The core mission of the Global Diversity Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is to better understand the social, political, and economic causes and consequences of cultural diversity around the world. Our work aims to inform scholarship, policy and practice towards improved human wellbeing and human dignity. And we seek to train future leaders and scholars through undergraduate and graduate courses at MIT.

Increasingly diverse societies face both great challenges and opportunities: On the one hand, real and perceived differences of ethnicity, race, religion, or national origin continue to be the basis for bias, discrimination, and conflict. Ethnic minorities, immigrants, and refugees face hate speech, political exclusion, and violence.

On the other hand, some of the world’s most productive and vibrant organizations and societies identify diversity as core to their success. The mixing of people from around the world – and the sharing of art, culture, and ideas — is the lifeblood of major urban centers. Leading institutions, including MIT, require diverse talents, drawn from diverse backgrounds around the globe, in order to advance science and technology.

At MIT’s Global Diversity Lab, we intend to distill lessons about how to harness the value of diversity and to reduce violence and inequality through careful social science research, informed by work in a range of disciplines.

Woven Chronicle, By Reena Kallat
Circuit boards, speakers, electric wires and fittings;
single channel audio (10 min.)
127 x 570 x 12 in. l 322 x 1447 x 30 cm. 
Installation view, Museum of Modern Art, New York 

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photo by fady habib

Our work is motivated by deep concerns about patterns of unfair treatment, inequality, conflict, and violence that cut along ethnic, racial, and national lines in the United States and around the globe. But we are not an advocacy organization — our central mission is to conduct rigorous research to lay bare such patterns, and to evaluate the effects of solutions that might contribute to more just and prosperous societies.

Careful historical analysis Informs Our Research… But History is not Destiny.

Serious research on global diversity demands appreciation of historical processes, events, and institutions. Our lab is focused on wedding rigorous historical analysis to contemporary patterns and policies.

While highlighting the importance of the past, we challenge the fatalistic notion that identity-based conflicts are merely “ancient hatreds,” let alone that history is destiny. We must grapple with questions such as, how and why did particular ethnic, racial and national identities become salient? What are the political and economic conditions under which migration takes place? Are there enduring lessons to be learned about how to harness the value of diversity towards human dignity, development and sustained peace?

Looking forward, can historical and theoretical insights be applied to the design of institutions, public policies, computational algorithms, cities, and the very conception of human identities? How will emerging global trends in computing, communication, and urbanization, as well as new challenges, such as climate change and globalization, contribute to the manifestation of diversity?

Our work considers how answers to the question of “who is us?” shapes tangible outcomes, including health, economic development, security, and human rights. And we consider how democratic institutions can contribute to the building of tolerant and cohesive communities.

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