P. Caroline Leyva

P. Caroline Leyva

University of New Hampshire

Women's Studies


2002

Mentor: Dr. Marla Brettschneider, Associate Professor of Political Science & Women's Studies

Neutral Governance: Placing Diversity In Opposition to Equality

Democratic representative bodies and the bi-laws through which they govern appear to assume participants to be identity “neutral”; this assumption precludes any “identity specific” experience to be utilized in decision making processes. “Neutral” representative governing bodies place diversity in opposition to equality through ethnic commonality, while also assuming that the initial “neutral” representative framework will create a public sphere that allows for individuality. However, the “neutral” is not neutral. In fact the model relies on the use of identity- a majority ethnic identity that is equated with neutrality. The so-called “neutral” decision making procedures exclude individuals with any minority or particularly politically salient identity (ies) from being equally represented or from being an equal user of the representative process. Thus, “neutral” representation disenfranchises minority groups and experiences in addition to casting them as other.

Using the data from personal interviews with students from the University of New Hampshire Student Senate in conjunction with queer, multicultural, communitarian, and other critical theories that challenge the liberal presumptions of “neutrality”, I will examine the “neutral” factors that determine how students with minority identities, or multiply politicized identity (ies), are forced to leave behind those identities when engaged with representative processes.

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