How are migrants received and included in societies?
In both theory and practice, there are a variety of models and ways of thinking about how people of different backgrounds and identities live together in society.
How do receiving countries respond to the immigrants and refugees in their midst, and in what ways do migrants participate in the societies they become a part of? There are many possibilities and they vary across time and from place to place. Even within a single country, policies and attitudes can alter significantly as governments change, as different groups of migrants and refugees arrive, and in response to local, national and global events.
Some nations have demanded or encouraged migrants to become like their majority populations by leaving behind their languages and cultures and adopting those of their new country (key terms: melting pot, assimilation). Others have encouraged adaptation to both mainstream policies and institutions and dominant norms and values without requiring newcomers to give up their languages, religions and cultural practices (accommodation). Some have allowed different groups to co-exist without requiring them to adapt or engage with wider society (cultural pluralism, multiculturalism), whilst others have focused on bringing diverse groups together on the basis of shared values or citizenship (integration; cosmopolitanism).
© Katy Gardner and Kanwal Mand
Living together in “diaspora space”
From Roman Times, the British Isles has been inhabited by many social and cultural groups. Migration Histories examines the principal periods of migration, and Locations focuses on some key movements and places of migration and settlement. They reveal what these periods and places can tell us about how people lived with diversity and experienced being different. Together with the pages about Identities and Cultures, they describe the impact of migrants and diasporic communities, not only on their own people and identities, but on Britain and Britishness. Everyday life and popular culture are all the richer for these influences, whether in food, art, sport, writing and reading, media, religion or music.
But ‘Living Together’ is about more than migration. It asks questions about how people encounter one another and find ways to live and work alongside each other in their own neighbourhoods. Localities, workplaces, schools and colleges, and town and city centres are all ‘changing places’ with new people constantly moving through them. How they interact and communicate, and what efforts they make to create hospitable, welcoming places is important for everyone, not just newcomers.
The scholar, Avtar Brah, devised the term “diaspora space” to refer to places that are “inhabited not only by those who have migrated and their descendants but equally by those who are constructed and represented as indigenous” (1996: 181). Such socially and culturally diverse places are as much about “staying put” as they are about migration movements. Those “staying put” may themselves once have been incomers from elsewhere, whether near or far, or may have been locally born and bred. As Avtar Brah suggests, their identities, practices and beliefs may also be shaped by the impact of moving people and changing places. They may at times be seen negatively by others. They may feel their way of life is misunderstood or taken less seriously than that of newcomers. Fears about strangers with different languages and cultures, as well as resentment about them getting special treatment – whether or not this is true – are not a positive starting point for good relations. Finding opportunities to learn more about one another is important, about the similarities as well as the differences.