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Contributions from European Symbolic Interactionists: Conflict and Cooperation Women and the Gender Gap in Urban Sociology: A Case Study of Afrikaanderwijk, South Rotterdam Teana Boston-Mammah Article information: To cite this document: Teana Boston-Mammah . "Women and the Gender Gap in Urban Sociology: A Case Study of Afrikaanderwijk, South Rotterdam" In Contributions from European Symbolic Interactionists: Conflict and Cooperation. Published online: 02 Jul 2015; 23-49. Permanent link to this document: http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/S0163-239620150000045011 Downloaded on: 07 July 2015, At: 07:08 (PT) References: this document contains references to 0 other documents. To copy this document: [email protected] Access to this document was granted through an Emerald subscription provided by Token:BookSeriesAuthor:09EAC739-85EE-4DCF-B30D-A5EA7CB242BF: For Authors If you would like to write for this, or any other Emerald publication, then please use our Emerald for Authors service information about how to choose which publication to write for and submission guidelines are available for all. Please visit www.emeraldinsight.com/authors for more information. About Emerald www.emeraldinsight.com Emerald is a global publisher linking research and practice to the benefit of society. The company manages a portfolio of more than 290 journals and over 2,350 books and book series volumes, as well as providing an extensive range of online products and additional customer resources and services. Emerald is both COUNTER 4 and TRANSFER compliant. The organization is a partner of the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) and also works with Portico and the LOCKSS initiative for digital archive preservation. *Related content and download information correct at time of download. Downloaded by Ms Teana Boston-Mammah At 07:08 07 July 2015 (PT)

Transcript of Emerald publication 2015

Contributions from European Symbolic Interactionists:Conflict and CooperationWomen and the Gender Gap in Urban Sociology: A Case Study of Afrikaanderwijk,South RotterdamTeana Boston-Mammah

Article information:To cite this document: Teana Boston-Mammah . "Women and the Gender Gap inUrban Sociology: A Case Study of Afrikaanderwijk, South Rotterdam" In Contributionsfrom European Symbolic Interactionists: Conflict and Cooperation. Published online: 02Jul 2015; 23-49.Permanent link to this document:http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/S0163-239620150000045011

Downloaded on: 07 July 2015, At: 07:08 (PT)References: this document contains references to 0 other documents.To copy this document: [email protected] to this document was granted through an Emerald subscription provided byToken:BookSeriesAuthor:09EAC739-85EE-4DCF-B30D-A5EA7CB242BF:

For AuthorsIf you would like to write for this, or any other Emerald publication, then pleaseuse our Emerald for Authors service information about how to choose whichpublication to write for and submission guidelines are available for all. Please visitwww.emeraldinsight.com/authors for more information.

About Emerald www.emeraldinsight.comEmerald is a global publisher linking research and practice to the benefit of society.The company manages a portfolio of more than 290 journals and over 2,350 booksand book series volumes, as well as providing an extensive range of online productsand additional customer resources and services.

Emerald is both COUNTER 4 and TRANSFER compliant. The organization is a partnerof the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) and also works with Portico and theLOCKSS initiative for digital archive preservation.

*Related content and download information correct attime of download.

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WOMEN AND THE GENDER GAP

IN URBAN SOCIOLOGY: A CASE

STUDY OF AFRIKAANDERWIJK,

SOUTH ROTTERDAM

Teana Boston-Mammah

ABSTRACT

This research paper explores the role of women talk (schmoozing) andthe gender gap in urban sociology. In the discussions concerning thechanging face of the Dutch inner cities, there is an increasing tendencyfor attention to be paid to ethnicity, without a concomitant analysis ofthe impact of gender in these neighbourhoods. Many Dutch urban theor-ists focus on examining both the levels and effects of segregation inurban neighbourhoods and how this impacts integration and communitybuilding in the Netherlands. This study, in seeking to redress this imbal-ance, firmly places women at the centre of urban theoretical enquiry.Using the results of unstructured interviews and observation I am able tooffer an assessment of the many ways in which ethnically embedded gen-der relations have impacted on the urban and social spaces known asAfrikaanderwijk. A key line of enquiry being: what role do women play

Contributions from European Symbolic Interactionists: Conflict and Cooperation

Studies in Symbolic Interaction, Volume 45, 23�49

Copyright r 2015 by Emerald Group Publishing Limited

All rights of reproduction in any form reserved

ISSN: 0163-2396/doi:10.1108/S0163-239620150000045011

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and how are they visible in/at the local neighbourhood level, specifi-cally in the form of everyday, informal social contacts?

Keywords: Gender; ethnicity; social capital; public space; neighbour-hood contact; public familiarity

PROLOGUE

My colleague is yet again regaling me with stories about what the women inher neighbourhood have been doing and organizing, for themselves and theother women who live there. Telling me about her brother and sister and her-self who are involved with different foundations in the area all aiming to edu-cate and improve those living there. But wait isn’t that the area in Rotterdamthat is always in the news negatively, where kids are delinquents, women areoppressed by their husbands, the schools are segregated and the men are toosick to work but not too sick to sit in a cafe all day long drinking & smoking.Yes that’s the same place … bad press, she says, smiling at me.

INTRODUCTION

This chapter aims to examine the dominant Dutch integration discourse byexamining the relationship between women and public space use inAfrikaanderwijk, south Rotterdam. This enquiry is set against the back-drop of urban sociology that has failed to utilize gender as an analytic fra-mework for social change (Lofland, 1975; Spain, 2002). It also engageswith a discourse where women’s relationship to public space is couched interms of fear, most notably the fear of men (Day, 2006). Most significantly,this chapter assesses women’s experience of public space in terms of theireveryday reality and social interaction.

In the Netherlands much of the discourse on public space use centresaround two main themes. Firstly, male youths from a Moroccan or Antilleanbackground whose anti-social and sometimes criminal behaviour gives rise towidespread social concern and much media attention (Bovenkerk, 2002;Jong, 2007). Secondly, the concentration of poor populations in poor areas,as a result of contiguous migration, flows of people experienced by much ofWestern Europe. As a result of an ever-increasing transglobal economic rea-lity many inner city areas have become home to economically disadvantagedmigrant or guest worker(s). The areas in which many migrants settle are

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characterized by cheap relatively old housing stock, higher levels of unem-ployment and poverty and smaller numbers of the native Dutch population.Many of the affluent workers have moved out of the inner city areas, charac-teristic of the process of suburbanization. Simon categorizes this type of pro-cess as one of ‘degeneration’ (2006, p. 215). Leading to what other authors inurban sociology have termed the dual city (Mollenkopf & Castells, 1991) orglobal city (Sassen, 1991). Segregation and an impermeable anonymityamong city dwellers are de facto results.

