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Integration and the negotiation of 'here' and 'there': the case of British Arab activists

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Immigrant-receiving societies are increasingly emphasizing the need for immigrants to integrate into mainstream life. In Britain, this trend has manifested itself in 'social cohesion' discourses and policies. Discussions about social cohesion have often focused on the residential patterns of immigrant and minority groups in British cities, with the assumption that residential patterns are an indication of social integration. Integration, however, is also a socio-political process by which dominant and subordinate groups negotiate the terms of social membership. We explore the ways in which British Arab activists conceptualize their membership in and responsibilities to their places of settlement; we also consider how they reconcile notions of integration with their connections to their places of origin. Our study participants speak of the need for immigrants to participate actively in their society of settlement, but they reject the idea that integration requires cultural conformity or exclusive loyalty to Britain. Their definition of integration as a dialogue between distinctive but equal groups sharing a given place provides a normative alternative to social cohesion discourses.
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Keywords: British Arabs; integration; social cohesion; transnationalism

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Geography, Callcott Building, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC, USA 2: Institute of Geography, Drummond Street, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK

Publication date: 2008-06-01

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