Diversity is a tricky concept. It can be mobilised to fight for justice and equity, or to justify inequalities. It can liberate legitimate forms of self-affirmation. But it can also impose or reinforce essentialist identities as rigid straitjackets. Is diversity a social and political claim and construction? Or is it the result of ascriptive features and legacies? Does diversity, in other words, constitute us as individuals? Or do we affirm diversity from the standpoint of our individual freedom? The conceptual tension is palpable and it has yet another, crucial, dimension.
We, humans, are not monads but social animals. We have been feeling this in our hearts and flesh ever since the current pandemic has violently attacked this facet of our humanity. How do we hence reconcile diversity with society, differentiated identities with co-existence and solidarity? This may be one of the most urgent and acute questions of our times.
Through his forays in the Poetics of Diversity, Edouard Glissant points to what might be the problem: we need to think dynamics and movement, not statics and fixed categories. Diversity should be an open and fluid landscape with plenty of commons, not a patchwork of enclosures:
“How can we be oneself without closing oneself to the other and how to open oneself to the other without losing oneself” (Glissant 1996:23).
This is not a question Glissant puts to us but rather an affirmation, a programme, a compass. We should go beyond being diverse to being “wanderers”. Wandering, according to Edouard Glissant, is not haphazard – it is purposeful and presupposes our openness and readiness to understand, learn, grow, co-exist and mutually enrich each other. Wandering is the path to respectful inclusion – and inclusion should be our next realist utopia. Let’s not fool ourselves though, this fight is not an easy one. It is made more complex but also even more necessary by the contemporary imperative that weighs on all of us to take and keep our social distances. This fight should be ours at the Graduate Institute – let’s wander, let’s wonder, let’s dream, think and act step-by-step to invent together a more inclusive collective space, a more inclusive world.
Glissant, Edouard (1996). Introduction à une poétique du divers. Paris :Gallimard.