Revisiting the geography of superdiversity

Ole JensenOle Jensen

The geography of much superdiversity research reflects what can be described as a new way of mapping familiar spaces. Why new? Why familiar?  Many analyses of diversity often restrict their analytical focus to gritty and inner-city areas already recognised as diverse according to established categories based on race and ethnicity. Using data from the EU-funded Concordia Discors project, my recent Policy & Politics article argues that an understanding of superdiversity, which is informed by attention to the broader context of unequal power relations and resource allocations in the post-industrial city (Soja 2010), can lead to a more nuanced understanding of socio-cultural dynamics at neighbourhood level.

While fieldwork was carried out in five cities (Pastore and Ponzo 2016), this discussion is based on data from six neighbourhoods in Barcelona, London and Turin. In keeping with the broader thematic focus of the project – inter-group relations at neighbourhood level – our comparative analysis focuses on the emergence of so called ‘backlash’ narratives, in other words accounts of negative, local responses to aspects of urban development or immigration trends. It is a framing that allows for a targeting of themes that are considered relevant in the local context, thus enabling an understanding of the city as a generative space rather than a mere canvas (Walter and Uttermark 2016). This also marks a departure from pre-defined categories based on migrant status, ethnicity, religion, or class.

The six neighbourhoods represent post-industrial urban dynamics in ways that demonstrate considerable variation, both within and between cities. There was in Camberwell (London), Borgo San Paolo(Turin) and the two Barcelona neighbourhoods a sense of the local area evolving at par with the city – albeit in very different ways. As a distinct ‘majority minority neighbourhood’ most impacted by long-term and continuous processes of arrival and settlement, conventional ideas of majority and minority populations had been done away with in Camberwell, resulting in a super-diverse neighbourhood without a dominant narrative of community. In both Borgo San Paolo and, in particular, Poble Sec (Barcelona), international migration was a more recent experience, generally absorbed without triggering any significant backlash responses from the settled populations – despite a very rapid increase in the immigrant population in Poble Sec in the 2000s, with the immigrant proportion of the population increasing four-fold.

Backlash narratives relating to perceptions of marginalisation were prevalent in both Bermondsey (London) and Barreira di Milano (Turin). Here, post-industrialism was associated with experiences of loss and stagnation, resulting in a strong sense of disadvantage in relation to other parts of the city. Furthermore, in Bermondsey the re-development of former docklands into expensive housing units, inaccessible to the local population, served as a poignant reminder of how the planks underpinning livelihoods in industrial Bermondsey now signpost a highly classed housing landscape.

The two Turin neighbourhoods shared an industrial heritage as well as memories of internal migration from Southern Italy, but the dynamics of post-industrial urban developments have impacted the two neighbourhoods differently, as expressed in prevalent backlash narratives. While former migrants in Borgo San Paolo identified similarities between their own migrant experience and that of more recently arrived international migrants, inhabitants in the more deprived Barreira di Milano neighbourhood were much more apprehensive, at times hostile, towards newcomers.

In summary, this blog has provided examples of the relevance of applying a multi-scalar perspective to the analysis of neighbourhood level diversity. By considering how broader urban dynamics inform the development of local backlash narratives, the analysis has argued for a widening of the geographical scope of superdiversity research.

If you enjoyed this blog post, you may also be interested to read:

Making the most of super-diversity. Notes on the potential of a new approach

Urban planning and the challenge of super-diversity

Integrating superdiversity in urban governance: the case of inner-city Lisbon

Data Matters…Sometimes: Revisiting the Connection between Problem Indicators and Policy Maker Attention

DeLeoRob De Leo

An extended version of this blog post was originally published on Discover Society.

From the number of drug overdoses to annual average temperatures, public transportation ridership rates to Gross Domestic Product (GDP), government is inundated with data documenting social problems. In theory, these statistics should lead to more informed decision making. In practice, they are heavily politicized. Organized interests compete to ensure that their preferred statistic is adopted as the preferred measure of a given policy problem, a testament to these so-called “problem indicators” are important determinants of policy maker attention.  

Virtually every major theory of policy making suggests indicators and other forms of information play an important role in stimulating issue attention and provoking policy maker action. My recent paper, “Indicators, agendas, and stream: Analysing the Politics of Preparedness,” applies the Multiple Streams Framework (MSF), which argues policy change is facilitated by the coupling of three distinct streams: (1) the problem stream, which consists of the various social issues competing for policy maker attention; (2) the policy stream, which encompasses the various policies and programs designed to address items in the problem stream; and (3) the politics stream, which broadly describes the current political environment, including trends in public opinion as well as the composition of government. Coupling is aided by a policy entrepreneur or an individual or organization willing to invest considerable amounts of time and energy to secure policy change. Once the three streams are coupled, a policy window is opened providing organized interests with an opportunity to push their pet issues onto the policy agenda and, ideally, secure policy change.  Continue reading Data Matters…Sometimes: Revisiting the Connection between Problem Indicators and Policy Maker Attention

Same-same but different: what can superdiversity offer that multiculturalism cannot? 

