Natasha K. Warikoo
The Diversity Bargain:
And Other Dilemmas of Race, Admissions, and Meritocracy at Elite Universities
This event includes a book signing
October 21, 2016
3:00 PM ET
Harvard Book Store
1256 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138
This event is free; no tickets are required.
Harvard Book Store and the Hutchins Center for African & African American Research welcome NATASHA K. WARIKOO, associate professor of education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, for a discussion of her latest book, The Diversity Bargain: And Other Dilemmas of Race, Admissions, and Meritocracy at Elite Universities.
About The Diversity Bargain
We've heard plenty from politicians and experts on affirmative action and higher education, about how universities should intervene—if at all—to ensure a diverse but deserving student population. But what about those for whom these issues matter the most? In this book, Natasha K. Warikoo deeply explores how students themselves think about merit and race at a uniquely pivotal moment: after they have just won the most competitive game of their lives and gained admittance to one of the world’s top universities.
What Warikoo uncovers—talking with both white students and students of color at Harvard, Brown, and Oxford—is absolutely illuminating; and some of it is positively shocking. As she shows, many elite white students understand the value of diversity abstractly, but they ignore the real problems that racial inequality causes and that diversity programs are meant to solve. They stand in fear of being labeled a racist, but they are quick to call foul should a diversity program appear at all to hamper their own chances for advancement. The most troubling result of this ambivalence is what she calls the “diversity bargain,” in which white students reluctantly agree with affirmative action as long as it benefits them by providing a diverse learning environment—racial diversity, in this way, is a commodity, a selling point on a brochure. And as Warikoo shows, universities play a big part in creating these situations. The way they talk about race on campus and the kinds of diversity programs they offer have a huge impact on student attitudes, shaping them either toward ambivalence or, in better cases, toward more productive and considerate understandings of racial difference.
Ultimately, this book demonstrates just how slippery the notions of race, merit, and privilege can be. In doing so, it asks important questions not just about college admissions but what the elite students who have succeeded at it—who will be the world’s future leaders—will do with the social inequalities of the wider world.
“The Diversity Bargain is a thoughtful and original work. By probing the views of British and American elite college students, Warikoo enriches our understanding of the meaning of merit, opportunity, and race today. Her book casts a bright light on the significance of opportunity in highly unequal settings. Well-written and engaging, it will be of interest to a wide range of readers, including students, university administrators, and policy makers.” —Annette Lareau, University of Pennsylvania, author of Unequal Childhoods
“Drawing on in-depth interviews with a diverse sample of undergraduate students, Warikoo offers an insightful reading of what elite students have to say about admissions, merit, and race, as well as provocative observations about the role and effectiveness of different kinds of diversity programs and the differences between the United States and United Kingdom. Exploring the various ‘racial frames’ that students use to make sense of the relationship between merit and race, she offers a powerful contribution to ongoing debates about affirmative action and higher education.” —Rubén Gaztambide-Fernández
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Harvard Book Store's Friday Forum series takes place on Friday afternoons during the academic year as a way to highlight scholarly books in a wide range of fields, with a particular focus on local scholars.
The Hutchins Center for African & African American Research at Harvard University supports research on the history and culture of people of African descent the world over and provides a forum for collaboration and the ongoing exchange of ideas. Learn more at hutchinscenter.fas.harvard.edu.
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