Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Local government, local governance and the new vocabulary of cohesion and integration:British experience and contemporary Korea

Local government, local governance and the new vocabulary of cohesion and integration:British experience and contemporary Korea
Michael Keith

1. Context
Britain is a country shaped by migration over centuries. From the countless invasions of the first millennium to the sometimes buried links with mainland Europe emphasisied by the historian Norman Davies the ‘insularity’ of the island race has frequently hidden flows of people and culture across national boundaries. The uneasy balance between the Celtic fringe (including the movements of people from Ireland, Scotland and Wales) and the ‘nation‐state’ of the United Kingdom has also left complex legacies. 
From the second half of the 20th century the country has experienced two major ‘moments’ of international migration. In the wake of the second world war the shattered infrastructure of the country, the growing welfare state and the declining old industrial base all displayed chronic labour shortages and Britain looked to current and former colonies for the people that would answer this need. Frequently told that the ‘mother country’ would welcome them the experiences of the first generations of settlement – principally from the ‘New Commonwealth’ was in reality less hospitable; populist sentiment and institutional intolerance often setting the tone for the early decades of settlement in Britain.
The origin of this much needed migrant labour was complex. Symbolically associated with the arrival at Tilbury Docks of the SS Empire Windrush in 1948, bringing former servicemen and people looking for work from the Caribbean this wave of ‘New Commonwealth’ migration tended to come from tight networks in particular islands of the Caribbean and sub regions of south Asia. Jamaica, Barbados, Trinaidad (and Guyana) were the source of many of the Caribbean migrants, although there were strands of migrations from the smaller islands as well. Gujerat and Punjab (in the old India), Mirpur (in the old west Pakistan) and Sylhet (in what is now Bangladesh) all provided sources of labour that was frequently recruited explicitly by the British. The National Health Service recruited directly from the Caribbean, Wolffs rubber company, staffed by colonial Raj military officers, recruited Sikh’s from the Punjab to work in their plant close to the emerging site of Heathrow airport. 
So the nature of this wave of British multiculturalism always bore the imprint of old colonial pasts and new patterns of settlement. Concentrated massively in London, Birmingham and some of the declining manufacturing areas outside London, particular parts of specific cities became identified with particular communities in the post war decades. Southall was known for the Sikh faith and Punjabi cultures; Brixton and Notting Hill the iconic hearts of Jamaican and Trinidadian settlement, and Brick Lane was long famous for the ‘curry capital’ of Sylheti (Bangladeshi) settlement, long before Monica Ali’s eponymous book and the recently released film of the same name.  

And the story of these settlements is one that is also characterised by long and intense struggles by those communities against various patterns of systematic discrimination, overt and covert patterns of racism in allocating resources (such as access to housing to rent and to buy, schools, social centres) and in recognising particular cultural needs (such as the right to worship together, cultural imperatives of diet and dress, the need to recognise the life cycle cultural particularities of naming, growing up, marrying and dying). So the extent to which these communities – themselves the products of struggle and contest – would become part of a large whole, British society in the late 20th century was frequently the object of policy and journalistic concern. The extent to which assimilation of the Windrush generation was either desirable or achievable, the extent to which spatial separation of one community from another marked patterns of undesirable ‘segregation’, the ways in which ‘separation’ represented a resource and a strength for the second and third generations of these communities or a form of exclusion and isolation, were all at various times from the 1960s to the early 1990s subject of extensive debate. And whilst by the late 20th century most popular surveys tended to recognise that most people welcomed the new diversity of Britain’s cities the history was no simple story of Whiggish progress; moments of violent attacks and racist murders and occasional outbreaks of civil unrest and rioting marking the uneven path of the last decades of the century.

