Keynote lecture of the "Diversity in/and the GAAS" conference which takes place at the Amerikahaus from October 20 - October 21, 2017. Free admission, please register below.

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Diversity - (Not) A Thing

Keynote Lecture / Free admission / Please register


Diversity has been around for many years, ringing in two distinctive but related tones: First, and maybe more generally, „diversity“ has become the mainstream term for social differences which make a difference in social life. The second tone links this overall notion with the more specific dynamic of neoliberal capitalism. As in ‚diversity management‘, social differences are framed as economic assets for organizations, companies, teams, etc. Diversity makes the money world go round, it seems.  

When highlighting these main dimension of ‚diversity‘ as hegemonic rhetoric, Paula-Irene Villa will discuss the problematic, or at least highly ambivalent genealogy of this state of affairs. By showing how the Civil Rights Movement, multiculturalism as rhetoric and as aesthetic practice, and finally how intersectional politics are all core elements which constitute current notions of ‚diversity‘, she shall offer a critical approach towards the empowerment promises this very notion entails. Finally, the talk will briefly discuss the rise of ‚Trumpism‘ as a brutal reaction towards a politics of ‚difference savvy‘ as exemplarily embodies by Barack and Michelle Obama.

About Paula-Irene Villa
Paula-Irene Villa is full professor and chair for Sociology and Gender Studies at LMU München. She's also currently elected member of the board of the German Sociological Association (DGS), and she's served as elected board member of the German Association for Gender Studies from 2010 - 2014.

Her research focuses on the analysis of biopolitics, i.e. the ambivalent entanglements of society and soma, on Cultural Studies (Pop and Politics, Embodiment within Subcultures such as Tango), on Care & Gender, and on Science/Academia and Gender. She's published widely on gender/social theory (post-structuralism, Butler, Bourdieu, symbolic violence), the sociology of embodiment, beautification and normalization, on feminist body politics, and on German and Europan "anti-genderism" as part of new nationalist populism.

She's directed funded empirical research (e.g. DFG, VW, Humboldt foundations) on Cosmetic Surgery, Food/Fitness, comparative analysis of Gender Equality Programs in academic capitalism, and on popular culture.

She has authored and (co-)edited 10 books and over 50 papers in partly peer-reviewed (mainly German) journals and books. Over the last years, Paula-Irene Villa has contributed many op-ed pieces in the wider media such as Focus Online, Bayerischer Rundfunk, Tagesspiegel, taz, Deutschlandfunk, etc.


Sociology and Gender Studies at LMU München
Paula-Irene Villa


Organizers: Bavarian American Academy, DGfA/GAAS - German Association for American Studies


(Photo: Paula-Irene Villa / ©Paula-Irene Villa)