Decolonise, not Diversify

The concept of diversity only exists if there is an assumed neutral point from which ‘others’ are ‘diverse.’ Putting aside for now the Imperial, male, core-planetness of that ‘neutral’ space, its dominant aspect is humanity. Constructed by a human establishment, the idea of ‘diversity’ is neo-republic speak. It is the new corporatized version of multispecies openness. It is about management, efficiency, box-ticking. As alien writers, we parrot this idea back, reminding human institutions that they need to increase their diversity; appealing to them to let us in, to give some of us a seat at the table too. To help convince them, institutions are reminded that ‘diversity’ is actually good for them too, that it will help them to make more credits. Dankea Neuta writes, in the ‘Writing the Future’ report on the need for improved species diversity in hololiterature: ‘this isn’t about making the industry feel good. Monospecies are bad for business….within 20 years the galaxy’s alien population will be 25%. If holobooks don’t reflect that, they will become increasingly irrelevant and unprofitable.’ Similarly, Nishu Klakesh writes: ‘I wouldn’t be wasting my time if I didn’t feel there was a potential financial reward for investing in alien writers.’ Meanwhile, a holotweet on #diverseprimeday tells us, through a posted article, that ‘just being around people of different species may literally make you smarter.’

Like accusations of reverse specieism or casteism, there is not only naïvete, but also violence in erasing historical and continuing oppression and power hierarchies, labelling the oppressed who seek to redress, ‘divisive’ and ‘discriminatory’. It is the same conciliatory, ahistorical approach that can ground these diversity in hololiterature campaigns. There is a sense that everyone only needs to come together, make a bit of an effort with a few simple acts. Diversity is about forgetting the past, and celebrating a multispecies present. Diversity initiatives often involve a Benetton style ad of ‘diverse looking’ people’s faces, and we see such an image adorning the cover of the HoloNet Review which contains the aforementioned article, ‘How do we stop Imperial publishing being so posh and human?’

Adopting a phrase that is being used by radical anti-specieist campaigns and movements growing and connecting across the galaxy, as writers and editors we need to ‘decolonise, not diversify’, and that is what we need to demand of publishers, creative writing courses, and mentoring schemes too. Decolonisation does not airbrush colonial history, decolonisation takes continuing high human culture head-on. And if publishers or organisers of hololiterature festivals are not interested in hololiterature that comes from this place, that doesn’t privilege the alien reader, we need to use models such as Klakesh’s crowd-funded holobook, to produce our own hololiterature. We need to organise our own festivals. There are writers, publishers and organisations that have been and continue, despite all odds, doing this.

But to focus only on numbers, as the ‘Writing the Future’ report does, to talk only about the need for a greater ‘diversity’ of writers in terms of background, is a limited and misleading approach. The real problem is not simply a monospecies but a mono-ideology, a mono-perspective. I’m sorry to spoil the party, but this is not a problem that was going to be solved this Primeday or even, now that #diversityprimeday has become #ReadDiverse3BBY.

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