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«Population, Space, Place Special Issue. Title ‘Good relations’ among neighbours and workmates? The everyday encounters of Accession 8 migrants ...»

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Population, Space, Place Special Issue.

Title ‘Good relations’ among neighbours and workmates? The everyday encounters

of Accession 8 migrants and established communities in urban England.

Authors: Joanne Cook (University of Stirling), Peter Dwyer (Nottingham Trent

University) and Louise Waite (University of Leeds),


Drawing on data generated in a recently completed qualitative study in a northern,

English city this paper explores the everyday social encounters of Accession 8 (A8) migrants who entered the UK following the expansion of the European Union in

2004. A number of options from permanent residence in another Member State on the one hand, to more fleeting circulatory and multiple short-term moves on the other, now exist for these new European citizens. The relatively short-term and temporary residence of some A8 migrants calls into question the focus of much UK government policy which emphasises the need for migrants to integrate into diverse yet cohesive communities. Against this backdrop, the aim of this paper is two-fold. First, it considers what the somewhat different character of A8 migration (a spectrum from permanency to temporariness) means for routine experiences of mixing between new migrants and established host communities. Second, the paper explores such interactions in terms of ‘everyday encounters’ in both neighbourhood and work spaces and asks whether such spatio-temporal practices and experiences enhance or inhibit the building of ‘good relations’ in a multicultural city.

KEY WORDS A8 migration, integration, neighbourhood, mixing, good relations and everyday encounters.


Enlargement of the European Union (EU) in 2004 brought rights to live and work in the UK for nationals of the Accession 8 (A8) countries i. Various factors, such as a sustained period of economic growth (which has now ended in the light of global recession), a favourable disparity in wage earning potential between A8 migrants’ countries of origin and the UK, and a comparatively low and differentiated (regressive) tax system, have made Britain an attractive proposition for A8 migrants looking to exercise their new right to freedom of movement as EU citizens (Stenning et al. 2006). Since 2004, Pollard et al (2008) estimate that in excess of one million Central and Eastern European migrants have arrived in the UK. However, many of these migrants exhibit different mobility characteristics to the significant past waves of migrants that preceded them. Many A8 migrants are not permanent settlers and prefer instead to avail of an era of ‘super-mobility’ (Rutter et al, 2008) to temporarily or seasonally migrate between the UK and their homeland; often more than once (Ryan et al, 2009). Such itinerant presence in UK communities has led to the wellnoted phenomena of enhanced ‘population churn’ in some host communities leading Pollard et al (2008) to invoke a ‘turnstile’ rather than a ‘floodgate’ imagery of contemporary A8 migration.

The growth, increased diversity and occurrence of more transitory migration flows into Britain poses new questions and challenges for heterogeneous cities and multicultural/cosmopolitan/hybrid ii living (Simonsen, 2008a). The ‘integration’ of migrants into pluralistic yet cohesive communities is an issue that is of great concern to the UK government and social scientists iii (Home Office, 2005; Commission on Integration and Cohesion, 2007; Cantle, 2001; Zetter et al, 2006). This preoccupation has arguably intensified in recent years with both the expansion of the EU and an environment of enhanced ‘migration securitisation’ in a post 9-11 world. In the current policy environment migrant integration is actively encouraged; community integration, cohesion and citizenship policies seek to strengthen people’s sense of belonging in order to foster ‘good relations’. Yet in an era of migration securitisation suspicions of ‘exclusionary integration’ abound which relate to fears that intracommunity bonds and their social and spatial manifestation in terms of selfsegregation may impede cohesion. The noted shift away from the tendency of earlier waves of migrants to permanently settle in the UK towards A8 migrants exhibiting mobility behaviour anywhere along a continuum from permanency to ‘temporariness’ (Bailey et al, 2002) has further implications for this tension at the heart of migration that is, arguably, poorly understood (Manzo, 2005; Rudiger, 2005). As many A8 migrants are now resident in urban communities that are already relatively diverse a key question is; has their arrival led to the development of cohesive multi-ethnic communities of difference, or is it more the case that new A8 migrants and established communities routinely exist as internally cohesive but segregated groups who share the same neighbourhood?

In both policy and academic circles the community and neighbourhood have emerged as prominent spaces that are purported to shape new arrivals’ settlement and integration experiences (e.g. Burholt, 2004, Commission on Integration and Cohesion, 2007). Yet another sometimes overlooked site of significance is the work-place; a space that many new migrants spend much of their everyday lives labouring in. These different spaces are considered important for integration because they are generative of multiple, varied and diverse types of encounters that emerge between new and established individuals in neighbourhoods and workplaces. The way that these encounters manifest themselves and ‘play out’ in people’s lives can therefore influence and shape what are often somewhat crudely referred to as ‘positive’ or ‘negative’ social relations between new and established community members.

Within social science there are interesting discussions around multifarious ‘encounters’ in social landscapes of difference that characterise modern cities (e.g.

Keith, 2005; Simonsen, 2008b). Cities are envisioned as particular places of encounter, “as spatial formations resulting from dense networks of interaction, and as places of meeting ‘the stranger’” (Simonsen, 2008b:145). The challenge is how this ‘being-togetherness’ in urban space can create encounters marked by ‘cultures of care and regard’ against the backdrop of communities continually changing from the ebb and flow of migration (Amin, 2006:1012-3). Debates around the ‘crisis of multiculturalism’ loom large however (Back et al, 2002; Phillips, 2006; Kundnani, 2007; Modood, 2008), and are linked to Valentine’s (2008) concern as to how encounters between diverse people may emerge as constructive and offer the potential to erode prejudice in multicultural contexts rather than merely acting to ossify intolerance in landscapes of difference.

