Tag Archives: Nando Sigona

Book giveaway: Ethnography, Diversity and Urban Space

Ethnography, Diversity and Urban Space book cover.

From the British Sociological Association:

This month we have five copies of Ethnography, Diversity and Urban Space [Routledge], edited by Mette Louise Berg, Ben Gidley and Nando Sigona, to giveaway to our members.

This book explores how people live with diversity in contemporary cities and towns across Europe. Drawing on ethnographic studies ranging from London’s inner city and residential suburbs to English provincial towns, from a working-class neighbourhood in Nuremberg to the streets of Naples, Turin and Milan, chapters explore how diversity is experienced in everyday lives, and what new forms of local belonging emerge when local places are so closely connected to so many distant elsewheres. The book discusses the sensory experiences of diversity in urban street markets, the ethos of mixing in a super-diverse neighbourhood, contestations over the right to the provincial city, diverse histories and experiences of residential geographies, memories of belonging, and the ethics and politics of representation on an inner city estate. It weaves together ethnographic case studies with contemporary social and cultural theory from the disciplines of anthropology, sociology, geography, cultural studies, and migration studies about urban space, migration, transnationalism and everyday multiculture.

If you are interested in receiving one of these free copies, please email Claire Simmons with your name and postal address and we will pick five winners at random in June. Please note that you must be a BSA member to enter this book draw. If you aren’t a member and would like to find out how to become one and see what other benefits are available to you please visit the Membership section.


Coming soon: Ethnography, Diversity and Urban Space, the book

Ethnography, Diversity and Urban Space
Edited by Mette Louise Berg, University of Oxford, UK, Ben Gidley, University of Oxford, UK and Nando Sigona, University of Birmingham, UK

Across Europe, multiculturalism as a public policy has been declared ‘dead’ but, everyday multiculture is alive and well. This book explores how people live with diversity in contemporary cities and towns across Europe. It weaves
together ethnographic case studies with contemporary social and cultural theory about urban space, migration, transnationalism and everyday multiculture.

This book was originally published as a special issue of Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power.

Published by Routledge.

Flyer: Ethnography, Diversity and Urban Space UK Flyer [20% discount!] [pdf]

The future of superdiversity research

My former colleague Nando Sigona posted this on his blog:

Notes on the roundtable held at the University of Birmingham’s Institute of Research intro Superdiversity on 4th December 2013

by Nando Sigona, Institute for Research into Superdiversity (IRiS)

IRiS roundtable, 4 Dec 2013

IRiS roundtable, 4 Dec 2013

IRiS invited three internationally renowned scholars in the field of diversity and migration studies, Dr Mette Louise Berg (Anthropology, University of Oxford), Dr Ben Gidley (COMPAS, University of Oxford) and Dr Susanne Wessendorf (Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity) to join IRiS director Professor Jenny Phillimore in an informal conversation on the future of diversity research and the challenges that superdiversity poses to social researchers. The event was also an opportunity for launching the special issue of the journal Identities (volume 20, n. 4) on ‘Ethnography, diversity and urban space’ that I co-edited by Mette Berg and Ben Gidley. Here are a few notes I took while chairing the roundtable.

Cover, Identities: Global studies in culture and power

Speakers were invited to address four key questions: What paths might diversity research take in the next decade? How might these impact on different disciplines? What challenges and opportunities might lie ahead for diversity researchers? How can diversity research engage with different academic and policy agendas?

Susanne Wessendorf opened the conversation with a brief overview on the concept of ‘superdiversity’, stressing its multidimensionality, that is the coming together of different social categories: not just ethnicity and migration backgrounds, but also different variables such as educational and socio-economic backgrounds, legal statuses, disabilities, sexualities, etc. which come together and interact in one place. However, noting that the saliency of various categories is socially constructed and varies in time and space, she invited researchers to avoid essenzialising them and be aware of intersectionality.

For Wessendorf research is needed to explore how different stakeholders cope with super-diversity, including public service providers, local authorities, and long-established communities; and how superdiversity impacts differently in urban and rural areas, large cities and provincial towns. She also identified the need for more comparative analysis that investigates diversity and superdiversity also in the Global South and for research that looks beyond the present to understand from a historical comparative perspective in which contexts and historical moments diversity was or was not seen as a problem for the society concerned.