So the multiculturalism of late 20th century Britain was very much a hybrid product. It tended to be discussed in ways that in part recognised cultural differences, and had built up a legislative history combating racial discrimination in particular areas, particularly around employment and the provision of public services. Legislation also placed particular responsibilities on British local government to promote ‘good race relations’ and combat discrimination and so the town hall became in turn both the site of some of the most fiercely contested moments of municipal policymaking (for example around education and policing in the 1980s) and the vehicle of some of the more prominent policy changes (for example in the ‘ethnic monitoring’ of who was and was not getting access to municipal welfare state services such as subsidised ‘social housing’)

From the late 1960s to the early 1990s major international migration into Britain declined massively. Papers were given regularly by academics stressing that the age of mass migration to Britain was over. Some of the debates around multiculturalism focused increasingly on the uneasy relationship between cultural diversity and economic restructuring in the UK as postindustrial parts of the country and sectors of the economy went into steady decline. Migration became principally made up by the growing flows of professional and managerial groups, small in scale but reflecting the increasing globalisation of the economy and growth of financial services as the single most significant driver of the UK economy. 

But from the early 1990s onwards the new and stronger ‘long trend’ of economic growth has been identified with new streams of migrant labour, our second principal ‘moment’ of mass migration to the UK. Frequently from areas with no old colonial links to the UK this migration is again the product of labour scarcity in key areas of the economy. Again the boom in London’s economy from 1993 onwards becomes the largest single engine of these new forms of demand in catering, leisure and other service related trades but also new parts of the country experience significant inward migration for the first time in living memory as rural areas, growing new towns and places where refugee populations are ‘decanted’ host migrants, with numbers growing exponentially at rates that at times prompt local concerns.

This second major wave of migration was also identified with the freedom of movement in the old ‘Iron Curtain’ countries in the East of Europe and the expansion of the European Union, sometimes referred to by the shorthand of ‘A8’ migration (referring to the accession of 8 new countries into the union). It is important nevertheless, to understand that again the increasingly complex demographies of Britain relates to the economic drivers of globalised, liberalised labour markets in which flows of people, capital and culture are increasingly international in their nature.

And how the British multicultural model either does or does not work has again been the subject of sustained controversy. The year 2001 saw both the attacks on the twin towers in the USA and the ‘milltown’ riots in northern British cities, at times setting one community against another. And in 2005 the first suicide bombings in the UK on ‘7/7’ (the 7th July 2005) provoked a storm of consideration internationally about whether or not the British multicultural model was working. And again the very diversity of experiences across the country means that a focus is again cast on local governance, below the level of the nation, sometimes in ways that are progressive and aimed at developing new solutions and sometimes with the rise of populist xenophobic politics in growing support for the British National Party and other groups from the far right of the political spectrum.

In this context integration and cohesion are both terms that are becoming increasingly common. In social policy, in serious journalism and in academic analysis of societies in Britain and across the world the terms have gathered a power unrecognisable ten or even as little as five years ago. Why is this? Is it that the circumstances on the ground have changed so much that we need a new vocabulary to describe them? Or is that the powerful have chosen to hide some agendas and prefer others to be accepted? 

2. Korea and Britain
The British trajectory is clearly significantly different from that in Korea. But once we understand that the flows of labour, culture and values are directly related to general economic trends then we might expect that the burgeoning experience of globalisation will begin to speak to the experiences of multiculture, cohesion and integration in both countries. Though in no way an expert I understand that there is a developing debate in Korea about the growing numbers of people migrating to the country, again linked to the labour demands of a successful globalised economy and the demographic transitions associated with this, particularly between town and country. The projections reported in the press of a population of 800, 000 ‘foreigners’ rising to about 1.5 million in next five years and a growing number of mixed marriages, particularly in rural areas again focuses attention on the diversity of the experiences in different parts of the country. One study has suggested that international marriages now make up 13 percent of all marriages in Korea and that more than 30 percent of international marriages are unions between rural men and foreign brides:
The term "mixed‐blood people" was changed to "people of international marriages" in future government documents. 

Furthermore, the government is reviewing plans to give citizenship or residency status to those who marry Koreans and to their children. And school textbooks that describe Korea as a "nation unified by one bloodline" will be changed to one that has a "multiethnic and multicultural society." 

Such changes have prompted North Korea`s Rodong Shinmun (the Workers Party`s paper) to fiercely criticize the South Korean government. 

