Communication Superdiversity
Sakura Yamamura
  • LAST REVIEWED: 25 September 2023
  • LAST MODIFIED: 25 September 2023
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756841-0301


Superdiversity is a concept that describes the multidimensional and dynamic diversification of society led by increasing global migration. It aims at capturing the complex interactions of dimension of diversities beyond ethnicity and to account for, in words of Steven Vertovec who coined the term, the “superdiversity,” which corresponds to the notion of “diversification of diversity” in societies in the last decades. The term breaks with the ethno-focal lens in debates surrounding migration, and calls for a more holistic and differential analysis of diversity in society. The dimensions of diversity encompass ethnic background, nationality, citizenship, but also legal statuses, migration channel, languages, and further sociodemographic and socioeconomic differences within the migrant population, e.g., age, sex, gender, income level, educational or occupational backgrounds. As superdiversity signifies the migration-led diversification in society, disciplines using and debating this term are mainly in social sciences and humanities, in particular those dealing with issues of migration, diversity or ethnicities, e.g., ethnic and migration studies, geography and sociology. It has found large resonance also in sociolinguistics and education studies, and is increasingly picked up by adjacent disciplines, such as business studies.

General Overview

The term of superdiversity has its origin in Steven Vertovec’s seminal work in 2007, published in Ethnic and Racial Studies, in which he, by taking London as an example, discusses the superdiversity especially in large cosmopolitan cities. Ten years later in 2017, Vertovec reviewed the dissemination of the term in academia across different disciplines, summarizing the spread in meaning and usages of the term. Whereas the original intention behind superdiversity comes closest to invoking “new or other complexities” regarding “globalization and migration,” “ethnic categories and social identities” as well as “new social formations,” Vertovec’s typology encompassed further six different meanings of superdiversity as used in literature (Vertovec 2017, cited under Migration Studies). The term is used “synonymous with diversity,” “as backdrop to a study,” “as a call to re-assess a field,” “as multidimensional reconfiguration,” “as argument versus ethnicity-only,” and also signifying “more ethnicity” in general terms. The article also gives an overview of disciplines in which superdiversity is being discussed. Special issues in Ethnic and Racial Studies following the original work which cover different case studies and thus gives a good overview on discourses on the concept of superdiversity include Meissner and Vertovec 2015 and Foner, et al. 2019, which has also been published subsequently as an edited volume by Routledge (Duyvendak, et al. 2021). Moreover, Vertovec has developed the concept of superdiversity further in his monograph Superdiversity. Migration and Social Complexity, published by Routledge in 2022. Conceptual discussions on superdiversity from sociological perspectives followed in the special issue in Current Sociology in 2022 (López Peláez, et al. 2022.) The journal Ethnic and Racial Studies, in which the initial work as well as the review was published, remains one of the main outlets covering debates on superdiversity. Further journals of interest are especially migration research journals, such as Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, Identities, Urban Studies, Ethnicities, Social Cultural Geography, and Global Diversities, as well as journals in linguistics and education studies, such as Discourse, Context and Media, Cultural Studies and Transdisciplinarity in Education, Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development, and Journal of Sociolinguistics. Main edited volumes on superdiversity are Routledge Handbook of Language and Superdiversity, Routledge International Handbook of Diversity Studies as well as the Oxford Handbook of Superdiversity. Additionally, Palgrave-Macmillan publishes a monograph series on Global Diversity, edited at the Max Planck Institute for Religious and Ethnic Diversity (MPI-MMG). Another key research center on the study of superdiversity along with MPI-MMG is the Institute for Research into Superdiversity (IRiS) at the University of Birmingham.

  • Duyvendak, Jan Willem, Nancy Foner, and Philip Kasinitz. 2021. Super-diversity in everyday life. London: Routledge.

    With cases from western Europe and the United States, the special issue covers questions about the nature and effect of superdiversity, touching upon the fundamental sociological question of when superdiversity is accepted or reacted with hostility. This special issue was published as an edited volume by Routledge in 2021.

  • Foner, Nancy, Jan Willem Duyvendak, and Philip Kasinitz. 2019. Introduction: super-diversity in everyday life. Ethnic and Racial Studies 42.1 (2019): 1–16.

    DOI: 10.1080/01419870.2017.1406969

    The article introduces the special issue, which is critical of the concept of superdiversity. It discusses how issues of power, and particularly intersections of different diversity dimensions and with them inequalities are missing in the analysis of urban society.

  • López Peláez, A., P. Álvarez-Pérez, and V. W. Harris. 2022. Superdiversity: New paths for social sciences in the upcoming future. Current Sociology 70.2: 161–165.

    DOI: 10.1177/00113921211021934

    Guided by superdiversity as a research concept, the special issue discusses superdiversity against the background of sociological approaches. It also attempts to use the superdiversity concept beyond the narrower understanding of it in relation to international migration.

  • Meissner, Fran, Nando Sigona, and Steven Vertovec. 2022. The Oxford handbook of superdiversity. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

    This handbook is an ideal introduction to the multidisciplinary approaches to the debates surrounding superdiversity. It offers insights into the ongoing debates about complex social transformations related to diversification. The handbook collects accessible texts from different disciplines, encompassing anthropology, geography, urban studies, but also business and public policy on the social phenomenon. Beyond interdisciplinary case studies, it also offers discussion of social implications of superdiversity in different contexts and cities around the globe, and also presents new developments on methodological approaches to capture superdiversity.

  • Meissner, Fran, and Steven Vertovec. 2015. Comparing super-diversity. Ethnic and Racial Studies 38.4: 541–555.

    DOI: 10.1080/01419870.2015.980295

    Special issue in which analyses of superdiversity are compiled, discussing superdiversity descriptively, methodologically, or regarding policy and public practices. Cases from nine different cities and eight countries are presented with conceptual discussions. It has also been published as an edited volume by Routledge in 2016.

  • Vertovec, Steven. 2007. Super-diversity and its implications. Ethnic and Racial Studies 30.6: 1024–1054.

    DOI: 10.1080/01419870701599465

    The original article which conceptualizes the idea of superdiversity, and which following researchers on superdiversity cite as the main source when discussing issues of migration-led diversities.

  • Vertovec, Steven. 2019. Talking around super-diversity. Ethnic and Racial Studies 42.1: 125–139.

    DOI: 10.1080/01419870.2017.1406128

    Review of superdiversity debates in academia ten years after the introduction of the concept, giving an overview of the usages and meaning of superdiversity as used in recent literature as well as of the disciplines in which the term is primarily discussed.

  • Vertovec, Steven. 2022. Superdiversity: Migration and social complexity. London: Routledge.

    DOI: 10.4324/9780203503577

    Vertovec conceptually develops his idea of superdiversity, calling for re-thinking public policy on the changing migration patterns and accompanied new social formations. It is an attempt to taking a more theoretical lens to the issue of superdiversity and contribute to social scientific debates on social differences.

  • Vertovec, Steven, ed. 2014. Routledge international handbook of diversity studies. New York: Routledge.

    Not specifically about superdiversity, but examines diversity as patterns of social differences from different disciplinary angles, such as sociology, anthropology, political sciences, history and geography; key resource for research into diversity.

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