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School of Geography

Citizenship & Belonging Projects

LIVEDIFFERENCE: Living with Difference in Europe: making communities out of strangers in an era of super mobility and super diversity

PI: Gill Valentine (University of Sheffield)

Academic Researcher (Project A): Phil Rees

Academic Researcher (Project B and Project C): Nichola Wood

Overview: The programme aims to address the fundamental question of how we can develop the capacity to live with difference in the context of an era of rapid population change and mobility. It involves five inter-linked research projects that will collect original empirical data in Europe. The details of the inter-linked projects are as follows:

Project A: Mapping social diversity: Opportunities for encounters

This project will explore what opportunities are available for encountering difference, what types of encounter are sought or avoided and by whom, and people’s experience of discrimination or exclusion. Social diversity will be defined in terms of social class, ethnicity, age, migrant status, religion, sexual orientation and disability.

Project B: Lived experience: The transmission of attitudes towards difference

This project seeks to identify how messages about difference and otherness are absorbed, challenged or resisted by individuals in the cities of Leeds (UK) and Warsaw (Poland). Particular attention is paid to intergenerational factors with a number of case study families being interviewed to discover how values are contested or are changing across generations.

The project explores four key themes. First, the processes through which attitudes (positive and negative) towards ‘others’ are developed, transmitted and/or interrupted. Second, the importance of inter-generational influence on changing attitudes. Third, the importance of space in informing people’s attitudes (positive and negative) towards those different from themselves. Fourth, the significance of time. How people’s narratives about the ways in which their values change are explained in terms of evolution or ‘fateful moments’.

These themes are explored through life history interviews which investigate the origins of people’s attitudes towards other social groups and how these views have evolved over time with case study families. Targeted interviews to explore emerging themes in the project, including respondents’ understandings of concepts such as respect and prejudice, follow this. In addition, intergenerational interviews are undertaken to explore value change over time within case study families. Spatial factors are explored by focussing on the different sites where the transmission of values occurs e.g. The home, education spaces, the workplace, community/social venues. Finally, we have used audio diaries to track people’s encounters with difference in real time.

Project C: Contested Spaces: Group identities and competing rights in the city

Project C addresses spaces of conflict.  Of concern here are the relationships between different social groups anf their right to occupy and take up public space in different forms.  Project C involves two different case studies, with research being carried out in the UK and in Poland.

Project D: Meaningful Contact: Generating social change

The key research question for this project is ‘what kinds of encounter create meaningful contact?’

Project D began in November 2012. Using data gathered in Project A, this project involves an evaluation of examples of contexts where ‘meaningful’ encounters across difference might be expected to occur. This project is again a comparative study between Poland (a post-socialist country) and Britain (a post-colonial country). This project is underpinned by theories of social topographies, at the same time as developing new ways to theorise the post-socialist/post-colonial nexus. The research will involve participant observation, in-depth interviewing, focus groups and visual methods in investigating how ‘meaningful contact’ for enacting social change might be approached, in general, and within the specific local contexts of the case study locations.

Project E: Meaningful contact: Creating spatial experiments

On the basis of the outcomes of project D the team will identify the types of activity and characteristics of particular spaces where meaningful contact can be produced or facilitated. This evidence will be used to inform the design of a series of ‘spatial experiments’ to create such meaningful contact. Project E is very innovative, developing new horizons in methodological practice. It is anticipated that the outcomes of Project E will contribute to the theorization of meaningful contact and an integrated evidence base to inform policy about diversity in European societies.

Start Date: 01 June 2010

End Date: 31 May 2014

Funder: European Research Council (ERC)

Grant Reference: 249658

Details: LIVEDIFFERENCE project website (opens in external website)