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Living Multiculture

The new geographies of ethnicity and the changing formations of multiculture in England

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About the project

Hackney Peace Carnival Mural

At the beginning of the 21st century urban England is increasingly multicultural. Areas that are already multicultural are becoming even more diverse. The social composition of multiculture is also becoming more mixed and increasingly complex. In this context the project questions the tendency in public debates about multiculture to problematize cultural difference. For example, the concepts of 'segregation', 'conflict', 'parallel lives' have become familiar preoccupations in discussions and policy interventions in relation to multiculture. This project takes a different starting point as the research aims show.

Research aims

  • Develop our understanding of the informal, unpanicked ways in which people live and manage ethnic diversity and cultural difference in their day-to-day lives, across a variety of everyday settings.
  • Examine the ways in which locality and place shape community relations in different geographical settings, with contrasting - longer and more recent - histories of multicultural settlement.
  • Develop understandings of older concepts such as community, place and social mixing alongside newer concepts such as conviviality, super-diversity, and competency.
  • Use this analysis to inform public and policy debate.

With these aims in mind the research is based in three very different geographies of urban England. These have each been selected because they capture and represent different aspects of the changing social and spatial nature of contemporary multiculture. The three areas are:


No Smoking sign in Hackney

Hackney, a borough of north-east London: this is an area of the city with a long history of migration and well-known for its 'super diversity'. It is the third most ethnically diverse borough in England and Wales, with just under half of its population being White British. Black British, Black African, Black Caribbean and Mixed populations are all significant and higher than in London overall, as are the White Other populations, which reflects the significant Turkish and Jewish Charedi resident population.

Milton Keynes

Indian Restaurant in Milton Keynes

Milton Keynes is a more recently multicultural city in the South East England. Because of its status as a 'new town', Milton Keynes has a population that is largely from 'elsewhere', and new migration and settlement patterns, particularly of Somali and Ghanaian populations, are contributing to its increasing diversity. In 2006 it was estimated that 17.2% of the population were from BME groups and data from schools shows that non-white pupils comprised 26.9% of the 2008 school population.


Park in Oadby

Oadbyis a small, affluent Leicestershire town a short distance from the city of Leicester. Leicester itself has a long history of migration, but Oadby is more newly diverse. Unlike Milton Keynes, Oadby's diversity reflects residential mobility and the relocation of more affluent, middle class minority ethnic communities from Leicester. This process began in the 1980s and had accelerated since 1995. In 2007 11% of the local population described themselves as Asian or Asian British.

Research questions

In these contrasting geographies of multiculture the project examines the following research questions:

  • What forms of everyday multicultural encounter, interaction and negotiation take place in the three different areas of multiculture?
  • How do the different identities of each place shape the everyday practices, interactions and relations that take place there?
  • How are routine encounters in spaces such as 6th form and further education colleges, libraries, parks, social leisure clubs and cafes experienced by those who use and are involved in them?
  • To what extent and in what ways to localised policy interventions engage with informal, everyday multicultural encounters?

Latest Blog entries

  • It is has often felt like a winter of argument, contestation and crisis around migration and multiculture.

  • Rather unbelievably we are in the final weeks of Living multiculture being a ‘live project’.

  • A quick update on the various activities on the Living Multiculture project: we are deep in the data ‘cleaning’ and coding process still.

Contact us

For further information about the project, questions, queries and media enquiries, please contact Prof Allan Cochrane or a member of the project team.