Chapter 4: Meet me on the corner? Shaping the conditions for cross-cultural interaction in urban public space
Most cities in the world are experiencing a move towards greater ethnic diversity and most commentators view this trend to be inexorable. This chapter takes the view that diversity can be a source of social and economic advantage for cities, but only if co-operative mixing between groups is possible and for this to thrive, a set of favourable conditions needs to be in place. There are many sites where such mixing might occur but this chapter focuses upon the possibility of outdoor public spaces. It explores what type of mixing we might expect, what the positive outcomes of this could be, what its limitations are, how we might empirically understand the process, what should be the role of policy makers, and what could be the consequences of the wrong policies (or no policies at all). It concludes that, in general, public spaces are unlikely to be places where people will form new or deep relationships with strangers or people from another group, and that there are other sites within a city that are likely to be far more productive in this regard. Nevertheless, there are real benefits to be achieved for a city in actively pursuing an intercultural policy towards public space. Equally, there are likely to be quite substantial negative repercussions for cities which ignore their public spaces, or allow them to become places which discourage or undermine ethnic mixing.
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