The Enigma of Diversity

The Language of Race and the Limits of Racial Justice

Ellen Berrey

The Enigma of Diversity
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Ellen Berrey

352 pages | 6 halftones, 1 map, 2 line drawings, 3 tables | 6 x 9 | © 2015
Cloth $80.00 ISBN: 9780226246062 Will Publish April 2015
Paper $27.50 ISBN: 9780226246239 Will Publish April 2015
Diversity these days is a hallowed American value, widely shared and honored. That’s a remarkable change from the Civil Rights era—but does this public commitment to diversity constitute a civil rights victory? What does diversity mean in contemporary America, and what are the effects of efforts to support it?

Ellen Berrey digs deep into those questions in The Enigma of Diversity. Drawing on six years of fieldwork and historical sources dating back to the 1950s, and making extensive use of three case studies from widely varying arenas—housing redevelopment in Chicago’s Rogers Park neighborhood, affirmative action in the University of Michigan’s admissions program, and the workings of the human resources department at a Fortune 500 company—Berrey explores the complicated, contradictory, and even troubling meanings and uses of diversity as it is invoked by different groups for different, often symbolic ends. In each case, diversity affirms inclusiveness, especially in the most coveted jobs and colleges, yet it resists fundamental change in the practices and cultures that are the foundation of social inequality. Berrey shows how this has led racial progress itself to be reimagined, transformed from a legal fight for fundamental rights to a celebration of the competitive advantages afforded by cultural differences.

Powerfully argued and surprising in its conclusions, The Enigma of Diversity reveals the true cost of the public embrace of diversity: the taming of demands for racial justice.
Vincent Roscigno, Ohio State University
“Drawing on the extensive case analyses, and embedding herself in core theoretical questions surrounding culture, power and diversity, Berrey provides an important snapshot of historical and contemporary claims-making about inequality and institutional practices in higher education, housing and work. Fascinating and important in these regards is Berrey's simultaneous attention to the hopes but also pitfalls of current diversity efforts—efforts that are forged in an arena of definitional ambiguity, sometimes clarified through the courts, and filtered through popular and media perceptions. This is a must read for culture, diversity and organizational scholars, as well for practitioners and those with specific interests in education, work, housing and inequality.”
John Skrentny, University of California-San Diego
“This is a wonderful book. It makes important contributions to cultural analysis, organizational change, social movements, and race and ethnic relations. The in-depth, insightful, balanced, and theoretically grounded ethnography of the corporation is especially valuable. Berrey’s close-up examination of how it looks on the ground, and the variety of cross-pressures affecting the implementation of these policies, is worth the price of the book alone. Berrey writes as a sympathetic observer, with an agenda of understanding, rather than as an advocate of diversity policies or a close-minded critic.”
Eduardo Bonilla-Silva, Duke University
"In this important book Ellen Berrey shows how the demands for inclusion of the racially oppressed during the Civil Rights Era were translated in universities, communities, and corporations into practices to keep the powerful in control. Berrey has deconstructed the symbolic politics of diversity and helped us understand the fundamental importance of substantive rather than formal diversity."
One     The Symbolic Politics of Racial Progress

Part I: Undergraduate Admissions at the University of Michigan
Two     “Academically Excellent and Diverse”
Three   Gratz, Grutter, and the Public Relations of Defending Affirmative Action

Part II: Housing Politics in Rogers Park
Four     “The Most Diverse Neighborhood in Chicago”
Five     Gentrification, Displacement, and the Color-Blind Opposition to Subsidized Housing

Part III: Human Resource Management in Starr Corporation
Six       “Diversity Is a Strength of Starr Corporation”
Seven  Diversity Management, Shareholder Capitalism, and the Biases of Meritocracy

Conclusion: Neoliberalism, Color Blindness, and Inequality in the Age of Diversity

Methodological Appendix
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