MagazziniTina Magazzini

Studies in psychology often refer to their samples as being WEIRD –Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic. It should come as no surprise that most social psychology results rely on research that is tested on a narrow and in many ways privileged sample of society, given that most participants in behavioral studies are undergraduates at Western universities. What is more intriguing, and less obvious, is the fact that there seems to be an opposite, specular trend in the field of public and social policy. We—political scientists, sociologists, anthropologist, legal scholars—tend, by and large, to focus on subjects only insofar as they appear to be marginalized, racialized, or vulnerable: in short, only when they are seen as a ‘problem’.

The burgeoning, rich scholarship on migration and integration that has developed over the last years is no exception. The surge in research on (and research funding available for) minority integration, social cohesion and European identity is highly dependent upon migration being understood as a ‘problem’ to be managed, on ‘identity’ being seen as under threat, and on there being a clear-cut distinction between who belongs to a minority and who doesn’t, who migrants are and who they are not.

In my recent Policy & Politics article on the multilevel governance of superdiversity in Europe, as part of the journal’s superdiversity Special Issue, my aim is to problematize the relationship between identity and difference, and to suggest ways in which superdiversity can be employed as a useful tool to deconstruct what is usually left unstudied (because it is perceived as unproblematic): the so-called ‘mainstream’ or ‘majority’. Continue reading Same-same but different: what can superdiversity offer that multiculturalism cannot? 

Should regulators engage consumers in decision-making? Lessons from UK water regulation

Eva Heims and Martin LodgeEva Heims and Martin Lodge

The idea of ‘consumer engagement’ has become a central theme in UK economic regulation. Regulators are demanding it, regulated companies are claiming to be pursuing it – but nobody quite knows what ‘it’ (i.e. consumer engagement’) might actually represent. So what does research on consumer engagement tell us?

In our recent Policy & Politics article on Customer Engagement in UK water regulation, we argue that the idea of consumer representation in UK utility regulation is, of course, not particularly new. The ‘old’ age of publicly owned utilities was characterised by a range of consumer representative bodies. While some managed to survive into the age of privatisation, the key emphasis has been on relying on regulatory bodies themselves to play a consumer representation function since the 2000s. But since the late noughties, putting the consumer at the heart of regulation has become a central theme in UK utility regulation and water regulators in the UK have recently experimented with different mechanisms of customer engagement. Continue reading Should regulators engage consumers in decision-making? Lessons from UK water regulation

One week until the 8th December deadline for new special issue proposals for Policy & Politics

Policy and Politics coverWe are hoping to consider a range of varied special issue proposals in response to our annual call this year. We are looking for proposals that can demonstrate how they will make a significant and lasting contribution to their field, be it through new theoretical, conceptual or empirical developments. In particular, we are seeking proposals that challenge dominant assumptions and set the agenda for future debates.

To be successful, it’s important that each individual article within the special issue is able to evidence a clear contribution to the field, as well as ensuring that the issue as a whole coheres to advance our understanding of its topic. In addition, proposals that articulate how to maximise their impact will be viewed favourably.

Over ¾ of our readers are from outside the UK, so it’s important that proposals feature – and speak to – a global audience. The journal is supportive of scholars from diverse backgrounds so we look for such diversity in proposals, such as a mixture of established scholars and mid and early career researchers, as well as other diversities such as gender and ethnicity.

If you are interested in submitting a proposal, please read our guidance document on what information we will need to evaluate it. If you would like to talk through any aspect of your proposal, please do not hesitate to contact us.

The timetable for evaluating proposals is set out below: Continue reading One week until the 8th December deadline for new special issue proposals for Policy & Politics

New Policy & Politics Virtual Issue on the Welfare State: free to download until the end of November

Sarah Brown2By Sarah Brown, Journal Manager

From a prevailing, long-standing debate in the journal on the welfare state, we bring you a collection of our best and most recent articles. To highlight just a couple: Anthony McCashin’s How much change? Pierson and the welfare state revisited provides a structural overview of the impact of globalisation on analyses of the welfare state.

Meanwhile Sharon Wright, through forensic scrutiny, exposes the gulf between the discursive constitution of the welfare subject by policy makers, and the lived experiences of those subjects in her article Conceptualising the active welfare subject: welfare reform in discourse, policy and lived experience.
All of these articles seek to critically evaluate this contentious area of policy and point towards purposeful research agendas for the future. Download them now before 30 November while they’re free to access! Continue reading New Policy & Politics Virtual Issue on the Welfare State: free to download until the end of November

New Policy & Politics Virtual Issue on Public Services and Reform: free to download until the end of November

By Sarah Brown, Journal ManagerSarah Brown2

Try our new themed virtual issues which are free to download from 1-30 November:

Public Services and Reform
In this new virtual issue, we bring you our most impactful and recent research from diverse perspectives with a coherence of focus on increasing our understanding of public services and reform.

To introduce two highlights from the issue, opening the collection is one of our most innovative articles on how health discourses are linked to population health outcomes, hence the title: Working-class discourses of politics, policy and health: ‘I don’t smoke; I don’t drink. The only thing wrong with me is my health’. Moving from health to employment, Rebecca Taylor analyses the changing dynamics that come into play as the provision of employment services increasingly moves to public, private and third-sector organisations in her article entitled UK employment services: understanding provider strategies in a dynamic strategic action field. Covering a diverse range of public industries, other articles in the collection offer insightful studies across education, social care, disability, counter-terrorism, local government and state regulation.

Download them now before 30 November while they’re free to access! Continue reading New Policy & Politics Virtual Issue on Public Services and Reform: free to download until the end of November