The debate regarding community cohesion has been framed within thediscourse of social capital, becoming highly politicized. Star academics likePutnam (2000, 2007) have focused on the types of social capital present inthese troublesome neighbourhoods and the impact on the social climatethereof. Political concerns are reflected in the ever-increasing body of evi-dence produced by scholars on inter-ethnic contact, residential segregation,anti-minority sentiments, social distance, prejudice, social capital and socialcohesion (Dagevos & Gijsberts, 2003; Gesthuizen, Van der Meer, &Scheepers, 2009; Friedrichs, Galster, & Musterd, 2005; Scheffer, 2007; Vander Laan Bouma-Doff, 2007).

THE DUTCH MIGRANT CONTEXT

Scheffer, a prominent Dutch academic is said to have kicked off the dra-matic change in attitudes to integration policies and perceptions in 2000with his biting indictment of the failure of multiculturalism as a politicaland social strategy in the Netherlands (Snel & Stock, 2008, cited in Grillo,2008). Furthermore, Scheffer’s article, The Multicultural Fiasco (2000) sig-nalled the rise of cultural over and above socio-economic explanations ofthe failure of certain ethnic minorities to integrate into Dutch society. Thetime when the strain between the dominant culture and the minority cul-tures was becoming openly visible coincided with the 9/11 terrorist attackson the American dream. Scheffer’s line of thought privileges culture abovesocio-economic rationalizations, as an analytical tool, in judging ethnicminorities as having failed to integrate into Dutch society, thereby reinfor-cing the migrant as problematic due to a perceived cultural negative. Theoverrepresentation of Moroccan male youth in the crime statistics hascome to symbolize the failure of Dutch integration policies and thedeviancy of Moroccan culture as a whole. However, these types of explana-tions centring on the perceived cultural deficiency of ethnic minorities are

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essentialist in nature, serving to reduce a complex, dynamic myriad of fac-tors to one determining characteristic. One aspect of this process of reifica-tion of culture is the ‘false fixing of boundaries’, between groups that inScheffer’s analysis, seem insurmountable, timeless and reflect a ‘themagainst us’ mentality. Essentialist interpretations leave little room fordynamic social or individual transformative processes, embracing a ratherstatic notion of the individual not susceptible to social processes outside ofhis/her culture and within themselves (Baumann, 1996).

Compounding the so-called integration problem is that those movinginto these neighbourhoods are predominantly poorly educated, economic-ally weak and linguistically non-Dutch-speaking and those moving out arehighly or well educated, economically strong Dutch-speaking citizens.Latten (2005), another Dutch sociologist, has argued that the differencesbetween those at the top and bottom of the socio-economic ladder in theNetherlands will only increase. Focusing on the second generation immi-grant population and contrasting their developments with the native Dutchpopulace, he persuasively accounts for a growing divide by analyzing theeffects of ethnic concentration on educational opportunities, choice of part-ner, employment and the related levels of income. In doing so he challengesthe Chicago school perspective on immigration, which based on a linear/evolutionary concept of immigration, has argued that in time every newgeneration becomes more integrated into the host country. In the currentpolitical acceptance of Scheffer’s arguments, it would be fair to concludethat the process of integration is not seen to be working rapidly enough(Gijsberts & Dagevos, 2005). Scheffer’s statements echo a wider societaldissatisfaction with the current integration process, that ethnic groups cul-tural identity remains homogenous and uncontested, leading ultimately tosocial exclusion and cultural alienation. An inevitable consequence of thisstate of affairs is the clash of culture and ethnicity witnessed in the Frenchriots in Clichy-sous-Bois, France in 2005 (Scheffer, 2007). This image ofclashing, rioting was held up as a forewarning to the Dutch of what was tobecome a reality if immigrants were not put under more pressure to accom-modate to the receiving cultures norms and values.

THE GENDER GAP

Having set the discursive scene I will now attempt to examine and redressthe visible gaps in this discourse. How does gender manifest itself in the

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discourse just mentioned? A discourse I see as part of the theorization ofurban change. Clearly we are witnessing the creation of a disturbing narra-tive both for the host culture and for the migrant groups targeted. As Iindicated in the beginning much of the negative focus is reserved for cul-tural differences. Moving to women, what role do they specifically play inthe anti-culture discourse? In what way can women be said to not to wantto integrate? In the recent Dutch framing (Brink, 2006; Scheffer, 2007) oranti-multiculturalist discourse (Grillo, 2005) women from Muslim countriesor cultures have been held up as more or less victims of their patriarchalculture, tradition and religion. The veil or headscarf has increasinglybecome a symbol for this suppression and control over women. AsAfsaruddin notes ‘from the non-Muslim and especially modern Westernviewpoint, female coveredness has often impressionistically served as a bar-ometer for gauging female subjugation … veiling as a consequence becomesequated with powerlessness and dependency, while its absence is associatedwith independent feminist agency’ (Afsaruddin & Ameri, 1999, p. 7). Thefailure to integrate that this wearing of the veil/headscarf implies, leads todisruption, disjuncture, a threat to social safety for the host society and thecultural integrity of the nation (Stolcke, 1993, p. 2). Furthermore, it isimportant to bear in mind that the process of secularization TheNetherlands has been through has created a discourse of religious neutral-ity around public space use (Blokland, 2003). The presence of groups ofwomen who visibly challenge this notion of neutrality by symbolicallybringing back customs and beliefs into the public realm is in this sense pro-vocative within the confines of a culture that defines itself as religiouslyneutral.

Having sketched some of the narratives relevant to this study I want toreframe the discussion on break down, in other terms. Reframing firstly anarrative that relies rather heavily on the group, be it minority, ethnic orimmigrant as an interpretive given. Secondly I want to make visible theexperiences of migrant woman, some of whom are also seen as a social pro-blem, living in a problematized urban area. How do women experiencetheir lives in these spaces? I want to explore the gender gap at the heart ofurban studies where the conjunction of two predominant associationsmeets. One is a proclivity to assume an ungendered neutral other in studiesof migration and ethnicity; the other is an ideology-constructing woman assituated in domesticated private spaces, which as Afsaruddin has noted isalso utilized in contemporary representations of Islamic women in westernsocieties. Thirdly, public spaces are valuable locations in that they arewhere the symbolic and physical attachment to a public in many cases

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national identity meet. They are often, however, assumed to be inherentlymale. The assumption that public spaces are threatening to women under-lies this supposition and while I would not decry the statistics on street har-assment, violence be it verbal or physical and the concomitant fear andanxiety this produces, there are other experiences that could also beexplored.

