Aarhus Universitets segl

Engaging with diversity work as atmospheric work. Performative experiments and careful critiques

Arranged by the research projects Affective Investments in Diversity work in STEM at Danish Universities, Diversity Work as Mood Work in Education and the Research Program Policy Futures Aarhus University, The Danish School of Education.

Oplysninger om arrangementet


mandag 27. november 2023, kl. 09:00 - tirsdag 28. november 2023, kl. 16:00


Eigtved pakhus, Strandgade 25D, 1401 Copenhagen.

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https://dpu.au.dk/en/research/research-programmes/policy-futures -> ’News’ 

Universities and other educational institutions across the globe are struggling with diversity work and equality actions. Diversity work refers both to formal initiatives by organizations (e.g. diversity committees, action plans, cultural awareness workshops) and to the work that we each do in the course of our everyday lives when faced with differentiated and intersectional identities and axes of power. For a number of years, a wide array of conferences, journals, and policy papers have called for approaches and technologies addressing diversity in frames of gender and race, and lately neurodiversity. However, there has been little focus on the analytical and methodological framing, the forms of critique, and the ethical and careful practices when conducting research on diversity work. What is needed is an explorative, careful discussion of the ethico-political, onto-epistemological, and performative premises for knowledge production concerning diversity work and for conducting research in pursuit of another and more diverse future.

This conference takes up the challenge and suggests that not only is diversity work what Sara Ahmed has termed ‘atmospheric work’. Such production has considerable affective dimension. The focus is on how to engage with the intensities, pulses, and (un)pleasant affective energies that are sparked into motion by and circulate within diversity work, as well as how to engage with and challenge the affective atmospheres that envelop research on diversity work.

Through experimental formats combining research, the arts, and forum theatre, the conference will offer two inspiring and stimulating days and an opportunity to engage with different ideas – both one’s own and those of others. It will be a forum for collective reflection on ways to transform and transgress the boundaries of knowledge production on diversity work as an atmospheric endeavour.

We invite participants to work on their own projects at the conference and bring their work for use in experiments with different ways of researching, analysing, and curating diversity (work) that strive for other and more liveable diversity futures.

The conference draws inspiration from a performative approach to wor(l)ding diversity (work), its pasts and alternative futures, by examining and discussing different impulses of diversity work as well as ethically sound modes of critique and care. Key points of reference include: speculative fabulation concerning the archive of coloniality and racial matters; methodologies of reconfiguration while staying with the trouble’ of contemporary global issues of the Anthropocene/Chthulucene and Man’s project; Art-based approaches to knowledge production and pedagogies; feminist new materialist and anticolonial methodologies; decolonial, Black, indigenous, and feminist engagements for studying and understanding erasures and haunting absences; and feminist Science & Technology inspiration on what kind of methodologies help us navigate, when moving in and around ‘matters of facts’, ‘matters of concern’, and ‘matters of care’.

The conference is framed by two highly inspirational keynotes from Arts and faciliatated by a performance artist:

Erin Manning is professor and chair at the Sense Lab at the Faculty of Fine Arts at Concordia University in Montreal. Manning works within the fields of philosophy, aesthetics, and politics and is concerned with alter-pedagogical, alter-economic practices and pedagogical experiments. Recent monographs include The Minor Gesture (Duke 2016), For a Pragmatics of the Useless (2020) and Out of the Clear (forthcoming))Manning has for many years been a lead thinker in affect studies and has lately moved into discussions of neurodiversity and whiteness.

Nahum Nyincho Welang is Associate Professor of English Language Literature at the University of Stavanger. Welang works within the fields of American literature, cultural studies and film and television, and is the author of the book The Affirmative Discomforts of Black Female Authorship: Rethinking Triple Consciousness in Contemporary American Culture (Lexington Books, 2022).

The conference will be for a limited number of scholars. During the conference, facilitator Di Ponti will assist us in exploring wi(l)der angles in listening and in navigating methodological dilemmas and conflicts when researching and teaching diversity work.

Pertinent questions include: How does one cultivate a radical imagination while augmenting, transposing, and breaking open empirical material that can paint a more detailed picture of affective knowledge production in educational organizations? Which affective impulses does the critiques embark on? How can we move beyond conventional criticism and instead experimental ventures that support the emergence of productive, careful, and collaborative critiques and analyses fostering different and better diversity futures? What ethical questions should be asked and addressed in such processes of knowledge production? How can critique be practiced as an ethico-political rather than a moralizing activity and without ignoring issues of planetary exploitation, capitalism, racism, colonialism, sexism, and inequalities?