Graduation Year

2004

Document Type

Thesis

Degree

M.A.

Degree Granting Department

Sociology

Major Professor

Donileen R. Loseke

Keywords

race, ethnicity, gender, power relations, advertising claims

Abstract

This is a study of "workplace diversity" from a social constructionist perspective. The perspective holds that while human meaning is socially created, it is the social order which gives us resources for making this meaning. There is much literature about workplace diversity from objectivist standpoints that takes for granted the term "diversity." What is missing is a comprehensive understanding of diversity: what does this term mean? What does it conceal? I attempt to contribute to a better understanding of diversity by interrogating its construction in popular culture. I analyze the content of an advertising supplement called "Diversity Works," published in the New York Times Sunday Magazine, with a literal read to learn how diversity is manifestly constructed on the surface as well as how it is typified through formula stories.

Diversity is ideally defined as programs for creating a "culture of inclusion," but practical efforts imply normative attempts to assimilate persons designated as diverse to the standards imposed by the dominant group. I argue that claims about diversity act to construct collective identity for certain types of people thereby reinforcing their subordinate positions among the social hierarchy. As constructed, the social goodness of diversity is taken for granted, yet by its narrow typification reproduces race and gender divisions and accompanying inequalities. In practice, diversity is an alternate term for the other, the type of person who is not a member of the highly valued and socially privileged dominant group of white (Anglo) men. I suggest that diversity is linked to larger structures of domination evidenced by its construction as agents of social engineering existing to help certain types of people -- women and minorities.

My analysis offers potential contributions to diversity scholarship by attending to issues of power and dominance as they are constructed and interpreted in popular culture. Further, I contribute to a dialogue about power and dominance relations between identity groups. Finally, this study contributes to empirical work on the issues of socialization in the workplace. As constructed, diversity programs invoke the ideal of respecting difference in persons while coordinating sameness in behavior for the benefit of capitalist expansion.

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