In the Netherlands there is little research on gender, and the social con-struction of spatiality’s. In the United Kingdom, McDowell (1992, 1997a,1997b, 1999) has done much to develop and review the changes within fem-inist geography. McDowell observes that both the notion of gender andspace have by some scholars (Haraway, 1991; Massey, 1984) been decon-structed and likened to nodes within a set of fields or a network of loca-tions. One of the questions McDowell posits is: how are we to go abouttheorizing the significance of space in the differences among women? Nosimple task but as McDowell notes, ‘feminist scholarship more broadlyalso coincides with feminist geography in its interest in the place that loca-tion plays in the construction of gendered identities’ (McDowell, 1993,p. 11). This is a departure from the quest to understand immigrant spatialpatterns and ethnic enclaves in human geography, deeply influenced by theChicago School, where the focus was firmly placed on ungendered immi-grant residential patters, in predominantly urban areas.

In the US context, Spain (2002) too is critical of the gender blindness atthe core of the Chicago School tradition, where women were the sum totalof their domestic role as housewife. Spain’s research has done much toexpound on the active role that women have played in the modernizationand post-modernization story. Her work offers an insightful assessment ofthe many ways in which gender relations have impacted on urban andsocial spaces. One of these is the change wrought by women moving out ofthe home and into the office. Spain maintains that while women were athome all day, supervising both children playing outside and the home itself,while doing the gardening or chatting with the neighbours there was noneed for ‘gated communities’, women provided an informal level of surveil-lance, security and social contact.

Spain’s attack on the gender gap within urban sociology is again charac-teristic of the growth of feminism within sociology and social geography.Feminist scholars in both these fields particularly during the 1980s havegathered much evidence on the socio-spatial consequences of the women’srevolution (Hayden, 1995; McDowell, 1997a, 1997b; Wilson, 1992; Wolff,1995). Wilson reconstructed the links between urban areas and the socialconstruction of gender in a variety of cities from the nineteenth century

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onwards. One of the early pioneers in this field Lofland (1975), in her arti-cle exploring the ‘thereness’ of women, contends that women performmuch of the hidden work surrounding neighbourhood maintenance viatheir daily routines. However, this maintenance has remained invisible tourban sociologists, women in urban sociology, Lofland reasons, are mostlyand simply there, not part of the analytic action merely functioning asbackground figures.

Reflecting on this gender gap within urban sociology and the dominantnarratives surrounding ethnic minorities, in disadvantaged urban areas, ledme back to the question posed by McDowell: how are we to go about theo-rizing the significance of space in the differences among women? It is thischallenge that I have set myself in this study of Afrikaanderwijk.

PERSONAL IMPRESSIONS OF AFRIKAANDERWIJK

Afrikaanderwijk is a neighbourhood in the district Feijenoord, southRotterdam, lying on the south side of the river Maas that cuts throughRotterdam. Coming into Afrikaanderwijk from the city takes one from thebig wide scale of expensive high-rise new dual-purpose buildings for work-ing and living. Crossing the beautiful Erasmus Bridge and following theriver south you see the old dockyards in varying stages of being renovated.Wide lanes take you into Hillekop that turning left leads intoAfrikaanderwijk with its wide square1 ringed on two sides by a car lane.Around the square is a park, a mosque, a school, some flats for the elderlyand a community centre all within easy walking distance. On the outer ringon two sides of the square are some shops and amenities, on the northernside a mosque and on the eastern side social housing. Afrikaanderwijk lies1.5 km from the city centre.

On my visits to Afrikaanderwijk I have observed men sitting in cafes orstanding outside talking, drinking and eating together, women sitting inAfrikaanderpark with children while they play and run about, womenwalking on their way to the shops, market and public transport stops.I have seen a lot of young children going to the school on AfrikaanderSquare. Afrikaanderwijk does not feel like a traditional Dutch neighbour-hood to me, with its combination of ethnic shops, Turkish and Moroccanbakeries, Turkish cafes (full of men drinking and smoking) and intermittentgroups of women walking by dressed in hijabs, speaking Turkish, Berber,and Arabic peppered, in many cases with Dutch words. The market,

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arriving twice a week, transforms the relatively sleepy area into a bustlinghub of activity, noise and litter. Here people meet up, have quick chats,some stand for a while talking before moving on. It is on these days thatthe diversity of the area is most visible.

AFRIKAANDERWIJK THEN AND NOW

Afrikaanderwijk itself occupies an unusual place in the Dutch history ofrace relations, being one of the few sites where a ‘race riot’ has taken place.In 1972, tensions flared between Dutch residents and Turkish guest work-ers, Dutch nationals were fed up of what they saw as preferential housingallocation for non-Dutch migrants. These residents angrily stormed thehostels where Turkish workers lived and threw all their belongings onto thestreet. The conflict escalated, taking seven days to bring to an end.Afrikaanderwijk is highly diverse and the array of cultural narratives hasonly increased since the 1970s. Additionally this area has continued toattract much political and media attention whilst receiving a fairly continu-ous stream of funding from the Dutch government in its attempts to regen-erate the area.2 In the Dutch collective memory Afrikaanderwijk continuesto occupy a place where shabby, cheap social housing and a constantstream of poor non-Dutch speaking immigrants reign supreme. This mem-ory has recently been rekindled by the publication of the journalist JuttaChorus’s controversial book Afri: Life in a migrant neighbourhood (2009).

Afrikaanderwijk is a good place to set my study; its diversity makes itrelevant to my topic of work. Furthermore it is a demonstrably differentexperience of diversity than is generally to be found in the United States orUnited Kingdom, where ethnic segregation is the order of the day. Thedemographic evidence on the ethnic character Afrikaanderwijk shows an84% to 16% split. White Dutch residents make up 16% of the roughly9000 residents; several ethnic groups make up the rest. Starting with thebiggest group: 34% is Turkish, 13% is Moroccan, 13% is Surinamese, 5%is Antillean, 3% is from Cape Verdi3 and the last 16% contains a diverserange of ethnicities. After World War II with the arrival of members of theformer colonies: Suriname, Antilles, the Dutch East Indies now known asIndonesia The Netherlands became a country of immigration.4 The 1970ssaw the arrival of Turkish and Moroccan mainly male guest workers,women and children arrived later. During this period, immigrants fromSuriname, the Antilles and asylum seekers also arrived looking for work

