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"Constructing multiculturalism at school: Negotiating tensions in talk about ethnic diversity"

Sam Kirkham

Discourse & Society, 27 (4), 2016

Recent trends in British education policy have led to an increased focus on promoting ethnic diversity in schools, as well as greater parental involvement in school choice. This combination has led some schools to actively market diversity as a selling point in order to attract more minority ethnic students, as well as attract White middle-class students seeking a more ‘diverse’ educational experience. This article analyses how students attending such a school in England engage with discourses of multiculturalism. I identify three themes that characterise talk about multiculturalism at school: (1) multiculturalism-as-beneficial commodity, (2) claims of ‘reverse racism’ in provision for minority groups, and (3) denial of racism and constructing the school as a tolerant environment where everybody gets along. Through an analysis of discourse strategies and positioning tactics, I demonstrate how students negotiate tensions between the existence of racism and the construction of an inclusive and anti-racist educational environment.

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