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Connections And Disconnections Of Racial Segregation

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In this essay I will be using different types of evidence to support the claim that segregation in cities creates connections and disconnections. I will start the essay by defining what is meant by segregation then I will outline examples of different types of segregation such as class, racial and sectarian and provide examples of how in these communities’ people feel connected and disconnected.

Segregation is the act of separating someone or something from others, it refers to boundaries that are built both physical, like the ‘peace walls’ in Northern Ireland and social, like the wealthy living unaware of the poor in nineteenth century Manchester. In many cities throughout the world segregation has become a part of urban life. Mike Davis explains how LA is a city where well-to-do residents of west LA are able to ignore the poverty of east and southern LA due to elevated freeways. By building physical or social boundaries communities often become connected through senses of similarity such as their sense of belonging or identity. In contrast to this, disconnection is something that can also be felt by residents. By building barriers people can feel disconnected from other communities by social division, distance and even in cases of inequality. Segregation can come in many forms from processes both formal such as, urban planning and state intervention, to informal, by ordinary residents (Dixon and Hinchcliffe, 2014, p95). This is something that will be discussed throughout the essay.

Engels wrote a detailed account of the uneven social geography within Manchester. In this, Engels depicts urban industrial life and the dismay it involved commenting on the pain and suffering of the lower classes to fill the pockets of the wealthy (Engels (1969 [1845]) cited in Dixon and Hinchliffe (2014), p88). Throughout his research on the social geography in Manchester, Engels analysed two streets. First, he looked at a street occupied by workers and poorer citizens within the ‘inner ring’ of the city as seen in figures 3.1 (Dixon and Hinchliffe, 2014, p89) and 3.2 (Engels (1969 [1845]) cited in Dixon and Hinchliffe (2014), p90). Engels then looked at a street acting as a thoroughfare, a way for the wealthier people in society to access the city from suburban areas by avoiding the sights of the poverty around them. In analysing these two streets Engels created qualitative evidence that supported the idea of divisions within society. Barriers such as shop fronts and walls meant those in society that gained from the growth of urbanisation and manufacturing could stay nonchalant about being surrounded by poverty, remain disconnected from the working class in both physical and mental ways (Dixon and Hinchliffe, 2014, p91). Today, regeneration officers have been appointed with the aim of developing mixed housing to integrate people, creating connections between people from different social classes like in Portland Road, London (Blakeley and Evans, 2013, p10) cited in Dixon and Hinchliffe (2014, p92). Portland Road residents are from different class backgrounds giving an example of how class division is being minimised because of mixed housing (The Open University, 2019).

Racial segregation is where connections and disconnections can be seen between communities due to separation. Groups from the same racial backgrounds can form a connection through a shared identity but form a disconnection from members of other racial backgrounds. Examples of this can be seen from the Jim Crow era in the southern states of USA and the apartheid era in South Africa. Both of these eras are examples of how segregation can become a formal process and implemented by laws. These laws were able to dictate who could form a relationship with who, where someone could go to school and even what entrance to a building a person could use (Dixon and Hinchliffe, 2014, p96).

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Self-segregation is an informal process being made by individuals out of choice. For example, the research carried out by Atkinson showing that more than 1000 communities of self-segregating residents were in existence with more being planned due to the interest from young professionals (Atkinson, 2003 cited in Dixon and Hinchliffe, 2014, p96). The heightened media coverage the Muslim community received following trouble in towns in northern England, 2001 and again in 2005 following the London bombings can create tensions and concerns from people belonging to different racial backgrounds creating a disconnection. Claims made by the Cantle Report and the Ouseley report suggest contact between multiple ethnic communities in towns such as Bradford was minimal, causing a disconnection between different racial groups but as was the case in the USA and South Africa this could lead to a heightened sense of identity and connection with people from the same racial group. Samad argues this disconnection was created due to economic inequalities and marginalisation not ethnic segregation (Samad 2013, p276 cited in Dixon and Hinchliffe, 2014, p96).

Sectarian segregation in Northern Irelands capital of Belfast is the last area of segregation to look at. As you can see from figure 3.6 (Dixon and Hinchliffe, 2014, p101 Source: Northern Ireland census 2001, in NISRA, 2014) the scattering of Catholic and Protestant residents is across much of the city, this figure gives us a glimpse of the residential segregation in the city. The physical presence of barriers or ‘peace walls’ were built in order to cease violence between communities and bring about peace. This idea is shared not only between government officials but also by residents. A survey in 2008 revealed there was ‘strong agreement that walls help residents feel safer by keeping communities separated’ (Macaulay, 2008 cited in Dixon and Hinchliffe, 2014, p103). This view can have a damaging effect on future generations as negative attitudes towards members of other communities can persist and worsen over time. Examples can be seen in the research by Braddock (1980) and Braddock and McPartland (1989) which tells us a lack of contact with other communities in schools leads to lack of contact later in life (cited in Dixon and Hinchliffe, 2014, p106). Research by Dawkins (2005) cited in Dixon and Hinchliffe (2014, p106) shows evidence that parental lack of contact with other communities can influence where children choose to live later in life, reinforcing residential segregation. Segregation in Belfast has become a part of everyday life and with the disconnection from other communities comes a strengthened connection of group identity within the same community. This type of connection to group identity can be seen from the numerous murals graffitied throughout the city for example figure 3.9 shows a loyalist wall mural (Dixon and Hinchliffe, 2014, p112). While being a way of expressing values and culture murals also act as a way of intimidation and are seen as violent by members of the communities they are aimed at engaging. This could lead to a breakdown of connection within communities for people who do not have the same ‘extremist’ views.

Efforts are being made to create connections between segregated communities, from replacing murals of conflict to ones celebrating positive themes under the ‘Reimagining communities’ scheme launched by the local government to the dismantling and creation of common public space under the ‘One Belfast’ project which aims to encourage residents of Belfast to interact with communities outside of theirs. Further attempts are being made such as the Skegnoniell Glandore common purpose project (SGCPP). The purpose of this project is to bring people together to make connections on common ground such as after-school clubs or parent-toddler classes (The Open University, 2019).

In conclusion there appears to be a large amount of qualitative and quantitative evidence to suggest segregation has the ability to form both connections and disconnections. With this evidence there is a strong argument that both connections and disconnections are made by segregation. Connections are formed, in all cases through a heightened sense of identity or belonging, a collective group have a shared purpose. Disconnections are formed from the lack of contact people have outside of their community. This persists overtime as children can be influenced by their parents causing lack of interaction later in life with people from other backgrounds.

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Connections And Disconnections Of Racial Segregation. (2021, September 07). Edubirdie. Retrieved February 1, 2023, from
“Connections And Disconnections Of Racial Segregation.” Edubirdie, 07 Sept. 2021,
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Connections And Disconnections Of Racial Segregation [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2021 Sept 07 [cited 2023 Feb 1]. Available from:
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