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and shelter. Afrikaanderwijk offered good employment opportunities formanual labourers to work in the dockyards. As in the rest of TheNetherlands, the ethnic composition of city areas has continued to changewith the addition of immigrants coming from non-western countries com-bined to a lesser extent with those from Central Eastern Europe and refu-gee countries such as Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Furthermore Afrikaanderwijk has many of the characteristics of urbandecline: the unemployment rate is 24%, 27% of people live below mini-mum income.5 Its housing stock is overwhelmingly old, dilapidated andcheap stemming from the end of the nineteenth century when it cameinto existence and the post-war period from 1950s to 1970s. The area lostits economic raison d’etre when the harbour and dockyards were movedto the outskirts of the city. Suffice to say those most hit by the economicrestructuring were blue-collar workers,6 suffering high levels of unemploy-ment. Those who could afford to leave moved out to the suburbs and sonew groups of immigrants benefited from the drop in housing prices andgrowth in housing availability in these areas (Engbersen, Snel, &Weltevrede, 2005). Afrikaanderwijk is likewise a good example of theresponse to this predicament given by many Western European countries,which is a mushrooming of diverse social and economic policies to com-bat the seeming irrevocability of these transformations. However, accord-ing to Wittebrood and Dijk (2007) in the context of Dutch nationalpolicies, these social goals were generally unstated. It was assumed thatchanges to the type of housing in particular areas would lead to subse-quent changes in the population. A key component of housing diversitypolicies is the assumption that the new residents from middle or upperclass backgrounds will be able, either through improved social cohesion(Wittebrood & Dijk, 2007) or increased social capital (Kleinhans,Priemus, & Engbersen, 2007) to positively impact on the rejuvenatedarea. It remains to be seen how much the process of gradual housingrenewal that is currently taking place in Afrikaanderwijk will addressthese socio-economic issues.

DEFINING DIVERSITY

Before moving onto a description of my research I think that it’s importantto briefly mention the thorny subject of defining diversity. Unlike in theAmerican and British context the word race is not a convincing point of

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analytical departure. Race relations makes way in the Netherlands for dif-ferentiations based on ethnicity and increasingly culture. In Europe, immi-grant groups are ethnically very varied coming from the many formercolonies and actively recruited as labour migrants. In the United Kingdom,the terms ethnic and racial minorities and ethnic and racial diversity arefrequently used to denote specific groups. Other terms used generally arerefugees, guest workers, economic and political migrants. It is important toconsider that all the terms scholars use to identify a group are labels thathave been developed in a specific historical, political and economic context.They are not neutral or all encompassing. Who is Dutch depends on howthis is defined: from place of birth, parents birth, cultural socialization, eth-nic origin and nationality. The term that the Dutch frequently use to distin-guish between the native population and the rest is: allochtonen, which doesnot have an English equivalent but generally means originating from else-where. In the Dutch national statistics, compiled by the CBS,7 the popula-tion is divided into non-Dutch/foreign first generation if an individual andone of his/her parents are born outside The Netherlands. The second gen-eration consists of individuals born in The Netherlands with at least oneparent born abroad. Within this group there is a further distinctionbetween western and non-western groups and whether a country is seen asWestern is dependent on how similar its social economic or culturalarrangement is to The Netherlands.

RESEARCH METHODS

South Rotterdam, particularly Afrikaanderwijk, is not an area I am physi-cally familiar with; this has both advantages and disadvantages for my roleas researcher. Firstly it has propelled me to include observation in myresearch methods as a way of familiarizing myself with the setting. The pur-pose being to overcome as Lofland calls it, the ‘dilemma of distance’(Lofland & Lofland, 1995). ‘Be neither discouraged or over-confident aboutyour relationship to the setting. Whatever the relationship, it is simulta-neously an advantage and a drawback’ (1995, p. 23). I am hoping to bridgeor get closer through means of observation and spending time in diversepublic spaces available to me and in so doing overcome my own physicaland emic distance to the lived experience of Afrikaanderwijk.

Outcomes derive from in-depth taped interviews of 16 women living inAfrikaanderwijk in combination with 7 un-taped street interviews. The

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women I interviewed ranged in age from 31 to 82 years. The taped conver-sations lasted between 25 and 45 minutes and allowed me to explorewomen’s use and feelings towards public space and social contact. Thestreet interviews were of shorter duration, lasting 5�10 minutes, and canbe seen as indicatory, building impressions used to give shape to the in-depth interviews. All in-depth interviews were recorded, transcribed verba-tim and analyzed through qualitative content analysis and detailed coding(Lofland & Lofland, 1995).

Joint and single interviews were used in this study to offer the most flex-ibility in gaining access to people and information. I used joint interviewingas it helps to establish rapport and an atmosphere of confidence whilst alsoenabling the different kinds of knowledge held by each person to berevealed. Joint interviews produce more complete data as interviewees fillin each other’s gaps and memory lapses (Edgell, 1980; Seymour, Dix, &Eardley, 1995) and fit well in a context where women are often to be foundwalking in groups. Additional information was obtained by my visits toAfrikaanderwijk, between 30 and 40 times roughly totalling 1600 hours,many of these visits were observational, hanging around AfrikaanderSquare, some were for pre-arranged interviews some with professionalsworking in the area and others were to attend special events like the open-ing of the teahouse, international women’s day celebrations, a fashionshow, meetings, classes (sewing and Dutch language) the women went to orhad organized. This helped me to validate the stories that the women toldme about their lives and contact patterns and put their observations/experi-ences into a bigger neighbourhood context.

I must add that I did not ask specific questions on diversity and its impacton the women’s lives. The reasons for this are twofold: I felt that would beleading the question, setting up ethnicity to play the lead role. My positionbeing that if ethnic diversity plays a significant factor in their everyday experi-ences this would become clear within the course of the interviews. My secondmotive for not specifically targeting the ethnic issue is related to the questionof thorny definitions discussed earlier complicated by the fact that there is noclear consensus amongst academics about how ethnic groups are formed,which is why I opted for self-definition where possible.

Many of the migrant women I spoke to found it interesting to be inter-viewed by a fellow migrant and many of the Dutch women were curiousabout my Englishness. In this way my dual African-English identityenabled the women interviewed to prioritize certain ethnic characteristicsand find a way to bond with them. I feel this allowed the women to sharetheir experiences with me more easily and frankly.

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PROFILE INTERVIEWEES

Women who agreed to be interviewed in-depth described their own ethnicidentity. Of the 16 respondents two identified themselves as Surinamese,seven as Dutch, one as Turkish (1), one as Dutch-Turkish (1), two asMoroccan (2), two were born in the Antilles and identify as Dutch and oneas Romanian (1). The seven street-interviewed women I categorized asSomali (1), Moroccan (2), Turkish (3) and Dutch (1). Women whom I spe-cifically wanted to formally interview I classified as: having some knowl-edge of the area; Dutch-speaking and public space users themselves. Threeof the sixteen and all of the seven street interviews I approached myself andoccurred spontaneously. The other 13 contacts were obtained via otherpeople who I had informed of my research and they in turn passed on use-ful telephone numbers, leaving me to introduce myself.

