11th Nov 2015 5:00pm-7:00pm

Grand Parade, G4


All that jazz: heritage and diversity in the Downton years

Dr Jo Littler (City University) and Dr Roshi Naidoo (Independent)

This paper considers the relationship between heritage and discourses of ‘diversity’ circulating in contemporary British culture. It focuses on how they interact to create, shape and distort popular understandings of identity, ‘race’, meritocracy and belonging, and how they are mobilized to shore up specific political world-views. We begin by noting the populist revival of stately home culture as a key signifier of Britishness via Downton Abbey, and use an analysis of the programme’s depiction of a black American jazz musician as a springboard into considering the place of diversity initiatives in contemporary heritage cultures. We discuss the fate of diversity initiatives under the coalition and now the Conservative government and their position as one of the first areas to face austerity cuts. How does ‘diversity’ become reconfigured in a neoliberal heritage landscape that increasingly depends upon private ‘enterprise’? Through what means might this new naturalized, privatized, racialised order of inequality be challenged? How can the past help reconfigure a politics of difference with a sense of our global interconnections and commonalities?

Roshi Naidoo is an independent researcher and arts and heritage consultant. Her research is concerned with the ways in which ‘pasts in the present’ are tied to contemporary issues of power, agency, identity and subversion. She co-edited (with Jo Littler) The Politics of Heritage: the legacies of ‘race’ (Routledge, 2005) and has worked on projects, sat on advisory boards and formulated policy for various organisations including the National Maritime Museum; The V&A; and the Greater London Authority (GLA). She is also a Research Affiliate at Keele University.

Jo Littler is Reader in Cultural and Creative Industries at City University London and together with Roshi Naidoo co-edited The Politics of Heritage: The Legacies of ‘Race’ (Routledge, 2005). She also wrote Radical Consumption: Shopping for change in contemporary culture (Open University Press, 2009); and co-edited (with Sam Binkley) Anti-consumerism and cultural studies (Cultural Studies, 2008 /Routledge 2011). She is currently writing a book called Against Meritocracy.