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Challenging Diversity
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  • Page extent: 248 pages
  • Size: 228 x 152 mm
  • Weight: 0.37 kg
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 (ISBN-13: 9780521539548 | ISBN-10: 0521539544)

  • Also available in Hardback
  • Published July 2004

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$51.99 (C)

Challenging Diversity

What challenges are presented by the claim that diversity should be celebrated? How should equality politics respond to controversial constituencies, such as smokers and recreational hunters, when they position themselves as disadvantaged? Challenging Diversity brings a new and original approach to key issues facing social, political and cultural theory. Critically engaging with feminist, radical democratic and liberal scholarship, the book addresses four major challenges confronting a radical equality politics, namely, what does equality mean for preferences and choices that appear harmful? are equality’s subjects individuals, groups or something else? what power do dominant norms have to undermine equality-oriented reforms? and can radical practices endure when they collide with the mainstream? Taking examples from religion, gender, sexuality, state policy-making and intentional communities, Challenging Diversity maps new ways of understanding equality, explores the politics of its pursuit, and asks what kinds of diversity a radical version of equality engenders.

DAVINA COOPER is Professor of Law and Political Theory in the School of Law, University of Kent, and Director of the AHRB Research Centre in Law, Gender and Sexuality. Her previous publications include Sexing the City: Lesbian and Gay Politics within the Activist State (1994), Power in Struggle: Feminism, Sexuality and the State (1995), Governing Out of Order: Space, Law and the Politics of Belonging (1998).

Cambridge Cultural Social Studies

Series editors: JEFFREY C. ALEXANDER, Department of Sociology, Yale University, and STEVEN SEIDMAN, Department of Sociology, University of Albany, State University of New York.

Titles in the series

ILANA FRIEDRICH SILBER, Virtuosity, Charisma, and Social Order 0 521 41397 4 hardback

LINDA NICHOLSON AND STEVEN SEIDMAN (eds.), Social Postmodernism 0 521 47516 3 hardback 0 521 47571 6 paperback

WILLIAM BOGARD, The Simulation of Surveillance 0 521 55081 5 hardback 0 521 55561 2 paperback

SUZANNE R. KIRSCHNER, The Religious and Romantic Origins of Psychoanalysis 0 521 44401 2 hardback 0 521 55560 4 paperback

PAUL LICHTERMAN, The Search for Political Community 0 521 48286 0 hardback 0 521 48343 3 paperback

ROGER FRIEDLAND AND RICHARD HECHT, To Rule Jerusalem 0 521 44046 7 hardback

KENNETH H. TUCKER, JR., French Revolutionary Syndicalism and the Public Sphere 0 521 56359 3 hardback

ERIK RINGMAR, Identity, Interest and Action 0 521 56314 3 hardback

ALBERTO MELUCCI, The Playing Self  0 521 56401 8 hardback 0 521 56482 4 paperback

ALBERTO MELUCCI, Challenging Codes 0 521 57051 4 hardback 0 521 57843 4 paperback

SARAH M. CORSE, Nationalism and Literature 0 521 57002 6 hardback 0 521 57912 0 paperback

DARNELL M. HUNT, Screening the Los Angeles ‘Riots’ 0 521 57087 5 hardback 0 521 57814 0 paperback

Challenging Diversity

Rethinking Equality and the Value of Difference

Davina Cooper

The Pitt Building, Trumpington Street, Cambridge, United Kingdom

The Edinburgh Building, Cambridge CB2 2RU, UK
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477 Williamstown Road, Port Melbourne, VIC 3207, Australia
Ruiz de Alarcón 13, 28014 Madrid, Spain
Dock House, The Waterfront, Cape Town 8001, South Africa

© Davina Cooper 2004

This book is in copyright. Subject to statutory exception
and to the provisions of relevant collective licensing agreements,
no reproduction of any part may take place without
the written permission of Cambridge University Press.

First published 2004

Printed in the United Kingdom at the University Press, Cambridge

Typeface Times 10/12.5 pt     System LATEX 2e   [TB]

A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library

ISBN 0 521 83183 0 hardback
ISBN 0 521 53954 4 paperback

The publisher has used its best endeavours to ensure that the URLs for external websites referred to in this book are correct and active at the time of going to press. However, the publisher has no responsibility for the websites and can make no guarantee that a site will remain live or that the content is or will remain appropriate.

For Didi


Acknowledgments page ix
1 Introduction: mapping the terrain 1
2 Diversity politics: beyond a pluralism without limits 15
3 From blokes to smokes: theorising the difference 40
4 Towards equality of power 68
5 Normative encounters: the politics of same-sex spousal equality 91
6 Getting in the way: the social power of nuisance 118
7 Oppositional routines: the problem of embedding change 142
8 Safeguarding community pathways: ‘possibly the happiest school in the world’ and other porous places 165
9 Diversity through equality 191
Bibliography 208
Index 232


I began working on this book in 1997. It has evolved in many different forms, and some of the arguments explored here have been published in earlier incarnations elsewhere. Many people have helped me in working through my ideas. I want to thank Nicola Barker, Susan Boyd, Doris Buss, Jean Carabine, John Clarke, Joanne Conaghan, Kitty Cooper, Ray Cocks, Miriam David, Margaret Davies, Andy Dobson, Ruth Fletcher, Lieve Gies, Jon Goldberg-Hiller, Reg Greycar, Paddy Hillyard, Morris Kaplan, Susanne Karstedt, Liz Kingdom, Vivi Lachs, Maleiha Malik, Daniel Monk, Surya Monro, Janet Newman, Alan Norrie, Oliver Phillips, Helen Reece, Diane Richardson, Sally Sheldon, Margrit Shildrick, Joe Sim, Richard Sparks, Carl Stychin, Dania Thomas, Michael Thomson, Martin Wasik, Pnina Werbner and Claire Young. Many of the chapters have also been presented at conferences and in staff seminars; they have benefited enormously from the thoughtful and challenging comments received. I also want to thank the series editor, Steve Seidman, and the editor at Cambridge University Press, Sarah Caro, for their interest and assistance.

   I wrote most of this book while a member of Keele Law Department. I am grateful to my colleagues there for their support, interest and encouragement, and for the practical assistance I received from the department’s wonderful administrative staff. Elizabeth Corcoran, Nick Cartwright, Alba Bozo, Jenny Smith and Fadzai Kunaka at different times provided tremendous research assistance, and I want to mark my appreciation of the members of my Sociology of Law class 2003 who explored with me some of the arguments in the final chapters. The original field research on which this book draws comes from three different projects: ‘Community, Democracy and the Governance of Difference’ (1995–7), and ‘Lesbian and Gay Policy-Making within Local Government 1990–2001’ (2001–03), funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, and ‘Governing Prefigurative Communities’ (2001–03), funded by a grant from the Leverhulme Foundation.

   Challenging Diversity could not have been written without the ongoing advice, support and intellectual questioning provided by Didi Herman, to whom I dedicate this book.

   Earlier versions of some of the arguments developed in this book have appeared in the following published form: ‘Against the current: Social pathways and the pursuit of enduring change’, Feminist Legal Studies (2001); ‘Like counting stars? Re-structuring equality and the socio-legal space of same-sex marriage’, in R. Wintemute and M. Andenæs (eds.), Legal Recognition of Same-Sex Partnerships (2001); ‘Promoting injury or freedom: Radical pluralism and Orthodox Jewish symbolism’, Ethnic and Racial Studies (2000).

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