Socialising with diversity (completed)

Numerical Smallness, Social Networks and the Super-Diverse City
Fran Meissner

The notion of superdiversity demands a move beyond an ethno-focal analysis of migration related diversity and calls to analytically incorporate other aspects of diversification, including differential migration, legal status and labour market trajectories. Taking London and Toronto as field locations and working with Pacific Island and New Zealand Māori migrants, this project investigated how a superdiversity lens can be operationalised and utilised to discuss migrant socialities in urban contexts. The project methodologically explored one particular avenue for doing this - personal social network analysis. The overall aim was to better understand the theoretical and empirical implications of adopting a superdiversity approach. Both qualitative and quantitative analysis strategies were used. The project findings particularly emphasise the potential of visualising complex patterns and thus exploring how starting with complexity as an assumption facilitates the multidimensional analysis a superdiversity lens calls for.

Focusing on networks of migrants who in statistical terms are often categorised as ‘other’ – who have relatively few co-migrants in terms of place of origin but who are differentiated in terms of other superdiversity aspects – this research questions if and what impact small group size has on patterns of sociality. With this focus it was established that a) the numerical size of the origin group impacts on social activities differently depending on whether one small group is explicitly linked to other pan-ethnic groups or not; b) that sociality patterns of migrants emerge from the complex interplay of general socialising opportunities but are also linked to individual trajectories of migration and settlement; and c) that with a superdiversity lens it is indeed possible to move beyond the ethnic network notion. To support this latter point four alternative ways of describing migrant networks are explored: city-cohort, long-term resident, superdiverse and migrant-peer networks. The analysis contributes to theoretical debates by proposing a relational understanding of diversity rather than one based on the enumeration of categories be they ethnic or otherwise.

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