Modern western societies are becoming increasingly diverse, undergoing rapid demographic change as a product of new patterns of migration driven by processes of globalization. As populations and cultures have become more heterogeneous in this way, public space has been increasingly defined as a space of encounter. The growing focus on the significance of everyday contact with difference raises questions about the frameworks within which such encounters occur and, specifically, the extent to which incidental encounters are shaped or regulated by perceptions of formal obligations to comply with legislative frameworks, or informal expectations about appropriate ways of behaving in public space. Using original empirical data about what ordinary people think about equality laws, the paper contributes to social geographies by considering the spatial sensitivities and regulatory frameworks that shape encounters with difference.
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