It said, "South Korea is denying its national race and its 5,000‐year history by professing to be a multiracial nation. Such moves will Americanize Korea, ruin its past history and weaken the power to combat dominative U.S. forces." http://yaleglobal.yale.edu/display.article?id=7918

And clearly there is at least some discussion of the links between the emergent patterns in Korea and the processes of globalisation and diasporic sensibility that is central to the British experience. One Korean academic Kim Mun‐cho has even suggested that we are seeing the rise of a new Korean cosmopolitanism where
“In particular, the idea of hybrid associations seems most promising, in terms of fostering cultural cosmopolitanism because, in the process of cultural globalization, the key significance resides in the notion of hybridity. Jan Nederveen Pieterse defines cultural globalization as a creation of hybrid cultures arising out of the transnational movements of people and cultures. Cultural globalization is conceived as the creolization of diverse cultures, which entails not just contacts, networks or associations, but also confrontation, conflict or modification.” http://therealsouthkorea.wordpress.com/2007/11/14/korea‐moving‐toward‐a‐multicultural‐society/
For some people the British model of race relations in the post war era was seen as particular to this country in both allowing a relatively high level of autonomy of different communities (including migrant and faith based communities) whilst simultaneously the state intervened in recognising (some) cultural rights (such as wearing the turban or the veil) and legislating against discrimination. This pluralism ‐ that might be taken to characterise much of policy intervention in the 1980s and 1990s ‐ was criticised from both the right and the left of the political spectrum. From the left the ghettoisation of individual cultures was an inevitable result of the British multicultural model and scholars such as Kenan Malik preferred to promote more universal identities that were shared by all. From the right multiculturalism was criticised from many different positions that shared what was seen as a distaste at the ‘privileges’ minorities were allegedly being offered by both cultural recognition and policy interventions to promote equality.

In the wake of the events of ‘7/7’, the bombings in London in July 2005, it was inevitable that many across the world – from both left and right – would try to suggest that their particular critique of British multiculturalism had been vindicated. French voices praised their republican model as an alternative until in the following summer and autumn the banlieus (or ‘suburban ghettos’) in France erupted in protests between migrant (often Islamic) migrant communities and the police. In Britain the multiple forms of race and faith hatred escalated. The rise of forms of Islamophobia, or prejudice and hatred against British Muslim communities, widely commented on since the bombing of New York’s twin towers on ‘9/11’ ( 11th September 2001) became even more pronounced. The mass demonstrations against the British presence in Iraq that crossed ethnicities, faiths and regions of Britain became conflated with a poisonous suspicion of the role of British Muslim communities in civic society, particularly in some of the tabloids and most egregiously in papers such as the Daily Mail.

So it was in this context that some of the suspicion about the use of the terms of integration and cohesion has been developed. Some people thought that this might be a new code for talking about Muslims in British society. Some people thought that the new language was a way of obscuring talk about the realities of racism, discrimination and inequality in order to promote alternative emphasis on assimilation, the responsibilities of communities to conform and the erosion of civil rights.

Consequently, it was perhaps not surprising that when Ruth Kelly announced the formation of the Commission on Cohesion and Integration in the summer of 2006 that many people reacted with a mixture of scepticism, cynicism and critique. Was this new Commission to be the vehicle that endorsed the new language at the expense of the old; that shifted attention away from the struggles of communities to be heard and towards their obligation to assimilate? And most of all, was this to be the Commission that described new policies for the powerful in the country to ‘manage’ the British Muslim presence in the country?

