Skip to main content

Cultural Brokering in Post-Colonial Times: the Reflections of Ethnic Minority NGO staff


CERS lunchtime seminar

Date: 25th February 1.00pm - 2.00pm
Location: Hillary Place Room 1.24

Sara de Jong, Marie Curie Fellow, Research Fellow, University of Vienna Visiting Researcher, University of Leeds

Ethnic minorities are increasingly recruited by historically white non-governmental organisations and social service institutions to play an active role in the counselling of ‘their’ communities. While ‘being between cultures’ previously carried a negative connotation, organisations now started regarding this as an asset or advantage, inspired by both diversity management and social justice perspectives. This paper will present the reflections of ethnic minority employees who work for for programmes that target migrants in Austria on their positionality as ‘cultural broker’, based on semi-structured interviews collected as part of a larger research project that also includes the UK and the Netherlands.

Drawing on historical anthropology’s research on colonial ‘cultural brokers’ (such as Pocahontas, Malintzin and Krotoa), I will highlight the precariousness and ambivalences of today’s position of the ethnic minority cultural broker under migration and integration regimes and explore the implications of this role. I will argue that tracing the continuities between cultural brokering in colonial and in post-colonial times is constructive in challenging the celebratory language of diversity politics and uncovering the power dynamics at play.