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  • 2024DowniePhD

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Doing the work?: The role of local government diversity, equity, and inclusion plans in addressing white supremacy

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

Publication date2024
Number of pages187
Awarding Institution
  • Lancaster University
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Particularly post 2020, municipal governments have been under increased pressure to address racism in their communities and within their institutional structures. Many municipal governments have relied on DEI plans to guide this work yet these documents, and public policy on DEI at a local government level more generally, remain understudied. This thesis addresses this gap by examining the role that municipal DEI plans play in addressing white supremacy and advancing equity. I situate this study at the intersection of literature on DEI policy and social learning to think about how DEI policy at a local government level is developed, implemented, and the social learning processes that take place throughout. This research is conducted in Alberta, Canada and involves a document analysis of DEI plans, interviews with DEI practitioners and grassroots organizers, and participant observation. In my analyses, I show how DEI plans frame issues of racism and discrimination in ways that lack an ability to attend to inequitable institutional structures. I explore how DEI plans are simultaneously politicized by Councils and depoliticized through the downloading of work onto community all while being experienced as emotional work by DEI practitioners. Finally, I demonstrate the formalized approaches to learning outlined in DEI plans are insufficient to raise critical consciousness. I propose that a more explicit and supported praxis-oriented approach is needed.