chapter  5
15 Pages

The politics of nearness

Why is it crucial to recognise local forms of participation, allegiance and belonging? I turn now to the intimacy of local life on the street to explore a scale of contact from which to consider the urban effects of immigration, disparity and multiculture. I return to Williams’ (1958) premise, that learning is a shared process and a form of contact that happens within everyday life. Against the fluidity of people, economies and objects in a global world together with the increasing networked memberships across space, the question remains as to whether local contact matters when learning to live with difference and change. Does physical proximity have any bearing on social propinquity? The question is as much social as it is political, and in focusing on the ordinary, I aim to deal in the untidy realities of life-worlds and life-chances. The probings of urban multicultures are invoked to distort the cohesive canons of community and multiculturalism that have permeated UK policy discourse and related local government programmes in London (Local Government Association 2002; Jones 2009). The paradox of officiated cohesion is twofold: the first assumption is that tolerance is the basis for experiencing racial, class or ethnic differences; the second is that instituted programmes are able to inculcate the contact that most readily emerges out of the spontaneity of everyday life.