Constructing multiculturalism at school : negotiating tensions in talk about ethnic diversity

Kirkham, Sam (2016) Constructing multiculturalism at school : negotiating tensions in talk about ethnic diversity. Discourse and Society, 27 (4). pp. 383-400. ISSN 0957-9265

[thumbnail of Kirkham2016_D&S]
PDF (Kirkham2016_D&S)
Kirkham2016_D_S.pdf - Published Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution.

Download (396kB)


Recent trends in British education policy have led to an increased focus on promoting ethnic diversity in schools, as well as greater parental involvement in school choice. This combination has led some schools to actively market diversity as a selling point in order to attract more minority ethnic students, as well as attract White middle-class students seeking a more ‘diverse’ educational experience. This article analyses how students attending such a school in English engage with discourses of multiculturalism. I identify three themes that characterise talk about multiculturalism at school: (1) multiculturalism-as-beneficial commodity; (2) claims of ‘reverse racism’ in provision for minority groups; (3) denial of racism and constructing the school as a tolerant environment where everybody gets along. Through an analysis of discourse strategies and positioning tactics, I demonstrate how students negotiate tensions between the existence of racism and the construction of an inclusive and anti-racist educational environment.

Item Type:
Journal Article
Journal or Publication Title:
Discourse and Society
Additional Information:
The final, definitive version of this article has been published in the Journal, Discourse and Society, ?, 2016, © SAGE Publications Ltd, 2016 by SAGE Publications Ltd at the Discourse and Society page: on SAGE Journals Online: This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License ( which permits any use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access page (
Uncontrolled Keywords:
?? british educationdenial of racismdiscourse diversityeducation ethnicitymulticulturalismracismreverse racismschoolscommunicationsociology and political science ??
ID Code:
Deposited By:
Deposited On:
08 Jan 2016 12:00
Last Modified:
22 Nov 2023 00:26