GETTING IN

Being a middle-aged woman, looking of Caribbean/Mediterranean origin, Ithink aided my relative invisibility in this neighbourhood and I took painsto dress in casual but cared for clothes: jeans and a top. I decided that agood strategy in the beginning would be to sit in the park in AfrikaanderSquare. This would enable me to watch the ebb and flow of people, samplethe atmosphere and put me in the position of being able to hold a few enpassant street interviews. I thought this would be useful in gaining a feelfor how to carry out the full-fledged interviews I was to undertake later.My colleague (see introduction) who lives in the area had agreed to put mein contact with some women she knew, women who fit my profile but inaddition I wanted to approach women myself. The fact that I am a middle-aged woman of African-English descent I felt would allow me to freelyapproach and speak to many women in different public spaces during myfieldwork period. So on 20 May 2010 I went to sit in the park and after 30minutes of looking around I started to feel very awkward, uncomfortableand tense. In desperation I wrote in my notebook: ‘well the enormity of thetask ahead has sunk in, how on earth am I going to make contact? withoutpeople running away? am I up to the job?’. Noticing as I wrote a feeling ofcalm descending upon me, aha, the way forward had begun. I began writ-ing what I saw and this was helpful in enabling me to lose a certain awk-wardness I had and allowed me to feel as if I too belonged in

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Afrikaanderwijk. After a while I did not feel uncomfortable sitting andwalking around the park or square or cafe on my own any more.

FINDINGS

What follows is the result of my fieldwork research during May 2010 andJune 2012 in and around Afrikaanderwijk. My analysis is centred on amatrix of interrelated observations divided into three different levels ofinformation: the what, the where and the who. This resulted in what I havecalled the ladder of interaction; the higher up you climb the more intense/complex the contact levels are and subsequent knowledge of the other.Beginning at the bottom rung of the ladder with observation and eye con-tact, the next step is greetings, moving on to chatting, which is divided intoquick and long chats, followed by doing activities together and ending withhanging out. During the course of my analysis it became clear that the dif-ferent types of interactions are also spatially informed, concentrated insemi-public, public and institutional spaces. Compounding these spatiallyinformed interactions are other differentiations, the ‘with whom’ are thewomen interacting. The differentiations most commonly referred to are:ethnicity, gender, age, proximity (neighbour) and the known or unknownother.

A LADDER OF INTERACTION

Observation & Eye Contact

When talking to women it becomes clear that many of them used obser-vation as a way to judge who they could greet. Ans first looks to see ifthe other is or is not known before expressly making herself known toincrease her feelings of personal safety, ‘if I see a group of people who Ifind a bit scary and I don’t know, but I have to walk past, them I alwayssay hello’. For Nesrine, ‘when someone looks downwards or cross’ andfor Vanya, ‘if women look at you and then look away hurriedly’, is asign that there will be little or no contact, ‘you can see it in someone’seyes and how they behave’ Vanya adds. Other women explained howthey use particular spaces for observation to distinguish who is and isnot their neighbour, Marleen’s is a typical example, ‘I know because

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I see the same faces go inside and then I think so that’s where they liveand then sometimes in the morning or afternoon I see them again andthey say hello, how are you and I say good and then walk on’. Layla hasa similar strategy, ‘now occasionally I will stand by the front door andsee who walks in and out’.

Greeting

This is for many the first point of contact with others. Azra, ‘I greet peopleand I make eye contact and everybody greets me back’. Grace, ‘I wave towomen I see from here (school playground) who I also see at the hairdres-sers’. For Grace having observed someone in one familiar place leads to agreeting in another local space. For Ans it’s a conscious decision, ‘yes I amsomeone who consciously chooses to greet everyone I meet, even if they donot return the greeting’. Nesrine stated, ‘I greet everyone I see except thosewho make it explicit they do not want to be greeted’. Gulnaz noted ‘I greetautomatically I don’t think about it. For example, in the metro or train Isay, good morning and sometimes no one answers’. The five retired womenat ‘t Klooster8 responded that they only have to step on to the pavement tomeet someone they know who they would also greet.

Reading the responses to observation & eye contact and greetings we cansee a mix of attitudes to making social contact in public space(s). Attitudesto greeting in general seem fairly positive. Women express their commit-ment to greeting as a general principle, also as a means of attaining infor-mation regarding who belongs to the neighbourhood. Others use greetingsto create a sense of familiarity and others do so to enhance their feelings ofpublic safety. Observation is for some women a way of looking for clues tosee if and when to make contact. The differentiations observed by thewomen can result in different greeting behaviour. This aspect will be morefully explored in the section on ethnic diversity and gender in publicspaces(s) in this essay.

From the responses to questions on the visibility of women on thestreets and other public spaces it is clear that certain women frequent cer-tain places for differing lengths of time where they evidently engage withother women in diverse activities. These places are: school entrance areas,Afrikaander Square, playground areas, the twice weekly market aroundAfrikaander Square, pavements in front of residential housing areas. Theactivities women take part in or observe other women taking partin (with or without children) are: watching kids in playgrounds/parks

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areas, bringing and picking up children to and from school, sitting andchatting, eating, cooking, drinking tea, picnicking, shopping, talking andstanding, power walking round the park, learning to ride a bike, stopand go chatting (quick hello’s quickly moving on) and long chats.

Quick Chat

When I asked where else Vanya saw women she replied, ‘they have a quickchat in the street, they stop and go on their way to the shops’. Layladescribes when she herself has quick chats in the area, ‘mostly in the eve-ning if the weather is really nice, then I go and walk by a group of womenstanding or walking in the square but its not everyday and if its really niceand warm I take the kids’. Marleen prefers quick chats, ‘at the front dooror when we are in the garden then we can meet and talk a bit’. Gracedescribing her contact history, ‘I gradually began very carefully by havingsmall conversations, now I know almost everybody’.

Long Chat

Grace, ‘yes I do talk to people here at school. To be honest I am verytalkative and I love the feeling of togetherness. Sometimes we (themothers) are here till past three talking to each other’. For Beppie whohas lived in Afrikaanderwijk 24 years its simple, ‘you can talk to peopleall day long on the street there, you go to the shops you meet someone,you start talking’. Doina who is often around Afrikaanderplein in theafternoons observes, ‘if it’s warm, I last saw groups of women sitting talk-ing together in the park’. Munevver spots women by Afrikaanderplein,‘by the market, when they come they look for a nice green spot wherethey can sit down together and talk’. Joyce, lives on the other side ofAfrikaanderwijk closer to Bloemhof, what does she notice? ‘I see womenwith their kids by the playground … I am not sure if they are family orfriends but they do talk to each other’.