Allied terms such as ‘civility’ (Fyfe et al, 2006) are also invoked when imagining ‘good community relations’, and indeed this discourse is seen in the recent Commission on Integration and Cohesion’s report entitled ‘Our Shared Future’ (2007) with its new emphasis on ‘mutual respect and civility’. Boyd (2006:863) discusses the potential of civility in terms of, “easing social conflicts and facilitating social interactions” and as a way of communicating respect for others. Amin (2006:1012) further feels that although often unattained, civility has the potential to encourage a ‘politics of living together’ in cities. Although certain types of courteous or convivial behaviour for example, holding doors open for people, communicating pleasantries etc. (rf. Laurier et al, 2002) may be critiqued as being superficial and unlikely to generate meaningful encounters, other writers link such behaviour to a culture of ‘hospitality’ that arguably permeates cities and enables the positive transformation of urban public culture (Nava, 2006; Bell, 2007).

Such arguments around civility, hospitality and the importance of exploring people’s encounters are often embedded within an analytical framework that acknowledges the importance of ‘the everyday’. In human geography it was Ley (1977) who first suggested close attention to the ordinary, everyday, and ‘mundane experiences’ of people’s lives, and de Certeau (1984) made significant contributions to this emerging field by stating that everyday social practices were critical for enhancing the ability of ordinary people to negotiate, and possibly resist, structural apparatuses of power.

Lefebvre (1990) continues in this vein by writing that it is therefore mistaken to dismiss the everyday as


or inauthentic as it is the very stuff of real life. Such sentiments are echoed in the work of Harrison (2000), Seigworth & Gardiner (2004) and Binnie et al (2007) who all discuss the banal, mundane and everydayness not as ‘lacking’ but as full of potential and generative. In this sense, this paper pays close attention to the quotidian experiences of encounter that emerge for A8 migrants in neighbourhood and work spaces and therefore contributes to Halfacree and Boyle’s (1993) call for a conceptualization of migration which emphasizes its situatedness within everyday life.

The overall aim of this paper is two-fold. First, it considers what the somewhat different character of A8 migration, in terms of a range of mobility patterns from permanency to temporariness, mean for grounded experiences of interactions between new migrants and host communities. Second, the paper explores such interactions in terms of ‘everyday encounters’ in both neighbourhood and work spaces and continues to ask whether such spatio-temporal practices and experiences are generative or inhibitive of the building of ‘good relations’ between newly resident A8 migrants and established communities in a multicultural city. As such, the main body of the paper is structured into two sections. The first explores generative and positive mixing in neighbourhood and work spaces. The second uncovers a range of encounters in the same spaces from negative experiences and structurally enforced ‘absence’ of interaction through to more active strategies of withdrawal from encounter. Before addressing these issues in more detail, a brief contextualisation of the fieldwork location and an outline of the study on which this paper draws is required.


The qualitative data utilised in this paper was generated in a research project that focused on the needs and experiences of new A8 migrants and established communities in a northern English city. The city in question has reinvented itself in the post-industrial era into an urban location of considerable renewal and prosperity.

It is now characterised by a diverse and dynamic economy with tertiary sectors such as retail, call centres, offices and media being important to the labour market. The city also, however, has sizeable low-skilled and low-paid labour market sectors (i.e.

hospitality, construction, manufacturing, food-processing) and the particular groups of workers in these sectors are more likely to experience the social inequalities that are often the underbelly of ostensibly prosperous cities. The parts of the city that are characterised by poverty, exclusion and multiple deprivation are unsurprisingly shaped by ethnic, racial and class dynamics, and the city’s history of migration, particularly from the South Asian continent, has contributed to its current demographic profile. New, more recent, waves of immigration (including refugees and A8 migrants) have also led to greater diversity among the city’s population.

Eighty nine people participated in the fieldwork. A series of focus group were held with members of three, newly resident, A8 migrant groups i.e. Polish, Slovak and Slovak Roma iv migrants. Ten key informants who recruited, employed or acted as community support workers for A8 migrants were also interviewed. Additionally, four parallel focus groups were convened with members of the established West Indian, Pakistani (differentiated by gender) and ‘white’ host communities in neighborhoods that had recently experienced the arrival of significant numbers of A8 migrants. Finally, three focus groups were held with agencies involved in the provision and/or administration of local public services e.g. City Council services, primary care trusts, housing providers and schools v.

Two basic principles, informed consent and anonymity, underpinned the fieldwork.

Participant information and consent sheets were translated as necessary and participants were briefed about the aims of the research. Experienced interpreters were present at interviews as required. Interviews were routinely recorded on audiotape transcribed verbatim (translated into English by interpreters as appropriate), and analysed using grid analysis and thematic coding techniques (Mason, 2002;

Ritchie and Spencer, 2003).


As previously noted, some of the literature around encounters can be broadly characterised as optimistic in relation to positive types of social interaction and coexistence that multicultural cities may engender. Much of this thinking perhaps emanates from Allport’s (1954) early ‘contact hypothesis’ of urban encounter and the consequent demystification of strangers. This is linked to the aforementioned writing on the fabric of civility that may, or may not, underlie urban encounters amongst diverse peoples (Laurier et al, 2002; Laurier & Philo, 2006) and further suggests a culture of hospitality may govern interactions (Derrida, 2000; Dicek, 2002; Barnes, 2005).

Neighbourhood mixing

Members of the established West Indian community who participated in our study echoed the above views and outlined serendipitous and positive accounts of mundane neighbourhood encounters with new A8 migrants, linking these interactions to broad notions of newcomer acceptance.

As such their stance chimes with Amin’s (2006) suggestion that care and regard for ‘others’ should be central to encounters in the ‘good city’:

Respondent 1: There's always going to be difficulty right at the beginning.

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