than typically portrayed in the critical diversity research. While scholars tend to interpret this rhetoric as managerial dilution of legal and equality ideals, findings indicate that consultants may use the same rhetorical moves to incorporate an equality logic and extend legal ideas beyond the limits of the law. These interpretative discrepancies are conceptualized as ambiguity—i.e., the same rhetorical moves may support more than one interpretation.

Paper 3 examines the ongoing institutional work of diversity consultants as they rhetorically try to build a business case for “ethnic marketing” in Sweden. Extant literature suggests that ethnic marketing relies on making differences between “them” (ethnic minority consumers) and “us” (majority consumers). This paper asserts that while making differences is crucial when creating “ethnic” consumers (“different from us”), another rhetorical strategy, “making similarities,” is used to construct already otherized people as “consumers” (“similar to us”). Further, findings show that Sweden’s lack of official statistics on ethnicity and general reluctance towards highlighting ethnicity may function as institutional obstacles that hamper the legitimacy and spread of ethnic marketing.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Department of Sociology, Stockholm University , 2019. , p. 58
Series
Stockholm studies in sociology, ISSN 0491-0885 ; 75
Keywords [en]
Diversity, diversity rhetoric, consultants, law, managerialization, ambiguity, marketing
National Category
Social Sciences
Research subject
Sociology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-164289ISBN: 978-91-7797-562-5 (print)ISBN: 978-91-7797-563-2 (electronic)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-164289DiVA, id: diva2:1278861
Public defence
2019-02-22, William-Olssonsalen, Geovetenskapens hus, Svante Arrhenius väg 14, Stockholm, 10:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Note

At the time of the doctoral defense, the following papers were unpublished and had a status as follows: Paper 1: Manuscript. Paper 2: Manuscript. Paper 3: Manuscript.

Available from: 2019-01-30 Created: 2019-01-15 Last updated: 2019-01-22Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. “Diversity is not the right word”: Consultancy rhetoric managerializing antidiscrimination law
Open this publication in new window or tab >>“Diversity is not the right word”: Consultancy rhetoric managerializing antidiscrimination law
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This paper draws on Edelman’s theory of rhetorical managerialization to answer this question: Do Swedish diversity consultants managerialize antidiscrimination law? Research on the US and the UK asserts a conflict between legal equality and the instrumental rhetoric of diversity management. However, studies on continental Europe and Scandinavia tend to posit diversity rhetoric as linked to ethnicity and tempered by legal and social equality concerns. Building on interviews with diversity consultants, this paper shows that their diversity constructions conform to the managerialization thesis. This finding gives nuance to the theory’s often-assumed preconditions, as well as the assumption that diversity discourse in Europe and Scandinavia is strongly associated with integration and antidiscrimination legislation.

Keywords
diversity, consultants, managerialization, rhetoric, discrimination law
National Category
Sociology
Research subject
Sociology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-164389 (URN)
Available from: 2019-01-16 Created: 2019-01-16 Last updated: 2019-01-16Bibliographically approved
2. (Dis)ambiguating diversity: Managerial rhetoric and divergent interpretations
Open this publication in new window or tab >>(Dis)ambiguating diversity: Managerial rhetoric and divergent interpretations
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This paper argues that diversity’s three common rhetorical moves—its broad scope, its business case, and its dissociation from legal frames—are more flexible than typically portrayed in the critical diversity research. Drawing on interviews with Swedish diversity consultants, this study shows that each rhetorical move may be interpreted in more than one way. While scholars tend to interpret this rhetoric as managerial dilution of legal and equality ideals, findings indicate that the same rhetorical moves may incorporate an equality logic and extend legal ideals beyond the limits of the law. These interpretative discrepancies are conceptualized as ambiguity—i.e., the same rhetorical moves may support more than one interpretation. 

Keywords
diversity, rhetoric, ambiguity, context, law, consultants, critical diversity research
National Category
Sociology
Research subject
Sociology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-164393 (URN)
Available from: 2019-01-16 Created: 2019-01-16 Last updated: 2019-01-16Bibliographically approved
3. Hitting people in the heart: The “ethnic marketing” case for diversity as institutional work
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Hitting people in the heart: The “ethnic marketing” case for diversity as institutional work
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Despite the centrality of marketing rationales to diversity management’s “business case,” marketing is virtually absent in critical diversity research. Drawing from research on ethnicity and market categorizations, this paper examines the ongoing institutional work of diversity consultants as they rhetorically try to build a business case and legitimize “ethnic marketing” in Sweden. Previous literature suggests that ethnic marketing relies on making differences between “them” (ethnic minority consumers) and “us” (majority consumers). This paper asserts that while making differences is crucial when creating “ethnic” consumers (“different from us”), another rhetorical strategy, “making similarities,” is used to construct already otherized people as “consumers” (“similar to us”). However, findings show that Sweden’s lack of official statistics on ethnicity and general reluctance towards highlighting ethnicity may function as institutional obstacles that hamper the legitimacy and spread of ethnic marketing. 

Keywords
diversity rhetoric, critical diversity research, ethnic marketing, multicultural marketing, institutional work, ethnicity, market categorizations
National Category
Sociology
Research subject
Sociology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-164395 (URN)
Available from: 2019-01-16 Created: 2019-01-16 Last updated: 2019-01-16Bibliographically approved

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