Hub Meeting 25-2-2020

The Engineerings of Diversity Policies and the Practice of Intersectionality

Foto: Donna van Rosmalen
Foto: Donna van Rosmalen

On February 25th, the second brown bag meeting of 2020 took place at the historical Sweelinkzaal at Drift 21. The room slowly filled with long-time attendees and new faces alike. Some amicably caught up and continued their conversations where they had left off while others, slightly more reserved with a bread roll and coffee in their hands, shuffled to their seats, laid out their note pads while browsing the skilfully ornamented room. This month’s meeting centred around one of the Hub’s research projects, focusing on the effects of unconscious biases within the production processes at the Dutch broadcasting agency NTR. Linda Senden, co-chair of the Hub and chair of today’s session, welcomed everyone and shortly introduced the Hub.

By Florien Kijlstra

About the Research

Rosemarie Buikema, co-chair of the Hub and project leader of this month’s discussed research, introduced the project. The research team, consisting of Rosemarie Buikema and fellow researchers Diederick van den Ende, Kim Schuiten and Astrid Kerchman, investigated the effects of unconscious biases in the production processes and storylines of the historical programme Andere Tijden and the daily informative show for children, Het Klokhuis. To envelop their research, Buikema pointed out staggering national statistics. These numbers illustrated a meagre progression in the representation of women and other minorities in Dutch media over the years but mainly emphasised the hard work still to be done on a national scale. However, although these national numbers provided welcome contextualisation, these were not the main focus of the Hub’s research project. With these numbers in mind, the research team zoomed back into their respective TV-shows and presented their methods and findings. Rather than just looking into representational data, the team investigated not only, when or whether minorities were represented but equally and perhaps even more importantly, how they are represented when they are, and what narrative and symbolic functions they occupy within both TV-programmes. This approach also led to other questions like; “how to avoid reinstalling certain stereotypes and biases when implementing well-intended change?”, and “how do we know what strategies for greater diversity and inclusion are effective?”.

Rather than just looking into representational data, the team investigated not only, when or whether minorities were represented but equally and perhaps even more importantly, how they are represented when they are, and what narrative and symbolic functions they occupy within both TV-programmes.

Food for Thought

This month’s respondents, dr. Lorena Sosa (Assistant Professor at the Netherlands Institute of Human Rights), dr. Kathrin Thiele (Associate Professor of Gender Studies and Critical theory in Media and Culture Studies), and Miriam Wickham (PhD-candidate in Social and Organisational Psychology) brought the research back to its intersectional roots. Lorena Sosa opened the discussion by asking “how are different intersectional categories constructed and conceptualised and in what scope?”, emphasizing the importance of who practices intersectionality and with what objectives. Kathrin Thiele elaborated on this question by arguing for an opening up of the intersectional framework by asking “the other question” and called for a constant critical engagement with intersectional categories such as race, gender and class, to name but a few. Miriam Wickham further complicated the matter by highlighting the pitfalls that arise when some of these categories are taken for granted or deemed natural, but also addressed the danger of imposing intersectional categories upon groups of people as a prominent part of their identity. Attendees eagerly jumped in on the conversation, raising questions on the role of academia as a so-called “outsider” or “saviour” within this debate, the importance of personal perception, and the prominent role of implicit target audiences in media constructing practises. To tackle such questions, a close collaboration between both academic and non-academic spheres is needed.

In the Future

The collaboration between the NTR and the Hub serves as an example for the Hub’s stakeholder projects, in which stakeholders and Hub researchers jointly analyse gender and diversity issues as put forward by the stakeholders. All the more, the Hub’s research highlights the complex and nuanced character of such collaborations. To truly foster systemic inclusivity, diversity and equality both academic researchers and organisations need to move towards each other, changing practises and raising awareness one step at a time.