I was asked to become a Commissioner at this time. I was aware of the widespread suspicions, as were most of my colleague commissioners. And although I have some reservations about the way the work of the Commission has been represented, not least in those self same tabloid newspapers, I do believe that for those people who have actually read the final report of the Commission they will see that some of the suspicions have proved ill founded.
The Commission has stated quite clearly some very basic things. There is a sense that the situation on the ground in Britain is different in 2007 from the way it was thirty or forty years ago and we need to think carefully about what this means for all of us. There is a sense that the new migrations of the last ten years may prove as significant in the history of the country as the migrations from the Caribbean and South Asia in the 1950s and 60s. There is a sense in which the notion of ‘diversity’ has become much more complex than it ever has been in recent decades. On an estate in Tower Hamlets you might find all in a row on a single block an old white Jewish or Irish Catholic family living alongside a third generation Sylheti family, a Brazilian couple that have been here five years and five men working in the building trades from Lithuania. This should make us think carefully about how we all get along. This language of ‘getting along’ or ‘conviviality’ comes pretty close to something that we might understand as integration and cohesion.

That is why when we produced our final report as the Commission for Integration and Cohesion in June 2007 we made it absolutely clear that the notions of integration and cohesion related to all communities. We were quite explicit in making clear that there was a danger in both government and media of a particular focus on Muslim communities and a worry that caricatures were reflected in policy construction. We were determined to make it clear in our work that the new vocabulary needed to be linked to the new realities in the country rather than to the preconceptions and prejudices of the tabloids.

But the mass media were less sympathetic. It is flattering to be read and disconcerting to be misunderstood. But is it forgivable to be spun? Before the CIC report was released Madeleine Bunting in the Guardian (http://society.guardian.co.uk/ communities/story/0,,2101020,00.html) had already characterised the commission as brain dead; failing to address the key concepts of segregation and multiculturalism that were for her the most fraught issues that faced today’s Britain.

For others, the key messages were either reassuringly xenophobic or predictably politically correct and overwhelmingly about a sense of Britishness putatively overwhelmed by migration. The London Standard highlighted migrants spitting, the Daily Telegraph furiously rejected the Commission’s suggestion that political parties standing for election in the UK should voluntarily abide by the terms of the Race Relations Amendment Act and should strive to become more representative of the diversity of the communities they served. Meanwhile, on the prime 8.10 morning slot on the Radio 4 Today programme the BBC decided that the commission had celebrated Belfast and found there a ‘community’ with ‘perfect social capital scores’. 

In fact whilst we visited all regions in the UK, the ossified social relations of the new Ulster were hardly the exemplar that we chased; the brutal ‘interfaces’ that mark Belfast’s cartography of ‘peace lines’ a reminder of history stalled rather than sins forgiven, a living testimony to Amos Oz’s axiom that “A tension runs between peace and justice; peace requires compromises; justice detests them”.

As one of 14 commissioners I stand by the collective responsibility that informs such an enterprise. We fought in good faith for those things we thought correct. A consensus generated through the scrupulous chairing of Darra Singh produced a list that nobody would agree unanimously but all could live with. As with all of us, I could pick my favourite recommendations and those I was less keen on but that would not really be the point.

More importantly the report has a structure, an analysis, an argument and a narrative form (http://www.integrationandcohesion.org.uk/Our_final_report.aspx). It suggests why it might be opportune to talk about cohesion and integration, the principles on which we should base our deliberations and a substantive content that is determined by the imperative to translate each of these principles into actions.

3. On principles
The report argues that debate should flow from a set of four principles. The first principle of ‘shared futures’ valorises a sense of becoming that does not erase the imprint of history and memory over a sense of being. The second principle argues that we need to consider a framework of rights and responsibilities that recognises the incommensurabilities of the global, national and local senses of the citizen. The third principle argues for an ‘ethics of hospitality’ that acknowledges the moral place of the stranger in the rapidly changing landscapes of today’s Britain. And the fourth argues that these forms of recognition need to be geared with a sense of visible social justice that stems from principles of equality and institutional transparency. 

4. On multiculturalism and segregation
As Bunting has suggested the current moment in the ‘race relations debate’ has tended to be viewed through the bifocal lenses of geographical separation and multiculturalism. These are important debates and the debate around multiculturalism in particular involves complex and contradictory philosophical and political takes on a particularly contested term. 

