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Becoming A Minority

Periodic Reporting for period 3 - BAM (Becoming A Minority)

Reporting period: 2020-11-01 to 2022-04-30

The BaM project is addressing a new societal phenomenon for Europe: we focus on those without migration background who have become a numerical minority in the Western European cities they live in. Cities in Europe have reached a unique level of ethnic diversity. Never before in the history of our larger European cities this many people were of migrant descent and had roots in so many different countries from all around the world. For forty years, we have studied how people of migrant descent adapted to their new surroundings. In all this time there has been hardly any research into how the group of people without migration background has experienced and adapted to the increased ethnic diversity. This has become even more acute with the tremendous demographic change resulting the group without migration background becoming a numerical minority themselves in many cities. Many people without migration background have been positive about these changes and embrace the diversity in their city and neighborhood, while others have been more negative. In the BaM project we explore the reasons for these different reactions and their consequences. We especially know very little about the people who are positive about ethnic diversity. Why do they embrace it and what are the possible gains for them? Why is it that while the public debate is highly polarised, in most cities and neighborhoods people actually live peacefully together? What are the mechanisms enabling people of very different backgrounds to live together in harmony? But, also, how do people who hold more negative opinions about ethnic diversity relate to their neighbors and colleagues of migrant origin? How do they interact in their daily life with people of migrant descent in the streets or in the park? Do they translate their negative opinions into practice?
Already, now that we are half way the project, we can answer many of these pressing questions. We found that there is an almost invisible network under many of these diverse neighborhoods consisting of people who have all sorts of ties with people beyond their own ethnic group. These are people in mixed relationships, people who send their children to mixed schools, entrepreneurs who serve a mixed clientele and who are in contact with other entrepreneurs who are of a different ethnic background or people who are active in organizations serving a mixed group of members. These people, who we labelled connectors, are crucial for the stability of these diverse neighborhoods. When there are tensions or conflicts, the connectors are often the ones to intervene and help solve issues and dampen conflicts. We also found that the people who embrace the diversity they live in report more contacts in the neighborhood and they report not only more often to feel at home, but also more often to feel safe in their neighborhood and they also report less incidents of harassment. Being connected to your ethnically diverse surroundings indeed seems to come with actual gains for people without migration background. Furthermore, we found that people who express to be more negative about diversity, often actually are positive about encounters with migrant neighbors or colleagues. This practice, therefore, offers many opportunities to enhance social cohesion, even in places where a lot of people vote for anti-immigrant parties. This ambivalence, which seems often absent in the public debate, offers opportunities for policies aimed at practices.
In the second part of the BaM project we hope to explore these and other results further with policy makers and neighborhood residents in our BaM neighborhoods. This will hopefully yield more ideas for new diversity policies that also include people without migration background. We hope to contribute to a shift from policies mainly aimed at people of migrant background to new forms of diversity policies aimed at all people (including the old majority group) living in diverse contexts. The BaM project shows that the practices of people without migration background are an important part of what it takes for these very diverse places to function. The BaM project shows it indeed involves the practices of people without migration background to make diversity work in the new situation of majority minority contexts. In those places were people make this effort, neighborhoods seem to function better, people report to experience them as nicer neighborhoods to live in, and the people who live there more often report the enormous diversity as mainly an enriching experience.
The BaM project endeavored to collect both survey and qualitative data to accomplish its research objectives. First, in order to realize the BaM survey we have developed a survey instrument. Following the amendment, we have contracted excellent survey bureaus in the 6 cities where we do our research. Starting from Spring 2019, we have launched the BaM survey and the data collection is now finalized in all the cities with success. In September 2019, we have developed the common topic list for the qualitative fieldwork, in October we have set the interviews in motion in Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Malmö, Vienna and Hamburg. The qualitative data collection was successfully accomplished in all but one city, luckily before the Covid-19 crisis hit the cities of our study. Our fieldwork in Antwerp had to be postponed until the Covid-19 situation is changed.

Considering the sensitivity around BaM project’s topic, we have developed a Dissemination Policy Plan for the BaM project, together with the VU University Communications Department and the University Safety Officer. Already, the PI and BaM team members presented the secondary data analysis in June 2019 during the We Make the City festival in Amsterdam and analyses of the very first survey data during the IMISCOE conference in Malmö. The PI reported the first findings from the BAM survey to the American partners involved in the project during ASA conference in New York in August 2019. The PI has already published two peer reviewed articles on the topic of the Becoming a Minority project.
Based on the analysis of the secondary data, two peer reviewed publications already came out: a book chapter (The ‘Integration’ of People of Dutch Descent in Superdiverse Neighborhoods) and an article for the Journal Social Inclusion (How the Architecture of Housing Blocks Amplifies or Dampens Interethnic Tensions in Ethnically Diverse Neighborhoods).
The entire BaM team has submitted a proposal for a special issue of the Journal of Migration and Ethnic Studies. All PhD candidates will publish their own article based on the BaM survey data in this special issue. Each PhD candidate will be writing 4 articles with the BaM project data, some of which will be co-authored with the PI and the senior researcher and the post-doc. Already, one article by a PhD candidate has been submitted. Hence, there will be 11 more publications just from the PhDs in the coming period.
The PI and the project manager are, together with Professor Miri Song, working on a publication on mixed couples. This sub-project results from the high numbers of mixed relations found in the BaM data, and will explore if and how the people without migration background in mixed couples differ in their attitudes and practices regarding ethnic diversity.
The senior researcher is working on a subproject on the particular role of parents in ethnically diverse settings, combining quantitative with qualitative data.
The post-doc is developing a project, building her PhD project, on social boundaries opening up and being opened up. She will be using the BaM interviews.
We have already started disseminating the results of the Bam survey in our first stakeholders’ meetings with policymakers in Amsterdam and Rotterdam and our efforts will continue in all the participating cities and on the national levels. Policy makers from both cities have shown a great interest in the BaM results and we have agreed to organize follow-up meetings after the qualitative material is also analyzed. Another achievement is the PI’s key-note presentation during the international festival ‘We Make the City’. This has resulted in a structural collaboration of BaM with Pakhuis De Zwijger, the main debate center in Amsterdam.
Furthermore, taking the current Covid-19 developments into account, we are preparing to revisit the respondents from the qualitative fieldwork, inquiring whether the experiences during the Covid-19 lockdown influenced their attitudes and or practices regarding social cohesion and living in a diverse neighborhood.