chapter  Nine
18 Pages

Everyone Black? Ethnic, Class and Gender Identities at Street Level in a Belgian Mining Town, 1930–50

ByLeen Beyers

This chapter investigates the salience of class, gender and ethnic identities in informal street life, that is to say, chance meetings, chatting and the giving of support outside the sphere of churches, associations and pubs. The construction projects in Zwartberg and the other Limburg mining towns followed the style of the English garden cities built by industrial entrepreneurs. The spatial distribution already indicates that occupational position and status provided the main basis for the allocation of houses to miners' families. Inter-ethnic interaction was at its highest in Zwartberg's shops. The main reason for this was the town's geographical isolation. In the miners' streets the degree of meaningful inter-ethnic interaction was heavily determined by the level of ethnic segregation. Despite class-based internal divisions, the garden city of Zwartberg was a discrete urban unit. Under certain circumstances shops, backyards and streets in Zwartberg were scenes of inter-ethnic interaction. Class distinction was central to non-reciprocal backyard neighbouring.