Integration Reconsidered: A Study of Multi-ethnic Lives in Two Post-Integration Cities

UoM administered thesis: Phd

  • Authors:
  • Sivamohan Valluvan


This thesis sets out to critically interrogate the contemporary relevance of integration and, in turn, develops a more useful theoretical framing for understanding the experiences of ethnic minorities in Stockholm and London. I argue that the concept of integration remains so normatively loaded that it obscures its advocates' own stated ideal - the fluent sharing of lives on a daily, mundane basis. I also argue that processes of integration are the self-same processes that produce and reaffirm racialised differentiation. My analysis is empirically situated in interviews with 23 young research participants from Stockholm and London, as well as observations from shared time - at sites ranging from commercial high streets to the squares of council estates.Much of my critique targets the tendency of sociological commentary to trade in a series of analytic reductions, whereby: a) ethnic identification is too heavily tied to expectations about culture and value-orientations; b) identity performance is too often read as denoting a subjective internalisation of that particular identity position, whereby the subject is seemingly of the identity she refers to; and c) close social ties are seen as more meaningful to people's experiences than the negotiation of fleeting urban encounters. The recurring emphasis of this critique is that routines of fluent multi-ethnic cohabitation rest on an ability to disturb the idea of space, culture and solidarity as ethno-communal properties. The idea of conviviality, borrowed from Paul Gilroy, is developed here as a more accurate heuristic via which one can understand these alternative interactive fields; where markers of difference are neither actively elided (i.e. denied or absorbed into a larger field of community) nor rendered obstructive. Going against a resurgent 'sociology of ties', my empirical attention centres here on those myriad and irregular encounters outside of one's immediate kin and peer networks (what I call 'second-order' interaction). I also evidence the ways in which the participants are often involved in an intricate game of 'identity citation'; wherein, they consent to a sense of their own difference primarily in order to remain intelligible to the dominant social gaze and its normative racial orders. This alternative reading of identity difference, where identity is consented to, but not necessarily internalised, triggers in turn a different kind of lived multicultural politics; a multicultural politics which is more about anti-racism than it is about the ontology of communal difference.


Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
    Award date1 Aug 2014