Hanging Out

Hanging out refers to social contact that takes place over an extendedperiod of time. Were women either move from place to place together,

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what Lofland (1975, p. 118) has referred to as the travelling pack, orwhen they meet up in, the same space(s) repeatedly.9 Nesrine hasobserved, ‘when the kids go to school, then you also see a group, theycome here (the Arendt) because its quiet, they also go to the parentsroom at the school or the mosque where at the moment they are havingKoran lessons every morning and evening’. Azra herself belongs to agroup, ‘they sit here on that square. Lots of women come here and theirkids play there. But everybody has their own group. We don’t comehere; they are younger than us and have their own group. We sit betweenthe buildings; there is a park there with benches. That’s where we go ifits nice weather. We have breakfast there or we have supper there, every-body brings some food and we eat together’. When I asked more aboutthe group differences Azra illuminates, ‘they have small kids, ours arebigger and of course some don’t get on with each other. Me, I say helloto everyone but my group is the oldies’.

Ans has noted, ‘there are a couple of places, the Parallelweg by the socialhousing estates, women sit on the pavement there together eating thoseseeds which they then spit out onto the street … that’s totally acceptable,to them, so you can always tell, where there are a lot of sunflower seedsthere are a lot of women talking together. There is also a play area behindthe Parallelweg by the benches, the women would like morebenches … they often sit there talking to each other and drinking tea out ofa beautiful tea pot’. When I ask her if this happens in her own street, whichis a street which is part of the local housing authorities regenerationscheme, introducing new housing for owner occupiers, to mix up the socialand economic background of residents, Ans replies ‘where I live they donot sit on the pavements outside their houses, they are too busy working topay off the mortgage’. In Ans response we can read some of the concernsof the gentrification model as an answer to increasing inner city inequalities(Wittebrood & Dijk, 2007).

What we have witnessed in the three ascending steps on the ladder ofinteraction is women actively engaging in creating warm and friendlysocially public spaces (Muller, 2002). This is done individually and as agroup. These group manifestations occur in different areas spread out overAfrikaanderwijk and the women I spoke to found it easy to provide multi-ple examples of this type of behaviour. These representations are in starkcontrast to ideas of the cold, anonymous city that women fear. What thewomen’s stories strongly depict are women who for various reasons aremaking every effort to bond and enjoy the public spaces around them.

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INSTITUTIONAL SPACES

In the previous paragraph most of the social contact takes place in the con-text of semi-public and public space. In addition to the setting where thetype of interaction discussed above is taking place, other spaces also seemto inspire certain forms of interaction.

During the interviews women mentioned spaces where groups of womencould be found doing stuff together, these locations are what Blokland hastermed institutional spaces, because they are neither private nor public,‘private or public form a continuum defining the access of an arbitrary indi-vidual to a social space’ (2003, p. 91). I have chosen to include this infor-mation because it increases our understanding of women’s social behaviourin Afrikaanderwijk. These places are semi-public spaces such as the library,the swimming pool, the sports school, the mosque, the hairdressers, com-munity centres: ‘t Klooster, de Arendt and the Wooncafe, Lekker op Zuid(a cafe) and the Tea House on Afrikaander square. When applying the lad-der of interaction, these spaces are distinguished by long chats, activitiesand in some cases hanging out.

Doina, ‘me I feel at home here (cafe Lekker op Zuid) because the owneris ex-Yugoslavian its close to my own culture … and when I first came hereI had a cup of coffee and started talking to Bo. Sometimes she can be a bitsad and sometimes I am, we recognise common experiences, this is such aplace … even if I am busy I come here. I feel safe here’. Layla also recog-nizes a group, ‘they are never alone, they are always together by the mos-que, they used to come here (the Arendt) to join in activities, but duringRamadan they stop … they are always in a group on Afrikaander Squareby the tea house’. Munevver is busy organizing activities at the newVestia10 community centre, where women come for meetings, activities, lan-guage lessons, sport and yoga. She argues, ‘we got this space for meetings,for talking to people, for the elderly and also for the tea house … lots ofthings happen here (Afrikaanderwijk), the kids go to school, there’s thelibrary, the swimming baths … because these are places the women go to.We also go to the Arendt for Zumba’. Gulnaz sharing her recent experi-ences at the same Wooncafe remarks on all the activities she has organizedthere for the women in the area, ‘now there is almost something to do everyday, Monday we have Dutch lessons, Tuesday night we have sport,Wednesday we have games evening where small kids play board gameswith their parents, other organisations also hold events here’. Asking Azrawhere she feels at home she says, ‘outside my house? That would be in the

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park, behind here and in the Wooncafe’. And last but not least the elderlyretired women who frequent t’ Klooster: Beppie, Truus, Loes Yvonne andGerda, who have made this community centre a second home, spending alot of their days together chatting, sharing problems and doing activities.Their contact patterns revolve around their relationship with each otherthat takes place in the community centre. These examples illustrate how thevalue of institutional spaces facilitates a warm feeling, a sense of belonginga place to be at home with others. Places where women feelcomfortable being publically kind of private together. For some residentsthis is the best way to make contact with others.

SEMI-PUBLIC SPACE EXPERIENCES

In contrast to institutional spaces, that are characterized by their very phy-sicality, their presence in the neighbourhood landscape, the women oftenmentioned another type of semi-public space where contact experiences arebuilt-up. These spaces are ones that are often hidden away from the publicgaze. Furthermore they are often associated with points of possible conflict,irritation, danger and coldness in both the literal and figurative sense. Theyare the transition spaces residents move through on the journey to andfrom their own private living spaces and other more public spaces. Inspaces such as the waiting area for the lift, in the lift, or hall, stairwell, gal-lery, corridor, porch, women report predominantly engaging in greetingsand quick chats. These spaces also enable the women to distinguish whotheir neighbour (known other) might be. For all the women, with theexception of Gulnaz, these spaces have led to positive experiences with theirneighbours. Functioning as non-threatening and non-intrusive places ofeasy contact. The intrinsic differentiating element in this type of semi-public space is the lack of control; there is no staff or personnel who couldostensibly police/ensure nothing untoward happens. Joyce declares, thoughshe is a very busy person, ‘but I spend a lot of time talking by the entrancedownstairs’. When I ask Grace how many of her neighbours she greets, shereplies, ‘the whole block, not all at the same time but generally, when I godown the stairs I see someone and when I go up the stairs I see someone’.Beppie mentions how on her floor they all wait for each other to go downin the lift. Beppie also has a knocking ritual with one of her neighbours tocheck if everything is all right. Azra uses the gallery in her flat to roundpeople up for her activities at the Wooncafe. The enclosed and yet neutral

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character of these hidden away spaces facilitate a kind of friendlinessamong these women.