It is less clear that these lenses have been particularly helpful or that the call and response public debate around the ‘death of multiculturalism’ has been analytically or politically insightful. It was precisely in order to think differently rather than in the terms of received wisdoms that the CIC report stresses that a serious debate about integration and cohesion cannot be a pretext for a focus on contemporary Islam and that it must address all parts of the country rather than the metonyms of multiculture that lists of inner city place names tend to constitute. The suggestion of the report is instead that contemporary British debates about both multiculturalism and segregation tend to ‘sleepwalk into simplification’. For what it is worth – and for reasons there is no space to develop here ‐ if offered a choice between the multiculturalism of Tariq Modood (Open Democracy http://www.opendemocracy.net/ conflict‐terrorism/multiculturalism_2879.jsp) or the Chair of the new national Commission for Equality and Human Rights Trevor Phillips’ wholesale rejection of multiculturalism I would personally prefer to argue with both. In this sense the report prefers a narrative arc that takes definition (of integration and cohesion) through a set of ethical principles and translates each of these in turn into chapters that focus on practical social policy interventions. 

Similarly, whilst it is possible to measure how far apart some communities are from others geographically this is not always particularly significant. Do we get concerned when the super rich from Russia congregate in one part of London and do not mix very much? Or are we only ‘bothered’ when talk of segregation focuses on some communities in the mill towns of the M62 in the north of England?

5. Local government, ‘solutions’ and policy prescriptions
5a. Biographical experience:Leading an inner London Council
So the logic of the language and the conceptualisation of cohesion and integration points to the significance of the local mediation of national problems. In a world where a clichéd axiom suggests that the nation state has become too big to address the major concerns of the everyday (neighbourhood issues of civility, crime, quality of life) but also too small to address major concerns of social policy (global warming, world poverty, both local governance and local government become more significant. By the former I mean the networks of state agencies, civil society institutions and community organisations that make up the constitution of everyday life at the level of the local. By the latter I refer to the institutions, varying from one country to another, between the UK and Korea, that make up the organisation of the state at sub‐national level.

In the British system of local government I was for twelve years (from 1994‐2006) a local politician and for five years the leader of one of London’s 32 boroughs, the London Borough of Tower Hamlets. Tower Hamlets is constituted by the area of London commonly known as the ‘East End’, adjacent to the largest single concentration of wealth in Europe in the City Corporation and covering an area from the Tower of London in the west to the London 2012 Olympic site and the new Docklands in the east (including the second largest financial centre in Europe in the Isle of Dogs, with the global HQ of HSBC, the European HQ of Citibank and numerous other financial service players). The borough has a population of approximately 200, 000 and an annual revenue budget of approximately £1 billion pa with responsibilities for education, welfare and the provision of substantial social housing and the regulation of development, ‘regeneration’ and other regulatory services under its remit. The ‘east end’ demonstrates some of the extremes of contemporary city change. In the late 1990s commercial property boom over 40% of London’s office development took place in the borough, on the fringes of the City Corporation and on the Isle of Dogs. At one time the borough included both the highest scores for social deprivation and the highest median income post code in the UK. In other words the social polarisation between rich and poor is more marked here than across the nation in a country where such polarisation has been a characteristic of the last two decades. It is also an area historically renowned as the first place of settlement for migrants to London. From Protestant Huguenots fleeing the counter reformation in 17th century France, to the Jews and the Irish in the late 19th and early 20th centuries through the seamen from across the Docks to the Bangladeshis in the post war decades and the A8 migrants and Brazilians in the last few years, wave after wave of migration has become almost normalised in the area.

Some aspects of these changes can be read as tensions – the transience of migrants too often meaning that ‘getting on’ equates with ‘getting away’, the historical clashes throughout the last hundred years that have seen significant confrontations between communities at times. In the time that I have been politically engaged since the 1980s the area has been bombed eight times; four times by the Irish Republican Army (the IRA), once by an extreme right ‘nail bomber’ rejecting British multiculturalism and twice by the suicide bombers of 2005 (Aldgate East tube was the scene of one of the 7/7 bombs and their failed emulators two weeks fauiled to detonate a suicide bomb on Hackney Road two weeks later). 

