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Cluster of Excellence EXC 2052 - "Africa Multiple: reconfiguring African Studies"

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The Intersectionality and Critical Diversity Literacy (ICDL) Lecture / Workshop Series – an AMC Measure by the Gender and Diversity Office.


As envisaged in its concept, the Africa Multiple Cluster of Excellence has established a Gender and Diversity Office (GDO). For the upcoming semester, the GDO has launched a lecture and workshop series on “Intersectionality and Critical Diversity Literacy”.

The Cluster’s Gender and Diversity Office (GDO) is mindful of the heterogeneous African (continental and diasporic) contexts in relation to the institutional settings as well as research specificities in African Studies at the University of Bayreuth. The GDO plans and coordinates measures for the cluster at individual, structural and cultural dimensions – and reconciles these with the existing programs at the University of Bayreuth. As a full member of the Cluster’s General Assembly, its Management Board and its Academic Committee, the Gender and Diversity Office works as a node of scrutiny, reflection, liaison and action in the following identified areas:

  • The establishing and maintaining of communication networks between different researchers and research activities within the cluster
  • the transfer of knowledge pertaining to equality and diversity into the university’s structures in cooperation with other university units in the wider context an example of which is the installation of the field of intersectionality studies as an ongoing research focus.

General Objectives and Relevance of the ICDL Lecture and Workshop Series

As an organizational space, the university demonstrates an accretion of functions, people, discourses, histories, cultural perspectives, hierarchies, research interests and output which produce (and are produced by) knowledges (Mohanty, 2003 and Ahmed, 2012). It is notable that diversity parameters in the German university equity context are often chiefly concerned with gender, motherhood and disability, while race and ethnic origins are frequently side-lined and intersectional dimensions are eclipsed. These are being assessed in the given institutional frameworks in order to develop intersectional vocabularies and measures at the levels of administration, research cooperation and teaching. In this light, the Gender and Diversity Office holds the mandate for the identification and analysis of mechanisms of inclusion and exclusion as well as potentially divisive boundaries identified in order to implement counter-measures.

The pertinence of the research fields of Intersectionality and Critical Diversity Literacy to higher education is important in the purview of quality assurance management for the Cluster according to the German Research Foundation’s guidelines (2017). These stipulate that diversity aspects should be considered and implemented at managerial levels, while being included as an integral dimension of the research agendas undertaken –  these are recommendations taken seriously by the Cluster. Both concepts are intrinsically linked to the Cluster academic and political principles of multiplicity, reflexivity and relationality in its mission and vision of reconfiguring African Studies (see Cluster Proposal, p. 11-16).

Intersectionality and critical diversity literacy approaches consider how difference is conceived of and dealt with, whereby difference is not to be seen as a ‘problem’ that requires ‘solutions’ but rather is a site of reflexive connection and productive relations. Both approaches focus and scrutinize power differential and dynamics, where hierarchies organise normative social relations, comprising inclusive and exclusionary mechanisms.  Hence literacy in both these fields constitutes ‘‘an enabled’ mode of existence, congruent with the requirements of the emerging social imaginary of the 21st century’ (Steyn, 2015: 380).

Intersectionality approaches frame individuals within relational networks that complicate their social locations embedded in systems of power, where interdependent modes of oppression and privilege are shaped by racism, patriarchy, colonialism etc. (Crenshaw, 1991; Bailey, 2011; Hankivsky, 2014). Critical Diversity Literacy (CDL) is an informed analytical framework, wherein scholars, artists and activists acquire competencies in reading social relations as a form of text ‘recognizing the ways in which possibilities are being opened up or closed down for those differently positioned in the unfolding dynamics of specific social contexts’ (Steyn, 2015: 381).

The ICDL Lecture and Workshop Series has been envisioned as an ongoing GDO measure for the Cluster’s PIs, research section members and the ACC members. It has been instituted with a view to instigating reflection on actual practices of diversity awareness as laid out in the Cluster principles of multiplicity, reflexivity and relationality, central to the Cluster agenda of Reconfiguring African Studies (see Africa Multiple: Reconfiguring African Studies.  Cluster Proposal. Pages 7-8).

Such reflection and practice regard both actual inclusion of structurally under-represented groups as well as the integration of diversity-related approaches and methodologies into research activities. A significant goal of the ICDL series is the development of greater sensitization for modes of difference constituting gender hierarchies, racial and cultural positionalities and standpoints, as well as knowledge production practices; these should be more consciously engaged with in structural dynamics and research activities in Cluster contexts.

Winter semester 2019/20: Two ICDL events planned

The GDO has invited ADEFRA Berlin e.V. for this first ICDL event for the winter semester 2019-2020 at the University of Bayreuth; envisoned as a kick-off event, this workshop is a means to address the timeliness of intersectionality and critical diversity literacy approaches as pertinent concepts for research methodologies and diversity-oriented organizational development for Cluster activities. (Find more information here)

The second event of the Cluster GDO’s Intersectional and Critical Diversity Literacy (ICDL) lecture and workshop series will feature the Black British educator and feminist activist Stella Dadzie, based in London. Located at the critical interface of education and social justice activism, Stella’s work proffers pragmatic linkages between academic sites and methodologies of knowledge production and current political activities in Black British sociocultural contexts. (Find more information here) (cvw)

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