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French School, by Laiqa Ahmad

Rosabeth Kanter in the late 1970s, regarding the expanded effects of group compositions. She defined tokenism, as the processes resulting when a group is “skewed” so that definable subgroups, such as Women, BAME groups or WoC, or “tokens” as she refers to, make up a minority of the total group.  

Tokenism still persists, nearly 40 years since the definitions established in Kanter’s theory. There has been a case at a French Arts University; Émile-Cohl, of Tokenism of ethnicity minorities to appeal to a US audience.  The PR agency of the University edited a class trip photo being utilised for advertisement, by darkening three White Students Skin, a digital blackface, as well as photoshopping PoC into the image to increase diversity.  This action is problematic for a number of reasons. Firstly, it is indicative of the Under-Representation of PoC in the academic makeup of the Creative Arts.  Evidently, by manipulating the image the PR agency was actively aware of this, instead of questioning why PoC were underrepresented and discussing the White-centric nature of the Creative Industry, they took active steps to fake diversity. Further, this is a poor excuse for diversity, and suggests that to be a PoC is only skin deep, and completely dehumanises PoC to being merely a ‘token’, manipulated to fake multiculturality within the academic institution. This issue of Tokenism goes beyond academic representation, PoC are used as tokens to feign diversity as a marketing tactic to  widen  the  target  segment beyond their White centric clientele.

Art work by Janaki Mistry

Art work by Janaki Mistry

Mia Giacone