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Contemporary Landscapes of Difference

A Critical Assessment of Keywords, Congress CASCA, Université Laval May 13 to 16
On May 15th 2015, in Quebec city, an IRTG Diversity panel was held as part of the annual meeting of the Canadian Anthropological Society (CASCA). Organized by Phillip Rousseau (IRTG Diversity, Université de Montréal) and Marie-Claude Haince (University of the Witwatersrand, IRTG Diversity), “Contemporary Landscapes of Difference. A Critical Assessment of Keywords” proposed a critical engagement with some of the traditional and emerging keywords with which knowledge is consistently attempting to apprehend, accentuate or minimize the presence and pretences of difference.

The panel thus offered conceptual and interdisciplinary contributions that critically analyze difference-related keywords such as social mixing, cultural translation, diversity, religious pluralism, spirituality, secularism and islamophobia. Such a wide array of concepts allowed us to draw a few initial ridges in the highly complex contemporary landscapes of difference.

A number of our IRTG members were on hand to deliver the goods:

- Rosaria Maria Tagliente (IRTG Diversity, Université de Montréal) proposed a deconstruction of the spatial approach to pluralism to highlight a temporal dimension that could recast the debates on religious pluralism;
- Sarah Pröwrock (IRTG Diversity, Saarland University) and Elisabeth Tutschek (IRTG Diversity, Université de Montréal) explored translation as a transnational cultural practice closely regarding the position and function of national languages, national literatures, and national cultures;
- Phillip Rousseau engaged critically with the emerging body of work dedicated to the manifold uses of the concept of diversity in contrasting contemporary institutional settings;
- Marie-Claude Haince interrogated the secular/religious articulation to expose the limits of the management of religious diversity in Western liberal societies;
- Antoine Trussard (Université de Montréal) examined the underpinnings of the concept of “social mixing” often used in urban policy and urban studies.

All in all, the proposed reflection closely followed some of the topics we had already engaged with in our regular IRTG reading groups in Montreal and which will continue next year by focusing on “Difference and the Common.” An IRTG Diversity panel will also be held at the next American Anthropological Association (AAA) annual meeting, later in the year, in order to pursue our critical engagement with concepts of difference.
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