Advanced industrial societies have become increasingly characterized by two trends: growing inequality and an increasing recognition gap. As the distribution of wealth and income have grown more unequal, a growing number of groups are making claims for recognition as the poor, workers, immigrants, Muslims, LGBTQ people, and various ethnoracial and religious minority groups experience stigmatization. This double tension will serve as a fruitful point of entry for future multidisciplinary inquiries into the conditions for collective well-being.
A major challenge for contemporary societies is to extend cultural membership to the greatest number. Thus we need to gain a better understanding of the social and cultural processes behind the recognition gap and inequality. How can social scientists and policy makers better understand and respond to these trends, and how can we make societies more inclusive?
Looking at these questions in a comparative and international perspective is most effective: How can we best measure and understand the stigmatization of the poor in the United States if we don’t consider their treatment in other societies? How can we understand the impact of neoliberalism and human rights claims on recognition if we don’t consider them through a transnational and comparative framework?
Finding responses to the timely questions related to inequality and the recognition gap requires drawing on expertise from many disciplines. Our research cluster will connect with a broad range of WCFIA affiliates and colleagues across several departments to collaborate in workshops, conferences, and research projects.
Some of the intellectual challenges ahead include:
- Documenting growing inequality and recognition gaps, including contradictory trends.
- Understanding and explaining how various groups—the poor, the middle class, ethnoracial and religious minorities, LGBTQ, and others—experience these changes.
- Determining the role of cultural repertoires and institutions (including the law) in attenuating the impact of social exclusion.
In 2017–2018, the research cluster will develop a network of faculty and involve a number of visiting scholars working on questions of immigration and diversity in Europe, North America, and beyond. The focus is primarily on advanced industrial societies, but we will compare trends in the Global South as well.