Culturing spaces: fostering a sense of belonging for diverse communities in public urban open spaces (14858)
In response to the claim that the policy of multiculturalism has failed to acknowledge ethnic diversity adequately, writers in urban studies have responded that urban spaces are sites of vibrant everyday multiculturalism where residents just get on with living across difference (e.g. Clayton 2009; Neal et al. 2013; Wessel 2009). In this context, one of the issues explored in urban social science is the significance of everyday intercultural social practices in different settings, including public urban spaces (Amin 2012; Fincher and Iveson 2008; Lobo 2009; Wise 2013), as everyday encounters and social interactions appear to be critical to the formation of a sense of belonging. There is a body of scholarship that focuses on social interactions in public urban spaces (e.g. Carmona et al 2010; Gottdiener 1994; Holland et al 2007), but only a few studies, however, have linked public urban spaces with the development of a sense of belonging for culturally diverse groups. Significantly, there is a lack of knowledge about the extent to which the relationship between cultural diversity and urban environments promotes a sense of belonging through positive encounters between culturally diverse groups, and in particular between newly-arrived migrant groups and established residents. This paper reports on preliminary findings from a research undertaken in two public urban spaces in the City of Greater Dandenong, Melbourne. The qualitative methods include direct observations of people’s behaviour and visual observations of the physical characteristics of the open spaces, in-depth interviews with urban professionals and ethnic leaders in the community, and focus groups with local residents. A comparative examination of the two case studies will be undertaken to explore whether there are links between physical characteristics of the spaces and the existence or lack of positive social interactions between culturally diverse communities, and therefore the development of a sense of belonging for these communities.