Territoriality and Migration in a Divided Society: Lay Theories of Citizenship and Place in Northern Ireland


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Abstract

The study of citizenship has increasingly focused on the ways in which spatialized understandings of the concept can be used to marginalize and exclude social groups: exclusive constructions of national boundaries, local neighborhoods, and public spaces can deny marginalized groups their social and political rights. Less attention has been paid to how constructions of place can accommodate different groups’ rights and promote peaceful coexistence. This is particularly important in locations where migration disrupts existing understandings (‘lay theories’) of the relationship between residency, identity, and collective rights. The present research examines how spatialized understandings of citizenship shape perceptions of intergroup mixing in previously segregated areas of a postconflict society. Critical Discursive Social Psychological (CDSP) analysis of 30 interviews with long-term residents and recent migrants to increasingly mixed areas of Belfast shows that, although all participants acknowledged Northern Ireland’s territorialization, different lay theories of citizenship underpin the possibility and desirability of intergroup coexistence. Long-term residents drew upon understandings of the negative citizenry of the outgroup to argue against the possibility of peaceful coexistence within their locale, whereas recent incomers gave evidence of their own experiences of good citizenship within the shared spaces of neighborhood to demonstrate that this could and should be achieved. The implications of lay theories of citizenship for the study of residential migration and mixing are discussed.

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