Social cohesion in hyper-diverse areas: how important are encounters in semi-public spaces?
MetadataShow full item record
Worldwide, urban populations are increasingly diverse in their socio-economic, cultural, religious and linguistic profiles as well as in their lifestyles, attitudes and activity patterns. This hyper-diversification complicates the creation of feelings of belonging and community. Because diversity is negotiated at the neighborhood level, micro spaces play a crucial role in building communities. Micro spaces tend to be semi-public and encourage the intermingling of diverse groups, which results in on-off as well as repetitive and structural interactions. It is important to understand how these types of interaction come about in order to stimulate cohesive communities. This paper compares encounters at two micro spaces, a library and a community center, to analyze their influence on social cohesion. The research took place in the highly diverse neighborhood of Feyenoord in Rotterdam, the Netherlands using participant observation and interviews with residents and experts. Interactions at the library were found to be lighter and shorter than at the community center. The paper concludes that, though differing in depth and duration, the interactions at both micro spaces influence social cohesion. At the community center, the encounters are deeper so visitors make acquaintance with local residents, resulting in light as well as deeper relationships. The visitors come to feel more at home because they recognize others elsewhere in the neighborhood. At the library, the encounters are lighter but visitors become familiar with different others and diversity in general, making them feel more at home in the library as well as in their neighborhood.