The focus of Mette Louise Berg’s contribution was two-fold: the methodological challenges for ethnographers and qualitative researchers that work a) in the field of superdiversity and b) in superdiverse field sites. For Berg it is not easy to measure diversity quantitatively and she highlighted the difficult trade-off between how fine grained categories should be and questions of operationality and scale of analysis.

Tracing back its emergence to the 1990s, she describes what one might call the ‘neighbourhood turn’ and places the current ‘diversity turn’ within it. Ethnographic work, she argued, holds the potential to uncover instances of everyday affinities, conviviality and cosmopolitanism from below, as well as experiences and practices of exclusion, discrimination and racism. The challenge lies in how to honour the ideal of immersion, rapport and long-term engagement with the diversity and transnational connections of residents of diverse neighbourhoods. Collaborative research seems a promising approach – there is the potential to capture different processes and angles, the multiplicity of residents’ perspectives reflected in the multiplicity of researchers’ perspectives.

For Ben Gidley mapping and tracking the changing landscapes of diversity in the UK are key tasks for researchers. However, existing system of categorisation seems unable to cope with increasing fluidity of identification and emergence of new ethnicities. There is a need for a new policy vocabulary and new ideas that enable us to rethink ‘integration’, ‘cohesion’, ‘resilience’, ‘conviviality’. Central to the researcher’s task is the critique of methodological ethnicism which has contributed to pigeonholing the population into rigid ethnic-based clusters, with repercussion well beyond academia. An ethnographic approach alert to the sites of interactions and to the spatiality of relations is, Gidley argues, a suitable method for investigating everyday integration and ‘commonplace diversity’ (see Wessendorf’s article in the special issue of Identities) in the era of superdiversity. This should be pursued together with rigorous comparative research that addresses upfront the challenges of translation and develops analytical models attentive to the scales of diversity. Continue reading

The Diversity Turn

This post is from the COMPAS blog. Read the original here.

By: Mette Louise Berg, Departmental Lecturer, Anthropology of Migration, and Nando Sigona, Birmingham Fellow and Lecturer at the University of Birmingham and Research Associate at COMPAS

The demise of multiculturalism as a public policy, and as a political discourse in several European countries, including Germany, the Netherlands and the UK, began over a decade ago in the wake of the 9/11 attacks in New York and the subsequent so-called war on terror. The multiculturalism backlash that ensued effectively left European immigration countries that are de facto multicultural – in terms of languages spoken, religions practiced, ethnicity, etc. – without an explicit policy for dealing with this fact. Meanwhile, in scholarly discourse, ‘multiculturalism’ as an analytical concept has gradually faded away.

The critique of multiculturalism has given way to a broader expression and recognition of different kinds of differences, resulting largely from the waves of new migration that have transformed the demographic profile of urban areas, and increasingly also rural ones: what Steve Vertovec has termed ‘super-diversity’. ‘Super-diversity’ is increasingly used where multiculturalism would have been used previously, but, as we argue in the Introduction to a new special issue of the journal Identities, in sometimes contradictory ways.

identitiesThe special issue on ‘Ethnography, diversity, and urban change’ is co-edited by Mette Louise Berg, Ben Gidley, and Nando Sigona and brings together an introductory essay on uses and abuses of ‘diversity’, seven ethnographic articles, and an epilogue that use ‘diversity’ to gauge and examine processes of everyday intercultural encounters and practices across European countries, from capital cities to small provincial towns and suburbs. Continue reading

Nostalgia and diversity: Understanding integration at the local level

This was published in the COMPAS Blog in May 2013.

Bermondsey, Ben Gidley 2013

They never call it Bermondsey any more
A couple of weeks ago, in Bermondsey, South London with my colleagues Ole Jensen, Simon Rowe and Ida Persson, we met a man called Albert, at the entrance to his council flat. Born on Christmas Day 1926, Albert had lived his whole life in Bermondsey (apart from his national service at the end of the war, spent in Scandinavia). He had lived over half a century in his current flat, since it had been built as part of the massive post-war social democratic housing expansion whose legacy completely dominates the landscape of South London. He worked as a drayman at the Courage brewery, brought up three daughters and a son – and slowly watched his neighbourhood change almost beyond recognition.

