Diversity is one of the key words of our time. As globalisation is making the world smaller, bringing in interaction an increasing diversity of people, products and ideas, the question of whether and how we can live and prosper together while keeping and enjoying our differences is becoming crucial to our society. The political debate, in Europe and not only, is highly polarised.

As a Network, SUS.DIV thinks that research could have a role in this debate and contribute to the knowledge base for the design of the appropriate policies and structures. We also think that the complexity of diversity challenges the very methods and structure of research.

This Final Conference builds on the experiences and findings of the Network to discuss with the research community some proposals for future direction of diversity research that addresses the complexity of diversity and rise to societal demands.
The following four themes are discussed:

  • The dilemma of context. Diversity, as any social problem, is always a problem in context. Research must however to be able to abstract from context to be able to generalise. How to reconcile/recombine the two? What methods have been adopted by the different disciplines? What implications for discipline and interdisciplinary research?  
  • Diversity, inequality and hierarchy. Diversity is inextricably linked to inequality and creating of hierarchies. However the vocabularies of those focussing on the inequality issue differ greatly from those considering the question of diversity. What are the underlying assumptions of each perspective? What are the new research questions if the two agendas are brought together? How can these new questions be studied?
  • Diversity, democracy and governance. Liberal tradition is conceived in terms of individuals and the state. While diversity policies tend to focus on (cultural) groups, it is now evident that culture cannot longer represent the solution to the tension between the individual and the state. What way forward should research investigate?
  • Diversity as capital.  There is an increasing emphasis, both in policy and research, on the potential of diversity, for creativity, innovation, development at large. The underlying mechanisms remain however largely unknown and the dilemma between conservation and development seems unsolved. What mechanisms should research shed new light on? Is there a dilemma between conservation and development? how to address it?