But there is also a paradox here. If the place has seen the most extreme forms of intolerance it has also witnessed the most intense and productive moments of inter cultural dialogue. A portrait of continuous conflict would be as misleading as a rosy image of cosmopolitan harmony. In reality the best and the worst sit alongside one another. Again at the local level it was in the east end that communities from across East London came together to confront the British fascist movement in the 1930s in Cable Street, to campaign successfully against their far right descendants, the British National Party in the 1980s and 1990s and to unite different faith communities in the wake of the London bombings of 2005.

There also more material signs of hope. In the period from 1994‐2006 the borough was seen to progress from being polarised, divided and bankrupt to one that was objectively delivering the best welfare services of any social services department in the country, the most rapidly improving schools in the country and a strong sense of pride in the local community. The borough was awarded the ‘Beacon Council’ award for community cohesion in 2005, singled out as the best in the country for partnership workings of local government and local governance. 
I would not want to be complacent. We know what hubris prefigures. But there are some lessons in the Tower Hamlets experience. They are principally about the manner in which governance structures of partnership might supplant the occasional arrogance or ossification of structures of local government. A recognition that the boundary between state and civil society is a permeable one informs a set of policies that are about generating a debate on the future direction of the borough (the ‘place shaping’ agenda) and the shared priorities of peoples from very different backgrounds in ensuring that their children are offered a decent schooling, that the streets are safe and clean and that we recognise the dynamics of economic transformation and mediate their effects. If the lessons could be summed up succinctly it would involve the shift of focus to policy interventions that recognise the material, cultural and ethical benefits of diversity but also concentrate on building from this diversity a future that is shared. These were themes that were very much echoed in the working of the Commission on Integration and Cohesion when we were dealing with similar issues across the United Kingdom.

5b The Commission’s framework for policy recommendations
The Commission’s framework for policy recommendations emerges directly from the structuring of our final report and its roots in a set of principles identified in our work These relate to each in turn of the five following areas that I shall discuss in more detail in my talk:
1. Developing shared futures
2. Strengthening rights and responsibilities
3. Building mutual respect and civility
4. Making social justice visible
5. Acting in the four public spheres

Developing Shared Futures
• A focus on where we are going not on where we have come from
• Shared national vision
• Strong local leadership
• A public debate about the nature of change
• Practically
– Mapping communities and dynamics of change
– Reflecting the community in services, representatives nd workforce
Strengthening rights and responsibilities
• National citizenship / local citizenship
• New migrants and their impacts
Building mutual respect and civility
• Working with women
• An increased focus on young people
• The importance of faith communtiies
– Whose voices are legitimate at neighbourhood level?
But:Local and national frameworks of citizenship and belonging
And the ethics of scale – neighbourhood, local authority, regional and national interest
Making social justice visible
• Targeted action to address inequalities
• Communications and working with the media
• Myth busting
– Contested processes and contested outcomes
– Universal and specific provision
– The importance of transparency
Acting in the four public spheres
• “A light national touch, locally driven”
• Education (including faith schools)
• Public space and residential areas
• Sports, culture and leisure
• The workplace
6. On Britishness and empire
Whilst the work of the Commission strongly emphasised the importance of local institutions, loc al government and local governance it was a published at a time when national concerns about cohesion and integration were translated into wider debates about British identity in the face of globalisation, cultural diversity, new migrations and the devolution of powers to the new assemblies in Wales and Scotland. 

The report does not argue that the debate around Britishness is illegitimate. It does suggest that the new configurations of transnationalism, glocalism and super diversity might make us think carefully about how we address the term’s power. Displacing a putatively European ethnic nationalism (bad) with an allegedly civic American nationalism (good) will not work and may not be possible for the economy that has so completely embraced globalisation. The Humpty Dumpty of the 19th century nation state cannot be put together again any more than its empire. However, a sense of Britishness that begins to share a reckoning with the past and an Orwellian notion of patriotic national becoming might be something slightly different. 

