The value of cultural diversity: rhetoric and reality


This report is meant to summarize the discussion themes introduced in the Fellows Day session of the 9th Biennial Congress of the International Academy of Intercultural Research held in Bergen, Norway June 28, 2015. The report also attempts to summarize some of the participant comments made during the session. Because it is a report and not an original research article, descriptions of concepts are intentionally truncated and referencing is restricted to establishing context more than linking to other contemporary treatments of the issue. Further, the summary of participant comments is necessarily selective and may not reflect the complete intention of the commentator. Participant comments were for the most part informed observations or statements of opinion and are therefore not accompanied by formal references. The Fellows Day session was advertised with the following description: Practitioners of intercultural communication and cross-cultural psychology routinely make the claim that cultural diversity is an asset to teams, organizations, and societies. The more research-oriented among us quote studies that have shown correlations of creativity and heterogeneity of teams, profitability and diversity in corporations, and innovativeness and immigration in societies. These studies serve our purposes, but to what extent are they indicative of a general value of diversity? What is the research that fails to show these correlations or that suggests complex mediating factors? How do we integrate our understanding of immigrant assimilation with the preservation of ethnic diversity? How can we extend the idea of preserving diversity to the realm of mergers and acquisitions in corporations? Is the global village generating homogeneity, or is it really, as McLuhan (Understanding media: the extensions of man. McGraw-Hill, New York, 1964) put it, that our neighbors will be profoundly different from us? And is that intrinsically good, or do we need to make it good? These and other questions central to our social future are appropriate for consideration by IAIR Fellows. I propose that we do so in three exploratory phases: *The first exploration is of the rhetoric: what we want to believe, what we sell, and how we support that with anecdote and ideology. I am not using "rhetoric" in a pejorative way here; I mean it more like "narrative" or "value proposition" (which is, by the way, the way the term is used by academic rhetoricians). Thus, the idea is to explore the assumptions we are making in claiming that cultural diversity is a good thing. I hope part of this conversation will position our narrative in the largely post-enlightenment, post-modern Western context that is its home, and that is will also explore how the idea of diversity has or has not emerged in other geo/historical contexts. *The second exploration is a more critical view of our claims, seeking both supportive and contradictory theory and research regarding the value of diversity and/or the value of uniformity. I don’t mean to juxtapose "reality" in a positive way to "rhetoric." Rather, I mean to invoke the empirical reality of research as a tool to assess and either support or not our rhetorical claims. I hope we can include both quantitative and qualitative and both descriptive and nomothetic forms of research in our consideration, with the goal of seeing how our claims about the value of diversity stand up to systematic observation. * The third phase is reconciliatory, exploring ways to form a dialectic of © 2016 The Author(s). This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. Open Access *Correspondence: 1 Intercultural Development Research Institute, Hillsboro, OR, USA Full list of author information is available at the end of the article Page 2 of 14 Bennett SpringerPlus (2016) 5:897


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