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Global Challenges: Diversity



First-year programme.

Admissions requirements



What does it mean to say that diversity is a global challenge? One could argue diversity is a fact of life: if we are all different, why should this constitute a challenge?

More often than not, people like and feel more comfortable with others who are like themselves, feeling in turn threatened by those who differ and that which they do not recognize. History, from East to West and South to North, shows us how our modern societies are, in the jargon of social scientists, highly differentiated. Globalization has highlighted our differences and the contradictions between the need to belong (to discrete communities), and the fact that we live in highly anonymous, mixed and complex societies. At the same time, new technologies increase our possibilities to realise the extent to which we are connected to, and depend on, the actions of those who we label as strangers and others, those with whom we share nothing, except for the planet (and that’s not little!).

There are many approaches to the question of diversity, in factual and normative terms. In this course, we will use the various disciplinary perspectives and methodological approaches which blend in the Human Diversity major to address diversity thematically. The course proposes to focus on six conventional markers of diversity, using them as lenses to investigate how they affect our ways of thinking, conceptualizing and understanding diversity today, in personal and social terms. The weekly units are:

WEEK 1 – Globalization and linguistic diversity
WEEK 2 – The genealogy and performativity of gender
WEEK 3 – Does race exist? Racism in today’s society
WEEK 4 – Qualities and inequalities of capitalism
WEEK 5 – Multiple religions, one form of tolerance?
WEEK 6 – When is nation? Nationalism an old and new challenges
WEEK 7 – Why does diversity matter?
WEEK 8 – Reading Week

Course objectives

The main objective of this course is to make students aware of the complexities inherent to the challenge of diversity. In particular by the completion of this course students should be able to:

  • Attain conceptual and empirical knowledge about the historical and socio-political process that make diversity a challenge.

  • Critically disclose these complexities from various disciplinary angles and based on different types of evidence.

  • Illustrate the crucial role of interdisciplinary approaches and methods in social science and humanities to understand diversity: the ways in which history frames and explains these events, how literature provides narratives from an experiential perspective, and how theory informs the ways we conceptualise them.

  • Examine, question and position themselves regarding prevailing criteria about what is defined and considered to be different (and by contrast what accounts as ‘normal’) in their own societies.


Once available, timetables will be published here.

Mode of instruction

Biweekly meetings form the main body of this course:

  • On Mondays, two different instructors will lead the plenary lectures each week. This will guarantee the introduction of knowledge on the weekly unit from different disciplinary perspectives and observing different types of sources/evidence.

  • On Wednesdays / Fridays sessions students will participate in a seminar-based type of discussion, when your participation is essential.


In-class participation, 15%, Ongoing;
Mid-term examination, 30%, Week 5
Final essay proposal (1500 words), 15%, Week 5
Final essay (3000 words), 40%, Week 8


There will be a Blackboard site available for this course. Students will be enrolled at least one week before the start of classes.

Reading list

Scholarly literature, journalistic reports, historical sources and literature will constitute the main sources of the course material, all available electronically on BB before the beginning of the course.


This course is open to LUC students and LUC exchange students. Registration is coordinated by the Curriculum Coordinator. Interested non-LUC students should contact


Dr. Daniela Vicherat Mattar,


Readings for the first plenary session (Monday 3 April):
Bauman, Z. (2001) “Oneself with others” in Thinking Sociologically. London: Blackwell, pages: 17-27.
Foer, J. (2012) Utopian for beginners. An amateur linguist loses control of the language he invented in The New Yorker, December 24 & 31.
Borges, J. L. (1998) On exactitude in science in Jorge Luis Borges, Collected Fictions (Trans. Hurley, H.) Penguin Books. Page: 325.