Diversity and Globalisation

A group of children in a circle with their arms around each other.

How can positive diversity flourish locally and globally under conditions of uneven globalisation?

Social diversity now characterises our interconnected local worlds. Framed by uneven processes of globalisation, issues of belonging and meaning are becoming increasingly complex and contradictory. This dynamic brings new urgency to older questions about national identity, ethnic difference, citizenship, multiculturalism, Indigeneity, migration and refugees. At the same time, long-term issues such as colonial displacement, cultural marginalisation and political inequity continue to confound processes of engagement and governance. Our research works practically and theoretically in collaboration with communities, cities, organisations and different levels of government to negotiate the challenges posed by this social diversity in everyday life. Our research systematically explores the possibilities of transformations in governance, learning and human conduct.

Diversity is central to the human condition, but it is too often treated as a given. Intensifying social change compels us to rethink the tensions between difference and identity. In the context of dislocating global relations and intensifying digital communications, shifting identities and increasing mobility are giving rise to recurring challenges: racism, reactive nationalisms, cross-cultural tensions, personal anxiety and even violence. In this context, questions of diversity and deep difference have implications for a range of grounded issues from governance and urban planning to refugee policy and settler-Indigenous relations. For example, what does a positive multicultural society look like, and how is it best negotiated? How do we most appropriately negotiate intercultural relations? How do older ways of life continue to be a viable dimension of our fast-moving present?

Our engaged research has impact through a range of applications for, among others, international organisations, schools, museums, cultural institutions, the media and business. For example, we are providing tools and methods for guiding sustainable urban development, engaging disenfranchised individuals and communities, improving the educational outcomes of students from culturally diverse backgrounds, and rethinking policies on migration and refugees. Working with concepts of sustainability, resilience and adaptation, our research has had significant impact in places as diverse as Sydney, Port Moresby, Dili, Shanghai and Porto Alegre.

The Diversity and Globalisation research theme combines engagement in local places and a systematic approach to understanding the globalising forces that surge through those places. The research begins in the place where we work – Western Sydney – and moves to other regions of the globe. Through an innovative method of enquiry, bringing together global-local ethnography, historically informed understandings of social complexity, and grounded analysis through digital data, we engage with communities to produce knowledge that bridges the usual divide between theoretically-informed and empirically-based research.

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