Accepted Paper:

Diversity, inter-ethnic relations, trust and 'social cohesion' in urban spaces  


Tina Gudrun Jensen (University of Copenhagen)

Paper short abstract:

This presentation draws on an ethnographic fieldwork in a mixed social housing estate in Copenhagen, focusing on the interplay between physical places and social relations. It illustrates the complex meaning of diversity, contact and trust that challenge common politicized notions of social cohesion.

Paper long abstract:

This presentation deals with the politicized notions of trust and social cohesion in urban spaces through a focus on practices of everyday relations in a mixed neighbourhood. With the recent declaration of the death of multiculturalism, public debates have deemed the existence of urban ethnic `diversity´ as a hindrance for trust, inter-ethnic contact and social cohesion. Predominant studies maintain that ethnically diverse neighbourhoods are hunkering down on solidarity, trust, mutual cooperation and friendships, and that diversity has negative effects on social interactions. Yet, other studies claim that mixed neighbourhoods promote inter-ethnic contact. The very meaning and effect of concepts such as `diversity`, `inter-ethnic contact`, `trust´ and `social cohesion´ are, however, often very unclear. Drawing on a fieldwork in a mixed social housing estate in Copenhagen, this presentation explores what meaning neighbourhood relations, e.g., notions of trust, have for residents. The analytical focus of the presentation is on the interplay between physical places and social relations such as physical sorroundings and architecture, sociological factors, network relations and narratives about the place. The presentation shows ethnic differences as relative and a matter of perspective, and illustrates the complex meaning of contact, trust and neighbourhood cohesion. The presentation argues that trust and strong ties - that tend to overemphasize active positive relations and interdependence among people who are alike - may not be the prerequisite for co-existence in neighbourhoods. Instead, `weak ties´ and the micro-politics of everyday contacts predominate inter-ethnic relations.

In this way, these ethnographic findings challenge common discourses on what constitutes social cohesion in urban spaces.

Panel P026
Governing urban commons