Super-diversity: elements of an emerging perspective

by Karel Arnaut

Read this article [PDF, 2.3 MB]

This paper is an attempt to reflect upon diversity in contemporary globalising society from within the disciplinary frontier of anthropology and sociolinguistics. Like the paper of David Parkin (infra) Arnaut’s is an attempt to device new frames of reference for the sociolinguistic study of super-diversity. Here Arnaut explores the potential of ‘super-diversity’ as a perspective or lens for looking at diversity as discourse and as social practice. The paper first looks into the notion of super-diversity, which marks a sea-change in the global design of transnationalism. Moreover, super-diversity seems to indicate that a new approach is needed to replace the model of orderly multiculturalism by taking into account the fluidities and complexities of diversity in the age of heightened mobility and digital communication. Second, this paper recognises that over the last two decades a hegemonic ‘diversity’ discourse has emerged in a ‘post-panoptical’ configuration of governmentality that manages these complex forms of diversity. The challenge of the super-diversity perspective is to relate to this hegemonic discourse while not losing track of the exciting dynamics of messy and creative commonplace diversity in every-day interaction and low-key cultural production. In order to perform this task, the paper proposes a ‘critical sociolinguistics of diversity’ that is presented as part of a new moment in the post-colonial history of the human and social sciences, almost half a century after the earlier decolonising moves by scholars such as Johannes Fabian and Dell Hymes.

Suggested bibliographic reference for this article:
Arnaut, K., Super-diversity: elements of an emerging perspective. Diversities. 2012, vol. 14, no. 2, pp. 1-16, UNESCO. ISSN 2079-6595
www.unesco.org/shs/diversities/vol14/issue2/art1

About the author
Karel Arnaut is a Research Fellow at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity (Göttingen) where he conducts research on aspects of sociolinguistic superdiversity in city-based transactions between Africa and Europe. The main focus of his work is on the transnationalisation of public spaces as well as postcolonial dynamics in the area of diasporic identity-formation and activism in urban contexts in Europe and Africa.

Back to top