14 SES 11, Policies and Actions to Promote School-Family-Community Links - Diversity and Re-Conceptualization
The current social and economic crisis has threatened social cohesion in many European nation states, leading to urban disturbances in many cities (e.g. in 2011 across England) and the intensification of persistent controversies around immigration. Many European countries have seen the rise of far right parties (including but not limited to Golden Dawn in Greece, the Jobbik Party in Hungary, Espana 2000 in Spain, and the English Defence League in England). With this backdrop, we draw attention to the role of the school in creating innovative policies and practices aimed at bringing together the different social and ethnic communities that constitute a school’s population in multicultural urban areas. The particular focus of our on-going research project (funded by the Economic and Social Research Council) is the friendships children and their parents make through attendance at primary schools in ‘super-diverse’ (Vertovec, 2007) urban localities in London. We are exploring what friendships reveal about the nature and extent of ethnic diversity and social divisions in contemporary multicultural society. At the heart of the project are the following questions: whether adults and children make and maintain friendships with those who are differently socially situated to themselves and if so, how those friendships develop, how differences in social and/or ethnic background shape and affect those relationships, and how those differences are routinely negotiated and managed. We deploy concepts derived from sociology and geography, focusing on everyday multiculture (Amin 2002, Neal et al 2013, Wise 2009), young people’s friendships (e.g. Hewitt 1986, Weller & Bruegel 2009) and social capital (e.g Coleman 1997, Torche and Valenzuela 2011) which will be fully discussed at in the completed paper. For the purposes of this abstract, we wish to direct attention to the emphasis on contact as a basis for increasing cohesion. From older arguments (eg contact theory, Allport 1954) - which argued that positive interpersonal contact between individuals from different ethnicities can lessen prejudice and anxiety – to newer ideas of ‘encounter’ – citizens learning to live with cultural difference through the positive experience of civil encounters (eg Hemming 2011) - micro-social interactions have been understood as having the potential to be transformative and ‘scaled up’ from the individual with whom one is in contact to his/her groups as a whole (Matejskove & Leitner 2011). However, the degree to which everyday encounters (on the street or on public transport) may be meaningful, and may have the potential to reshape social relations across difference is contested (Valentine 2008). Therefore we use the notions of friendship as a measure of meaningful and intimate interaction and we use primary schools and their surrounds as the routine space in which encounters of difference are likely to take place. Primary schools in diverse localities are sites in which adults and children are brought together in continual and regular contact. Here we will identify and explore such interactions, trace their development and consider whether they work as informal social resources, providing the basis for greater social cohesion.
Allport, G. W. (1954) The Nature of Prejudice (New York, Perseus Books Amin A, (2002) ‘Ethnicity and the multicultural city: living with diversity’ Environment and Planning A 34 959-980. Blokland, T. and van Eijk, G. (2010) Do people who like diversity practice diversity in neighbourhood life? Journal of Ethnicity and Migration Studies, 36, 2: 313-332 Coleman, J. (1997) ‘Social capital in the creation of human capital’ (first published in 1988), in A.H. Halsey, H. Lauder, P. Brown and A.S. Wells (eds) Education: Culture, Economy and Society, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Hemming, P. (2011) ‘Meaningful encounters? Religion and social cohesion in the English primary school, Social & Cultural Geography 12,1: 63-81. Hewitt, R. (1986) White Talk, Black Talk: Inter-racial Friendship and Communication amongst Adolescents. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press. Matejskova T. & Leitner H. (2011): Urban encounters with difference: the contact hypothesis and immigrant integration projects in eastern Berlin, Social & Cultural Geography, 12, 7: 717-741 Neal S., Bennett K., Cochrane, A. and Mohan, G. (2013 forthcoming) Living multiculture: understanding the new spatial and social relations of ethnicity and multiculture in England. Environment and Planning C (in press). Torche, F., and Valenzuela E., (2011) ‘Trust and reciprocity: A theoretical distinction of the sources of social capital’ European Journal of Social Theory 14: 181-198 Valentine, G. (2008) Living with difference: reflections on geographies of encounter, Progress in Human Geography 32, 3: 323-337 Vertovec, S, (2007) Super-diversity and its implications, Ethnic and Racial Studies, 30: 1024-54. Weller, S. & Bruegel, I. (2009) Children’s ‘place’ in the development of neighbourhood social capital Urban Studies, 46, 3: 629–643 Wheeldon, J. and Ahlberg, M. (2011) Visualizing social science research: maps, methods and meaning, London, Sage Wise, A, (2009) Everyday multiculturalism: transversal crossings and working class cosmopolitans in A Wise and S Velayutham (eds.) Everyday Multiculturalism Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan. pp 21 – 45
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