Migrant belonging, social location and the neighbourhood: recent migrants in East London and Birmingham

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Scholars examining different aspects of migrant settlement have long recognised the importance of questions around how newcomers forge a sense of connectedness to the society in which they settle. This article contributes new knowledge by focusing on three factors which shape migrants’ sense of belonging: firstly, the immigration-related diversity of the neighbourhood in which they settle; secondly, the migrants’ social location in regards to race, gender, religion and language; and thirdly, migrants’ previous experiences of migration-related diversity. Drawing on theories around civility, cosmopolitanism and migrant ‘place making’, and by comparing recent migrants in Birmingham and East London, the article focuses on the role of social interactions and encounters in public space. While migrants who had little previous experiences of diversity go through a process of multicultural adaptation when settling in ethnically diverse areas, others stressed the need to live in areas characterised by visible diversity because of fear of racism. Furthermore, their sense of belonging was also shaped by previous experiences of exclusion in countries of transit migration. The findings highlight that it is not necessarily the ethnic make-up of a city overall which impacts on a migrants’ sense of belonging, but it is the neighbourhood, the immediate locality in which migrants live and the nature of social interactions with other residents in such areas which crucially impacts on their sense of inclusion or exclusion.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)131-156
Number of pages26
JournalUrban Studies
Issue number1
Early online date16 Nov 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2019
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

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  • diversity
  • interaction
  • migration
  • neighbourhoods
  • pioneer migrants

Institute themes

  • Equality and Inclusion
  • Migration, Displacement and Belonging


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