A picture paints…diversity™

For the past few years (since I have become part of academia), every time I look at university brochures and materials that feature lots of photos of students of color I have a mixed reaction to the academic diversity™ going on in the selected images.   While I am glad to see the up front acknowledgement of who can / is / should be a part of the university, these photos also remind me of all the slick magazine ads for fortune 500 businesses who have either one or no women or people of color in top corporate positions, but are sure to have them featured as equally represented in every ad.

Being the half full / half empty kind of person that I am, when I look at these images I am pulled in multiple directions at once, the first being an affirming emotion at how important it is to make visible all the diverse people striving and achieving at the university…    And almost in the same moment, I feel that ick — isn’t there a little comodification of brown or otherwise diverse bodies going on here to sell the diverse ™  image of a university that really is not all that diverse?  And then I do a quick panoptic shame on me for being so critical – why can’t I just enjoy the sunshine and smile… smile … smile…

Well I’ve just read this article, Doctoring Diversity: Race and Photoshop, at Sociological Images.  And let me just say the ick factor just took the lead in that tug of war.

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1 Comment

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One response to “A picture paints…diversity™

  1. Arwen

    I agree. The meaning and significance of “diverse” images are shaped by the larger context of what’s happening in real life for all the diverse “others” on campus. If the University was an environment where true critical inquiry about race/gender/class/ability etc. were welcomed, fostered, and used to shape policies, curricula, and physical space, the presence of brown or queer or deaf folks on the UO home page wouldn’t seem so exploitive.