The Metropolitan Borough of Bermondsey was merged into the London Borough of Southwark in 1965. Its town hall had been bombed in the war, and Bermondsey no longer exists as an administrative unit. “They never call it Bermondsey any more”, Albert insisted. At its height, the docks employed huge numbers of men; the Peek Frean biscuit factory employed thousands of women. The docks closed one by one from the 1960s, the brewery closed in 1981, and the biscuit factory houses work units for creative businesses. The council estates are no longer sites of utopian hope but now carry the stigma of residualised poverty. A tidal wave of gentrification ripples down from the riverside, and the UK’s decade of mass migration has transformed the demographics. Continue reading

Within and beyond citizenship: Romani minorities at the margins of the European project

Over 11-12 April, Oxford hosted an extremely rich international symposium  entitled Within and beyond citizenship: Lived experiences of contemporary membership, organised by COMPAS, the Refugee Studies Centre, the Oxford Institute of Social Policy and the School of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago, and in particular by my colleague Nando Sigona, working with Jenny Allsopp and Vanessa Hughes. If you are interested, Nando has Storified the rich Twitter discussion that took place in the conference.

I chaired and was discussant to a really interesting panel entitled The Roma at the margins of EU citizenship. There were three very good papers: Rachel Humphris, of the Insitutte of social and Cultural Anthropology at Oxford, with “Waiting room: Romanian Roma migrants’ negotiations of transitional controls in UK bureaucracy”, Julija Sardelic, of the CITSEE project at the University of Edinburgh, on “Romani minorities on the margins of post-Yugoslav citizenship regimes”, and Huub van Baar, of the University of Amsterdam, on “Boundary practices of citizenship: Europe’s Roma at the nexus of securitization and citizenship”. I have converted my discussant comments into a short report on those papers for this blogpost.

At first glance, I was worried that the only thing the three papers shared was a common focus on Romani minorities in Europe, specifically those from southeastern Europe. Rachel’s deals with Romanian migrants in the UK awaiting the end of A8 transitional arrangements, Julia’s with Romani minorities in the former Yugoslavia caught in the cracks between post-Yugoslav statehoods, Huub’s with Kosovans facing deportation from Germany; all draw on very different bodies of theory to address very different questions. However, happily there are a couple of important areas of commonality.

First, all three papers raise questions about the different scales of citizenship and its constellations and regimes, including the neighbourhood and municipal, the infra-national and national, and the space of Europe: scales which operate not as a nested hierarchy but in complex, contradictory ways, as palimpsest, with the residue of older citizenship regimes sedimented in the new (as with the legacy of Yugoslav federal and republican constitutions in the post-Yugoslav period). The space of Europe, with its shifting internal and external borders, is especially highlighted in all three papers, in a context in which, as Huub argues, the Roma have been discursively “Europeanised” as both icon or mascot and internal other of the European project.

Second, all three papers deal with “in-betweenness” of various sorts. Julija takes Bhabha’s notion of in-betweenness as central to understanding the positioning of Romani minorities in central and eastern Europe, an in-betweenness systematically produced by the proliferation of national citizenship regimes which has rendered many within Romani minorities as de facto stateless or legally invisible. Similarly, Huub uses Nyers’ term, “the mezzanine spaces of sovereignty, that is, those spaces which are in-between the inside and the outside of the state” (2003: 1080). He also proposes the fruitful term “boundary practices of citizenship”.

And in Rachel’s paper, we have a temporal in-betweenness: the state of being in waiting. This temporal in-betweenness is perhaps also present for the internally displaced in Montenegro, trapped in a recurrently extended formal transitional period, unable to provide the evidence that will give them permanent status (described in Julija’s paper), or for the German holders of the Duldung, a short-term reprieve repeatedly renewed (described in Huub’s).

All three papers address, too, the vexed question of the agency of those with precarious relationships to citizenship, and in particular how we can talk about agency in the context of in-between spaces characterised by waiting, lack and dependency. Huub argues that a focus on spectacular “acts” of insurgent citizenship on one hand or exceptionalist security panics on the other leads us to neglect the importance of everyday, mundane, normal practices of citizenship and security. Huub gives us some cause for optimism by revealing the power of resistance, solidarity, innovation and knowledge-production in the most mundane contexts.

