Tag Archives: diversity

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

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

Introducing our forthcoming Special Issue on superdiversity

Guest editors Jenny Phillimore, Nando Sigona and Katharine Tonkiss introduce their forthcoming Special Issue on superdiversity.


‘Super-diversity’ is a concept introduced by anthropologist Steven Vertovec (2007; Meissner and Vertovec 2015) to capture migration-driven demographic complexity and diversification which have emerged over recent decades in London and similar urban centres. While the nature and impact of superdiversity have begun to be interrogated in a wide range of fields and disciplines, the governance of – and development of policy associated with – superdiversity has received little attention. This special issue of Policy and Politics brings together contributions from across Europe in order to begin to address some of the gaps in knowledge around the multi-scalar governance of superdiversity.

The first article in our collection, by Hadj-Abdou and Geddes, focuses on the implications of increasing diversity for governance at the European level. Their findings concern the emergence of new policy paradigms associated with diversity at the European level. Interestingly they reveal the radical transformations in policy and governance brought about by processes of diversification in the demos which have often been hidden in studies of European governance.

Geldof et al go on to argue that flexible migration strategies emerge in superdiverse urban areas and consider the interplay between transnational practices by migrants and existing institutional responses in the country of residence.

Van Breugel and Scholten’s contribution offers a national comparative investigation of how the Netherlands, the UK and France have used mainstreaming to respond to migration-driven transformations in ways that are driven by political and economic motives, rather than considerations of diversity.

Ambrosini addresses the changing relations between national and local immigrant policies, and the involvement of civil society in the urban governance of immigration.

Medda-Windischer’s piece shifts the analysis to the sub-national level. By examining the multi-layering of ‘old’ and ‘new’ minorities in South Tyrol, she highlights the shortcomings of traditional ways of thinking about the representation of minorities in policymaking processes and highlights the potential of superdiversity to move past some of these limitations.

Oliveria and Padilla focus upon the ways in which superdiversity has been used as a marketing tool to highlight the uniqueness of certain places and increase their attractiveness to tourists.

Magazzini’s article demonstrates the value of superdiversity as the basis of a model for the governance of minorities. Turning her attention to the Roma populations of Europe, she develops a nuanced and detailed critique of pre-existing models and an analysis of the possibilities presented by a superdiversity-based approach.

Pemberton examines the role of urban planning in responding to migration-related superdiversity. Through a focus on Liverpool in the UK, the article highlights the importance of class-based differences above ethnic and cultural differences in shaping the practices of urban planners.

Finally, in Jensen’s contribution, the focus shifts to the neighbourhood level where the tension between diversity as a social fact and the neighbourhood as a site of local governance is explored.

Collectively, the authors propose a multi-scalar investigation of how local, regional, national and supranational institutions are coming to terms with the rapid and profound transformation of their populations. In doing so, they also contribute to the development of an agenda for future research that considers opportunities and challenges for policy and governance in the age of migration-driven superdiversity. Taken as a whole, the issue suggests paths to pursue and questions that needs further in-depth investigation. It also opens up a space for the encounters between different bodies of scholarship that to date have not yet, or only fleetingly, met.

Look out for the special issue forthcoming in October! But until then, each of the individual articles which are already published online, can be found by clicking through the titles above.

Jenny Phillimore is Professor of Migration and Superdiversity at the University of Birmingham. Nando Sigona is Deputy Director of the Institute for Research into Superdiversity (IRiS) at the University of Birmingham and Katharine Tonkiss is a Senior Lecturer in Sociology at Aston University.

European Policies and Research Funding: A Case Study of Gender Inequality and Lack of Diversity in a Nordic Research Programme

Pat O’Connor and Antoinette Faux-Chamoux
Pat O’Connor and Antoinette Faux-Chamoux

by Pat O’Connor & Antoinette Fauve-Chamoux

Supra national and cross-national funding is increasingly becoming the norm in a context characterised by international consortia. Although bringing advantages in terms of scale, it raises issues about the relative salience of national location and gender and its implications for the funding of projects led by women, and for the composition of research teams. These themes are explored in a case study of a cross-national research programme, with a broadly Nordic funding structure, based in Sweden, and with a total budget of approximately EUR 3million. Two critical intervention points were identified: firstly those related to the relative power of the location based Steering Group and the gender balanced expert panels; and secondly the project leaders’ attitudes to diversity.

The Steering Group for the research programme was composed of representatives of nationally located funding organisations. At the inception of the Steering Group (when critical decisions were being made about structures, criteria and funding), only 20 per cent of the members were women. This breached the Swedish 40 per cent gender balance rule. Continue reading European Policies and Research Funding: A Case Study of Gender Inequality and Lack of Diversity in a Nordic Research Programme

Is the UK Civil Service becoming more representative of the population it serves and, if so, why?

Rhys Andrews and Rachel Ashworth

by Rhys Andrews and Rachel Ashworth

Originally posted on June 24th on the Democratic Audit blog.




The UK Civil Service has long been regarded a bastion of white, middle class men, but there have been efforts to recruit a more diverse workforce in recent years. In this post Rhys Andrews and Rachel Ashworth assess the representativeness of Whitehall staff, in terms of gender, ethnicity and disability. They show that progress has been made in most departments, although there are still questions to be answered about the type of jobs that women, people from ethnic minorities and disabled people tend to hold.

In recent years policy-makers and politicians have been keen to encourage public organizations to become more diverse, especially within central government. For example, the shadow Cabinet Office Minister Michael Dugher recently stated that a future Labour government would ensure that a greater proportion of Fast Stream civil servants come from black and working class backgrounds. Government has sought to increase the representativeness of the civil service for two main reasons: firstly, so that it is more representative of society and can therefore be viewed as legitimate and, secondly to ensure that policies can generate outcomes that benefit all sections of society. Continue reading Is the UK Civil Service becoming more representative of the population it serves and, if so, why?