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Professor Sarah Neal: Conviviality, superdiversity, race, community
Thu 25 May 2017, 11:00 – 12:30 BST
Profressor Sarah Neal, Professor of Sociology, University of Sheffield: Conviviality, super-diversity, race, community…comparative reflections on the contradictions of contemporary multiculture
In a group interview with a women’s running group in the London Borough of Hackney, that was part a recent, large-scale project focused on experiences of multiculture in three different, rapidly changing urban places, Emma (a white British woman participant) narrates a fleeting moment of street conflict, ‘a guy [described by Emma as ‘an older black Caribbean man’] ran after me and started calling me like ‘white trash’, and telling me to ‘go back to Kensington’ […] he’s like, “this is not Kensington High Street” […] he ran into me [as] he came running out of the betting shop, he was like “why didn’t you see me? Why did you walk into me?” In the interview Emma goes on to explain that she felt she was being seen by the man as ‘some sort of blow in from like, well, outside […] seeing me representing something that he didn’t like in Hackney, whether it was colour, whether it was class or whatever’. Emma’s description of herself as a ‘blow in’ seems to relate not only to her recent arrival in Hackney (an ethnically diverse, disadvantaged, gentrified London borough) but to the recognition of the race, class and gender dimensions of her presence, flagged via the man’s invoking of Kensington (part of the affluent, super-rich London Borough of Kensington and Chelsea).
In this presentation I build from this extract to comparatively examine the nature of place and the different complexities and instabilities of ethnically diverse but spatially proximate urban populations before reflecting on the nature of the key debates and challenges for research on race and ethnicity in particular urban geographies. Highlighting the arrival of a vocabulary characterised by emergent concepts - conviviality, super-diversity, encounter, multiculture, gentrification, transnationalism - I consider the extent to which these help in mapping the paradox of intense heterogeneity increasingly being the new urban ordinary on the one hand and a point of increasing preoccupation and multifarious anxiety on the other.
To understand this paradox, the presentation will argue that these more recent phenomenologies embed, sublimate and collide with older concepts of race, class, community, place and segregation. From this I suggest that conviviality and race both need to be incorporated into the current and future sociologies that seek to analyse social interactions and cultural difference in contemporary urban environments.