Handbook of Urban Geography
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Handbook of Urban Geography

Edited by Tim Schwanen and Ronald van Kempen

This collection brings together the latest thinking in urban geography. It provides a comprehensive overview of topical issues and draws on experiences from across the world. Chapters have been prepared by leading researchers in the field and cover themes as diverse as urban economies, inequalities and diversity, conflicts and politics, ecology and sustainability, and information technologies. The Handbook offers a valuable resource for students and researchers interested in cities and the urban in geography and across the wider social sciences.
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Chapter 22: Spaces of encounter: learning to live together in superdiverse cities

Nick Schuermans


Even though many cities across the world are marked by high levels of segregation, people of different ethnic, cultural and socio-economic backgrounds still interact with each other in urban parks, squares, schools, factories, offices, sports fields and community centres. Drawing on qualitative research methods and ethnographies, urban geographers document how such interpersonal interactions in ‘contact zones’ or ‘spaces of encounter’ can trouble prevailing meanings, discomforts and anxieties and pave the way for progressive alliances between people who do not have much in common apart from the place they share. Informed by geographical studies on the experience of living, working, studying, playing and travelling together in urban spaces characterized by superdiversity, this chapter summarizes the literature on the geographies of encounter. It also points at three important issues to take up in this literature. They relate to the interrelations between encounters at different times and places, the potential effects of encounters and the mediation of encounters by personal experiences, public discourses and professional interventions.

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