Debate — Solidarity in Diversity is a Mirage

An Oxford Union-style debate between graduate students of the University of Newcastle, New South Wales and the University of Melbourne.

As part of its annual international conference, the African Studies Group and its partner institutions present the Unimelb-Africa Dialogue. It is a novel addition featuring a debate between the University of Melbourne and the University of Newcastle, New South Wales on the motion: ‘Solidarity in Diversity is a mirage’.

The motion reflects the broader Solidarity in Diversity theme of the conference aimed at providing a platform for discussion on the knowledge and experiences of Africans and other minority groups in academia and society. The debate will extend that discussion in a modified form of Oxford Union-style to stimulate high-level intellectual engagement on the topic while promoting competitive and friendly relations with sister universities.

Speakers

University of Newcastle: Dr Gordon Donnir and Ms Dorcas Zuvalinyega.

University of Melbourne: Kofi Bediako and Brianna Delfs

Chair: Dr Samuelson Appau (RMIT University)

Judges: Dr Festival Godwin Boateng, Adjoa Assan and Dr Samuelson Appau

Solidarity in Diversity is a Mirage — some context

Cross-cultural interactions and living together has been ever-present in all human societies throughout history. However, the recent increase in migration due to globalisation, conflicts, economic pressures, and natural disasters have catapulted questions of how to manage migrants (minorities) and host societies relations into the limelight. While there are instances of smooth relations and integration, migrants often complain of marginalisation, discrimination, racism, and inequality in all aspects of life. Host communities also complain of reduced opportunities, pressure on amenities, increased crime rate, and saturation of their values and identity.

Consequently, there is often a lack of unity towards common goals despite the proven advantages of cooperation. It is against this background that this debate aims to engage with the question of whether solidarity can be nurtured amid a cocktail of diverse identities and mutual suspicion. In other words, is solidarity in diversity a mirage?

The Proponents/proposition may contend that solidarity in diversity is a mirage because while diversity is a reality in every society, self-interest and competition over scarce resources limit our capacity to act together even when it is clearly in our interest to do so. Perhaps the current pandemic and disparity in vaccine distribution is a palpable indication of this fact of life.

The Opponents/opposition may counter that solidarity in diversity is a reality because acting in solidarity with others is the essence of being human. Humans as social beings have always found ways to work together despite differences; therefore, the actions of some few loud members of society should not be taken as evidence of lack or inability to act in solidarity with others who are different from us. For instance, we should not allow the anti-immigration stands of ultra-nationalists to blind us to charities that help migrants or families that are extending helping hands daily.

This critical intellectual dialogue will widen the conversation and highlight the possibilities and limitations of efforts to nurture solidarity in our increasingly diverse societies. It will also contribute to the broader aim of the Conference by not only highlighting marginal voices and experiences but also bringing them in conversation with perspectives of the majority or host communities, thereby facilitating a balanced discourse.

ASG is an association of researchers with interests in African studies hosted by the University of Melbourne.