Rachel similarly notes the development of “strategies of waiting” developed by Romanian Roma in precarious situations, and how they artfully navigate and even turn to their advantage the indeterminacy inherent in bureaucracy. But she also suggests a hinterland in which the most precarious and excluded have no room in which to wait, no space for hope. In Julija’s paper, agency is even more constrained: apart from an activist elite, subaltern Romani minorities are spoken for by others or, when they do speak, have their voices “transformed and interpreted [in] such a way that it only confirms the hegemonic ideology”.

Central to the space of the normal is the banal figure of the street level bureaucrat, the low-level professional – the border official, gendarme, tax inspector, employment advisor. In contrast to the high visibility rhetoric of security and emergency most often invoked in the academic and activist literature, the street level bureaucrat often operates in a low visibility way. For example, Huub highlights how German and EU officials have sought to render more opaque “the most delicate trajectories of the physical procedure of deportation”, while Rachel talks of a bureaucratic regime increasingly physically removed from physical contact with “clients”, hidden on the other side of the screen or telephone.

Also central to this space of the normal, in relation to practices of bordering and citizenship, are papers or documents, and the banal practices surrounding them – the birth not registered leading to a life of legal invisibility (as in Julija’s paper), the Duldung which grants temporary residence in the shadow of deportability (in Huub’s), or the compulsive collection of as many different types of document so as to strengthen a case against future deportation (in Rachel’s).

The contribution of these papers is to show that examining these quotidian and material dimensions is crucial in pushing forward a critical account of citizenship, which requires a much more granular exploration of the texture of such below-the-radar mundane practices, a task which demands the development of more attentive (and especially ethnographic) methodologies.

Vile liars/Deportable lives

Melanie Griffiths, DPhil student at COMPAS, has published an article in Anthropology Today, Volume 28, Issue 5. “‘Vile liars and truth distorters’; Truth, trust and the asylum system” draws on ethnographic research to explore how those within the asylum system experience, understand and explain the bureaucracy they are embedded in. It suggests that deception, uncertainty and mistrust are as much characteristics of asylum seekers’ perspective of the immigration system as of the reverse. The journal also includes an article by  Nando Sigona on“Deportation, non-deportation and precarious lives: The everyday lives of undocumented migrant children in Britain”.

No Way Out, No Way In

A new COMPAS report profiling the population of children without legal immigration status in the UK has been released.

The report, No Way Out, No Way In: Irregular migrant children and families in the UK, by Dr. Nando Sigona and Vanessa Hughes, examines the conflicting government policies governing the protection of children’s rights and immigration to the UK. It looks at the children’s and families’ everyday experiences and highlights their lack of access to public services such as health care and education.

View the report

Summary video interview with Dr. Nando Sigona  Continue reading

Report: Ethnography, diversity and urban space

My colleague Mette Berg’s COMPAS blog post on the conference we recently held. Extract:

The intensification of global flows in the current period has led scholars to describe cities like London as ‘super-diverse’: a ‘diversification of diversity’, with a population characterised by multiple ethnicities, countries of origin, immigration statuses, and age profiles (Vertovec 2007). Last week about 70 scholars, students and policy analysts from across Europe, North America, the UK, and Japan convened in Oxford to discuss the implications of super-diversity for ethnographic research, and for the ways in which we conceptualise urban space.

While multi-sited ethnography is now well established, enabling ethnographers to study mobile people across multiple locations, there have been relatively few attempts to research multiple migrant communities sharing specific locations. We – the conference organisers (Mette Louise BergBen GidleyVanessa HughesNando Sigona) – wondered how we can develop the methodological tools required to achieve this.

Ethnography, both in the anthropological and sociological traditions, has tended to prefer long-term immersion in discrete, bounded ethnic communities – a model that is increasingly problematic in the context of super-diversity. In terms of urban space, we wanted to understand how emerging forms of multiculture are structured in and by urban space, and how urban space is structured in and by the multiplication of diversity.[…]