ETHNIC DIVERSITY, GENDER AND PUBLIC SPACE

In this section I will present a picture of how women experience living intheir hyper ethnically diverse neighbourhood. I have categorized theseresponses into contact with the neighbours (known other) and others(unknown other). Starting with the later (unknown other) let us considerwhat the oldest group of residents, who are all ethnically Dutch, white andworking class, have to say. Beppie, ‘we talk to each other and they talk toeach other, we are all very sociable people here’. The ‘we’ is the small groupof roughly six or seven Dutch white women she hangs out with in the cen-tre; the ‘they’ are the Turkish women who also use the centre. Later onGuus adds, ‘so much has changed, some have died and the other people,how do I say that? Dutch foreigners, you don’t really see them … and wedon’t really talk to them anywhere’. However not everybody in the groupof five agreed with her on this point. Beppie points out, ‘but on Tuesdayafternoon we have all the women, the foreign women’, whom she at leastgreets, ‘they come and sit in here, they have something to drink and thenwe talk and I say good afternoon and then I say it again in Turkish!’

Doina, our local observer who enjoys sitting at cafe ‘Lekker op Zuid’,overlooking Afrikaander Square, watching the world go by notices thatcommunication is good between women in the area, only it seems to bealong ethnic lines, ‘that’s what I am working on now, trying to set up aproject in Feijenoord11 that brings different groups together … my idea isto ask three hairdressers to stand on a podium, a Moroccan, an Arubanand Dutch and everybody can have their hair cut but the Turkish hairdres-ser cuts an Aruban, the Dutch hairdresser cuts a Turk, so very simple’. Sheadds, ‘I have had contact with people from a lot of different cultures so Ican understand the women here’. Doina’s own difficult experiences of mak-ing social contact centre around local Dutch people, ‘I communicate differ-ently from Dutch people, I can communicate better with other ethnicminorities. My way is different, my attitude towards feelings, you cansometimes cry. Here everything is very clinical and the only emotion youcan have is laughter and it’s easier to watch SBS612 than to make eye con-tact with someone’. Continuing, ‘they do greet, but it’s so reserved that youcannot have any further contact’.

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Gulnaz, ‘I wanted to encourage Dutch women to use it (the Wooncafe)as well. There used to be a special coffee morning for the Dutch womenbut then something happened, I think they fell out with each other becausethey stopped coming. I don’t know why. So via a bingo night I am gettingmore Dutch women to come again. We’ve been doing it a few months now,they love bingo and bit by bit the group is getting bigger’. Ans, ‘I haveDutch parents and grandparents but since I moved here I feel really, reallyDutch. It’s because of my environment. So many people from so manynationalities that I feel like an ethnic minority’.

When it comes to neighbourly contact (known other) ethnic differencesreveal differing expectations. Azra who has lived in Afrikaanderwijk 35years, reports ‘look I don’t want contact with everyone, just hallo mostlywith Dutch people, they don’t want you in their house. They never ask, ifsomeone comes to my front door I always say: come in, come in. But theynever do. They talk at the door so I just say hello, they never ask me tocome in. That’s what they are like’. When I ask her about friendliness, shesays ‘yes they are friendly only they have never learnt to say: come inside.We are different, always asking, come inside please take a seat. I make con-tact with Turkish women, I know them all and I’ve got a lot of friends. Wedo stuff together, like going to the market or eating together. That kind ofthing’.

Munevver’s neighbours are mixed, ‘at the moment I’ve only got threeneighbours, ‘cos they are demolishing this building and a lot of people havealready left. We had close contact with our neighbours from Suriname,Turkey and Morocco, we were like family’. Adding, ‘I adapt to all cultures,languages and people. I respect everybody and their beliefs. I feel Turkishand also Dutch because I grew up here, I was four when I came here. Athome I also cook food from all kinds of different cultures’.

Gulnaz says of her neighbours, ‘here, its mostly Turkish that live in thisarea. Turkish people and I am not sure where they come from if itsSuriname, Cape Verdi or the Antilles, I can’t tell the difference, well a bit.Recently some Moroccans and Chinese have also moved into our block offlats, but they keep themselves to themselves’. She later clarified who keptthemselves to themselves and why. ‘Mostly a few half sentences in Dutch,they don’t want to make contact and mostly they work hard so they don’tfeel like it. And they mostly work in Chinese restaurants’.

Ans explains that when she bought her house she was told, ‘that onethird of the owners would be Turkish, one third Surinamese and one thirdDutch’. However, ‘when we actually moved in it turned out that Dutchpeople made up only 5% of the buyers. You look around and think, these

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people aren’t Dutch and they are mostly the people who are motivated toorganize and get things done’. She wants to live in a mixed neighbourhoodand not where predominantly Turkish people live, ‘it sounds bad but Ihope that more Moroccan, Surinamese and Antillean people move into thearea otherwise it will become a ghetto here’.

Perhaps the thoughts of the retired women on neighbourly contact cangive some insight into some of the sentiments expressed above. When itcomes to neighbourly contact they maintain the following line, ‘we greeteach other, but we don’t go in for coffee, we drink coffee here’ because,‘the neighbours stay the neighbours’. These responses reveal different socialcontact cultures and expectations. For one making contact is an opportu-nity to invite the other into the home setting to feel more comfortable. Forthe other it is the opposite, feeling comfortable is doorstep talking.

From the stories women have told, we start to get a picture of an areawhere ethnicity plays an important role. For many women a Muslim iden-tity and culture are the framework of their local setting. For some womenit is particularly the Muslim identity and for others the cultural identity.There is an awareness of the otherness of the other and in some cases theotherness of themselves, a Dutch identity becomes other in a context wherediversity predominates.

Differentiations of gender like ethnicity cut across a lot of the currentinteraction practices in Afrikaanderwijk. These differentiations cannot beseen as separate for ethnic experiences are gendered experiences as the fol-lowing examples plainly demonstrate. Vanya observes, ‘some (women)don’t want you to say hello, some don’t like it’ upon asking why this wouldbe so she asserts, ‘their men do not allow them to look interested in con-tact’. Vanya says of herself, ‘I am also Muslim but not so strict … you seeit a lot but I don’t get involved, I leave well alone otherwise er … becauseyou see I come from the north of The Netherlands, its very different there,only Dutch people in Groningen. When you come here there are so manydifferent cultures, there it’s different they are more friendly en that’s why Istill miss it’. Vanya reasons, ‘because these people are born here, they camehere from their own country and only know city life, but I have lived inother places’.

