Saturday, May 21

The Ministry should ask why the Cultural Council has politicized the diversity mission

  • Heidi Vibeke Pedersen

    Political scientist

The Cultural Council formulates its own policy on diversity, writes Heidi Vibeke Pedersen. Kristin Danielsen (pictured) is the director of the Cultural Council.

The Cultural Council does not follow the assignment. Where is the ministry?

This is a debate post. Opinions in the text are at the writer’s expense.

Should cultural support be based on theories of “colonial logic”? Without better sector management, the answer is yes.

The Cultural Council coordinates the diversity work in the cultural sector on behalf of the Ministry of Culture and has started mapping “visible minorities”. There was debate.

Will there be diversity from such a one-sided focus? Can diversity requirements crash with the quality assessment? In Sweden, the authorities dropped such claims because certain perspectives were awarded prizes.

Ministry at a distance

There are no Swedish conditions here, replied director Kristin Danielsen, referring to the principle of arm’s length distance between politics and culture. Yes. But the authorities must exercise cultural policy control. Here is the problem: The Ministry has a distance to it as well.

I was 20 years in the Norwegian Directorate of Immigration (UDI). This also applies to arm’s length: Politicians adopt the rules, but can not touch on the asylum case. The UDI, for its part, provides immigration advice, but is politically neutral. Everything else is a scandal.

Similarly, cultural politicians adopt rules for grants and funds, without interfering in the applications. They decide on independent committees administered by the Cultural Council – which provide advice on cultural issues.

Formulates its own policy

However, the diversity assignment is an example of the Cultural Council formulating its own policy. That it is the director who ends up in the political crossfire now, illustrates the point. Where is the ministry?

For the Cultural Council, the assignment does not follow. The ministry says that we must have a renewed and broad concept of diversity, which “encompasses dimensions such as social and cultural background, gender, functional ability, religion, orientation and age”. Creator content and user diversity are also key concepts.

It will be too diverse, according to the Cultural Council pre-project report. It recognizes that diversity is so much, but finds it “obvious and expedient to interpret cultural diversity (..) pointed in the direction of factors and dimensions that are of particular relevance to cultural life. Against this background, the conceptual understanding that is to form the basis for the Cultural Council’s coordinator role should be more clearly defined than what is expressed in the award letter ».

“Particularly relevant to cultural life”, when does something have it? Well. We only get to know that it is they who have historically experienced gross injustice, experience structural discrimination or face special challenges in taking part in cultural life.

Which target groups?

So who is it? We do not get that analysis either. The target groups are only there: Visible minorities / groups representing multicultural and ethnic diversity, indigenous peoples / national minorities and the disabled / deaf.

What we get, on the other hand, is politics. The Cultural Council’s premise is, firstly, the existence of systematic discriminatory barriers, also in grant schemes. “Managing cultural policy schemes for contemporary art fields and contributing to (..) a more diverse cultural life requires that these perspectives be brought to the core of the work,” it is claimed.

The second premise is that «we must acknowledge that the Nordic region’s multicultural stories have functioned as a ‘constituent outside’ or ‘dark underside’ for the construction of the still active monocultural, Nordic national stories. Although European colonialism has largely been abolished, (..) the colonial logics are far from dismantled ». Therefore, it is important to (..) support practices that are able to look past «leading cultural groups», as well as practices that oppose «reproduction of colonial taxonomies».

Without coating

If one is to acknowledge mounted colonial logics, it should be substantiated, preferably with facts. The 84-page report does not use space either for that or to state that taxonomies mean categorization. For the target group gives itself, the report is not for most people, and the third premise is to avoid questions about the premises. Cultural councils in other countries also see it that way, the report explains.

Furthermore, other diversity initiatives at the Cultural Council constitute an anchor, which Inclusive cultural life in the Nordic countries and The aspirant scheme. Same perspective, same target group.

that the administration reduces the assignment on a bed of political premises, is very problematic

Diversity in expression is the goal of cultural policy, and promoting groups can be right. But that the administration reduces the assignment on a bed of political premises, is very problematic.

The consequence? Danielsen says to NRK that this is not linked to the distribution of funds yet, and that “there will never be anyone who receives funds because they are a minority alone”.

Not? Then The aspirant scheme became evaluated, it was problematized that the definition of diversity was so broad that no one was excluded – «not only white middle class». That may not be the intention, the evaluation said, though The Storting reports also emphasized social conditions.

Where do things come from?

The scheme will now «counteract structural discrimination», and is limited to ethnicity / culture. By the ministry in regulations? No, in the Cultural Council practice note. In addition, it is announced online that now disabled people can also apply. Where do things come from?

No one asks. And I wonder if the directorate can narrow it down the regulation in practice notes. Must Norway take action like Sweden, Frank Rossavik asked.

This gives reason to fear increased political control of the arts

Yes, Norway must. Policy-making and the allocation of support seem to have ended up in the same body, and diversity work is just one example. This gives reason to fear increased political control of the arts. Arm length distance to art is not.

The Ministry must take control and clarify the directorate function. It can also ensure that the independent councils can assess applications on a free artistic basis, as they are required by the rules.

The Cultural Council has proposed diversity education for the entire cultural sector. I would rather propose skills development in public administration. Yes, just yawning, but it probably gives more diverse culture.

Heidi Vibeke Pedersen is a political scientist and political advisor in the Norwegian Composers’ Association, but writes here as a private person.

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