Making practice visible
Is the language of power quantitative? And if so, how do we reveal a qualitative understanding of urban multiculture not only for those who operate in the echelons of power, but in ways that have theoretical and pragmatic pertinence to the wider debates about immigration, citizenship and multiculturalism? The aggregation and classification of individuals by way of ethnicity, income and religion through survey techniques is a primary official mode – one scientifically validated, politically authorised and readily accessible – of representing the variety of individuals who live in the city. But the tools of the survey short-circuit our understanding of how diverse individuals and groups establish meeting points and assert divisions in a context of accelerated urban change. The challenge for fine-grained research is how to reveal individual experiences alongside the histories of migration, racism and class that are saturated in London’s local landscapes. The task extends to how urban ethnography might contribute to the contemporary debates and policy formations about social, cultural and economic forms of belonging. What ideas and representational forms could ethnography develop to speak to popular culture, to theory and to power?