Academic journal article Journal of Cultural Diversity

The Current Debate on Cultural Diversity in Sweden

Academic journal article Journal of Cultural Diversity

The Current Debate on Cultural Diversity in Sweden

Article excerpt

Abstract: The paper examines the conceptual context of cultural diversity in Sweden. It describes the background in which the former Social Democratic Government declared 2006 as the Year for Cultural Diversity. A related concern is scrutinizing whether in fact this year would be a starting point for more deeply engaged diversity programs or if such policy definitions remain mere symbolic acts of window dressing. The study is based on analysis of official documents, diversity events and agendas, and interviews with different actors and diversity consultants, and participation in seminars and conferences on the topic of diversity and integration as the main topics. A major concern is whether the current interest on cultural diversity may lead to its institutionalization in the Swedish cultural and social organizations (Hamde, 2002a) and address the virtues of diversity, such as diversity for profitability and competence in workplaces, social justice concerns, and finally, societal cohesion. Alternatively, the paper explores if the debate on diversity merely remains a 'traveling' idea to appear occasionally and then occur in fashion-like manner as many management ideas do, leaving little traces on peoples' lives.

Key Words: Actors, Cultural Diversity, Diversity Consultants, Institutionalization, Multiculturalism, Multicultural Year, Sweden

The main purpose of the paper is to describe the discourse on cultural diversity among dif- ferent actors in Sweden for the last few years, that is, to account for the conceptualizations, and not to explain the actual process through which cultural diversity is lived upon or realized. The paper examines if there are any emerging patterns from the debates and discourses to constitute a guide for the future, including the understandings and values people put on diversity and these may affect peoples' lives. Accounting for the discourse on diversity is a vital part in understanding how it is practiced in reality. The paper does not directly look upon how exactly cultural diversity is being implemented or accounted for in practical life, although this will come eventually in future studies. In order to do so, I have turned to qualitative research methods where relevant actors involved in the creation and dissemination of diversity discourse take a central place. The method consists of interviews with key informants and actors involved in the integration policies, research programs of cul- tural diversity institutions (Multicultural Centrum, Stockholm), participation in a couple of conferences and seminars with "diversity" as key topic, and interviews with two Cultural Diversity Consultants (DC). The Swedish government established the Cultural Diversity Consultants in 2003 to work disseminate relevant information and create an arena for networking among diverse actors in eight counties. They closely cooperate with cultural institutions and leaders in the cultural realm. In two of the seminars and conferences, the debates and appropriate discussions by researchers on diversity were video-filmed.

In the following sections, I will introduce the main concepts prevalent in the current debate on diversity in Sweden. I will then turn to some of the work at the Multicultural Centrum in promoting the virtues of diversity in different contexts, especially the cultural institutions and organizations. I will also shortly describe the role of what have come to be known since 2003 as Cultural Diversity Consultants, shortened as Diversity consultants and sometimes as multicultural consultants, followed by a description of the increasing events, including seminars and conferences in which the author has participated. Finally, the paper examines whether the diverse diversity concepts and events are linked to generally acknowledged virtues of cultural diversity - profitability and competence in workplaces, social justice, and finally, societal cohesion - concluding that the debate takes different trajectories and exhibits differing assumptions that sometimes may lead to contradictory effects. …

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