Layla explaining her own contact behaviour with men argues, ‘I do, yes,I do greet men I know but it’s easier with women because of our traditions.I am from an Islamic country and that’s why greeting men is not easy’. Shecan only greet men she knows. ‘I can’t walk around saying hello, hello tomen because they will think that I want something from them’. Azratoo makes the point that she would only talk to a man if she had something

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to say, not a casual greeting because she would worry about others’ percep-tions. She is allowed to talk to male family members in public, ‘yes mynephew and my uncle this kind of relationship’. Gulnaz too states, ‘depend-ing on the person, greeting men in our culture is a bit not good, no defi-nitely not, they will start to think, why is she greeting me? Or they will feelashamed and look away’. Her own behaviour she does however modifydepending on the circumstances, ‘but if somebody looks at me I greetthem, man or women it doesn’t matter. Sometimes you get a lot of menhere to repair stuff then I say good morning or afternoon’. Nesrine, Laylaand Renzia also are happy to exempt themselves regularly from this tradi-tion, not believing that to greet men dishonours them personally.

Ans gender considerations are more instrumental, ‘I have a lot of con-tact with women but it’s not because of my preferences, but those of thewomen in this area to do things together’, ‘to be honest I hardly know anymen in this area that I talk to apart from the only Dutch elderly man livingin the flat among all the Turkish people who wants to leave, I talk to him’.Ans notes how the effects of these norms have also curtailed the role of theWooncafe, ‘if we let men into the Wooncafe then half of the women wouldleave, more than half would leave!’

It is clear that women experience the Turkish community as the domi-nant group in the area and this brings with it certain cultural requirements.Some women are able to adapt to this situation, some struggle with it,some do not even question it and some fight it. This is also true for womenI spoke to who are from the Turkish community themselves.

Generational and cultural differentiations crosscut considerations per-taining to gender, ethnic differentiations and social contact in this area.Munevver’s observations on the behaviour habits of older Moroccanwomen are a case in point, ‘I’ve noticed that the older women well theystay, they stay in their own group, they make contact but only a bit’. Shesays, ‘maybe it’s because the men don’t allow it, I don’t really know whattheir home situation is like, but young Moroccan woman are much freer’.

Interestingly Joyce, who does not have the same gender considerations,often casually greets men in the area around her house, ‘you have differentcultures here although the majority of people have a Muslim background. Italk to most people and on some moments its men. Because the women,yes where I live is predominantly Muslim and the men are often by the cof-fee house and almost everyday I run into them first. I only talk tothe women if I attend their activities, at the community centre Oleander,some of the women go there and that’s where we make contact’. Here wecan see how Joyce’s locally acquired knowledge about how and where to

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make contact with these specific women. We can also understand the valueof institutional spaces for local social patterns.

Furthermore what this section on ethnic differentiations and genderplainly demonstrates is how the human lived experience of these categori-zations is multi-layered and complex. The barriers to social contactare for some only related to the private domain while for others theopposite holds, in that in private and institutional spaces they are free tomake social contact frowned upon in public space. Whilst other womenare free and happy to be publically private in the parks and playgroundsspread across Afrikaanderwijk. The women in my study have learnt tocode and give meaning to interactions themselves, negotiating their ownexperiences with others while interpreting these interactions based on aframework of their own meanings collected over time. By doing so theyrenegotiate a space between the highly politicized integration discourseand themselves.

CONCLUSION

Women are still making social contact in Afrikaanderwijk; they particularlyseem to be doing so with other women living in the neighbourhood.Neighbourly contact is seen as valuable and takes many forms from hang-ing out to observation. Ethnic diversity here has generated a multiplicity ofpublic space use. It has not led to a withdrawal from community engage-ment, in fact the credo seems to be, if you do not get involved you get leftbehind. Women are transforming certain public spaces into what Lofland(1975) calls home territories. Another interesting feature of this enquiry hasbeen the discovery of interaction codes used by women predominantly tomake and understand the contact codes of other women. This has been ofgreat interest to me as it goes against the decline of community thesis argu-ments, pointing the way to new forms of engagement based on locality andnot on community. Ethnicity diversity has led to a greater diversity in con-tact traditions and spaces. This study of gender in relation to many of thecontemporary urban changes has attempted to understand the impact ofthese transformations on socio-spatial identities. In this sense, this researchembodies de Certeau’s (1984) dual city model, where one city is the onelaid out rationally and defined in terms of city planners, developers and sta-tisticians. While the other city, the second exists in the practice of everydaylife, a representational space within which a mass of transitory fleeting and

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fortuitous interactions take place and translate into our own inner emo-tional life.

What we find in these women’s practices are the offsetting of theserational stories with their own personal emotionally owned experiences ofspace. Experiences that diverge quite markedly from these national andmedia-related narratives. Ultimately this case study reveals another frameof reference, one where gender and ethnicity are dynamic, being exploredand in flux against a backdrop of urban changes social, spatial, politicaland economic. Above all this study contrasts markedly with a tendency tocategorize women and public space use in terms of: fear (violence/rape),cold/impersonal (decline of community) and problems/passivity (migrantneighbourhoods). What I have witnessed here are women as active strate-gizing people altering their socio-spatial environment thereby creating bet-ter neighbourhood support networks and ultimately increasing their ownconnections to the space and people they live around. Working on creatinga social climate where they and the women are in the process of connectingwith can feel at home.

NOTES

1. Called Afrikaanderplein officially or Afriplein by the locals. In the rest of thischapter I refer to it as Afrikaander Square.

2. Crimson Architectural Historians, Dorman, E., Provoost, M., & Vanstiphout, W.(December 2007).

3. According to the BIRD classification system used by COS Rotterdam(Centre for research & Statistics in Rotterdam), http://rotterdam.buurtmonitor.nl/

4. According to scholars (Musterd, 2003; Lucassen & Penninx, 1997) up untilthe 1960s The Netherlands was characterized by a period of emigration.

5. COS, http://rotterdam.buurtmonitor.nl/6. Goldthorpe, Lockwood, Bechhofer, and Platt (1969).7. The Dutch National Statistics Bureau, http://www.cbs.nl/nl-NL/menu/home/

default.htm8. The community centre on Afrikaander Square.9. What Lofland sees as part of the creation of home territories. A home terri-

tory refers to how a relatively small area of public space becomes ‘a home awayfrom home’.10. Vestia is a housing association, providing inexpensive rentable

accommodation.11. Afrikaanderwijk is a district in Feijenoord, South Rotterdam.12. Is a commercial television provider, specializing in emotional-tv programmes.

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