A sense of the national that acknowledges that levels of identification are stronger at the level of locality than at the level of the nation and that networks, movements and cultures that cross borders create sentimental imaginaries at plural spatial scales does no more than reflect realities already on the ground. The forms of new conviviality that cross conventional racial boundaries that characterise some parts of today’s city occupies the same spaces as old and reproducing articulations of bigotry and racism. Contemporary calls for new forms of transnational co‐operation and a supra‐national conversation about poverty or climate change are hardly radical but they do nuance appeals to Britishness. 

Consequently, our sense of autonomy and freedom needs to think carefully about how we consider the fabrication of the individual, the cultural and the social, within and beyond the boundaries of the national. In this sense 21st century sovereignty is an essentially transactional category that sits in a babushka doll nest of spatial scales of material and symbolic flows and institutional deliberations. The nation state continues to organise much of social and economic life but not in the same ways as 100 years ago. In this context the report asks about the appropriate invented traditions that can speak to this politics of jumping scale – that can invoke the global, national and local simultaneously.

This is not evangelising for a naive cosmopolitanism or a sub national parochialism, it merely recognises the social consequences of globalisation. There is a geography to this. It is not new to suggest that whilst the economic benefits of migration accrue nationally, the social costs are mediated locally (and impact disproportionately in some places). We might want to think slightly more carefully about both the historical and geographical narratives that make places visible in Britain’s changing social and economic landscape. When Walter Benjamin suggested that ‘the future of the past is not safe in their hands’ he drew attention to the ways in which received wisdoms (of nationhood, of race, of power) should be regarded suspiciously; historiography becoming a contest of memory and remembering. He might have added that we should be similarly cautious about the manner in which cartography conceals as much as it reveals, we are made to ‘know our place’ through what lies beyond us, the boundaries and borderlines of ‘the elsewhere of place’. The spatial boundaries of today’s languages of rights structure the calculus of citizenship that needs to speak to the new Rachmans that are wholesaling old right to buy properties in inner London and to the white working class in Dagenham that face labour market competition from A8 migration as construction related wage rates are forced down and housing competition for each family is intensified by new gentrifiers and old eastwards migration of the Windrush generation.

This does mean that the forms of welfare state rationing that scale the local, national and global demand a debate about the forms of recognition and the forms of redistribution that might set the parameters of social policy intervention in housing, in health and in education. It also means that we might just need to consider the figuration of the local slightly more imaginatively. In narrating the iconographies of place in the stories of Barking fascists, mill town riots, rural migrant labour, the New East End, British Islam and cosmopolitan London we might just need to recognise some historical ghosts alongside the ‘elsewhere’ of the global political. 

For practitioners and politicians operating in local government it also means that we need to think carefully about the things we can influence, those we cannot and the difference between the two. The importance of the issues is beyond doubt. Perhaps our ability to address them might be considered with the ironic optimism of Samuel Beckett’s injunction to ‘fail again, fail better’.

Michael Keith is a Director of the Centre for Urban and Community Research at Goldsmiths College, University of London and the author most recently of ‘After the cosmopolitan? Multicultural cities and the future of racism’. He was formerly a politician in East London and a Commissioner on the government’s Commission on Integration and Cohesion.

Interaction at neighbourhood level

:Strategic approaches can bring success

(This document includes the written agenda presentations from the 'International Multi-Cultural Seminar' in Daegu and Gwangju co-hosted by the National Human Rights Commission of Korea, British Embassy in Korea, Yeungnam University, and Chonnam National University on November 8 - 9, 2007. 

The International Multi-Cultural Seminar was held to raise awareness of migrants' rights and further their social integration in Korean society, where the number of migrants now exceeds one million. Michael Keith and Leonie McCarthy (Commissioners, British Commission on Integration and Cohesion), and Ji-Hun Lee (Human Rights Solidarity for Women and Migrants) made agenda presentations. Among the participants in the panel discussion were human rights experts from Gyeongsang and Jeolla Province. This document contains only the greetings by the hosting organizations and written agenda presentations by those who made presentations on the main topic.)


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