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The London Borough of Hackney is one of the most diverse places in the United Kingdom. It is characterized not only by a multiplicity of ethnic minorities but also by differentiations in terms of migration histories, religions and educational and economic backgrounds, both among long-term residents and newcomers. This article attempts to describe how people negotiate social interactions in such a ‘super-diverse’ context. It develops the notion of ‘commonplace diversity’, referring to ethnic, religious and linguistic diversity being experienced as a normal part of social life by local residents. This commonplace diversity has resulted in people acting with ‘civility towards diversity’. While in public space people do not change their behaviour according to other people’s backgrounds, in semi-public spaces, such as associations and local institutions, here conceptualized as ‘parochial space’, people’s different backgrounds are acknowledged and sometimes talked about. The article discusses how people negotiate their differences in these two different kinds of spaces. It shows how civility towards diversity is used as a strategy to both engage with difference as well as avoid deeper contact. Civility thus facilitates the negotiation of both positive relations and possible tensions.
- social interactions