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Centre on Dynamics of Ethnicity

Cultural production and consumption

This work package examines the presence and representation of ethnicity in major cultural institutions.

Cultural and creative industries represent a significant and growing aspect of the economy and the expressive, creative and representational products of cultural work have a central influence on how we think about and understand our social life. In both of these ways, culture matters in relation to social inequality. However, there is an absence of research that ‘sufficiently addresses the causal connection between who works in the production of culture, what cultural forms this labour force produces, how the consumption of these forms are stratified and what difference this makes to the replication, reinforcement or reduction of social inequality’ (Oakley and O’Brien 2016: 481). Many fields of cultural production are characterised by profound ethnic inequalities. Ethnic minority people are less likely than White people to participate in the arts, broadly defined, and that gap has widened in recent years (The Warwick Commission 2015). Moreover, approaches to understanding such inequalities are frequently framed in ways that contribute to a ‘deficit’ model, with the implication that particular ethnic groups are themselves culpable for failing to recognise and acquire those forms of cultural competence that ‘count’ (Yosso 2005).

Recent high profile campaigns have highlighted ongoing issues around ethnic inequality and representation in the cultural, arts and media sector. In response, several leading institutions have developed policy initiatives to engage with ethnic minority individuals as the producers, consumers and subjects of cultural work. Working in partnership with a range of cultural institutions, this projects addresses the following questions:

  • What is the nature of ethnic minority experience in these organisations and how have issues of equality and diversity been addressed in institutional policies and processes? How do these address questions of difference (gender, religion, class and generation) within ethnic minority groups?
  • What is meant by ‘representation’ in cultural institutions and cultural production? How is this being addressed in existing and new forms of production?
  • How do audiences engage with these changes? How is difference in cultural production received and understood by audiences? What mechanisms can be utilised to monitor and evaluate consumption practices among ethnic minority audiences in the cultural sector?