Changing dynamics of urban diversity II

Time: 13:00 - 14:30 
Room: PA329, P46 OsloMet

Questions of diversity, difference and divides are central to urban studies. Cities are celebrated as places and spaces where diversity – cultural, social, political – can flourish. At the same time, cities are sites where diversities and differences are sources of contestation and tension, where urban encounters may (re)construct and destabilise boundaries of inclusion and exclusion (Ye 2019).

Research agendas on urban diversity and difference include questions of migration, work and social inclusion, social differentiations and their intersections, indigenous urbanisation, as well as the management and governance of increasing urban diversity and difference (Raco and Tasan-Kok 2019).

The current pandemic has further alerted us to the complex dynamics of urban diversity, both by exposing socio-spatial inequalities, changing patterns of mobility and migration, and by revealing how representations of differently positioned citizens – socially, culturally, ethnically – play out in media and policy debates. 


Inspired by Ye’s (2019) question about how we ‘live with difference in shared spaces’, we aim to discuss multiple dynamics of urban diversity and explore the productive encounters and frictions that shape inclusion and exclusion in multiple spaces and places of the city.

To structure our session, each participant will have 10 minutes to present their paper and respond to questions. We will conclude with a plenary discussion with all participants.

Paper 1:Urban Planning and Housing Infrastructure: Exploring the Effect of Homeownership for Migrant Low-Income Families’ Belonging and Well-Being,
Anne Sigfrid Grønseth, Inland Norway University of Applied Science, Lillehammer

Urban development and housing politics concerning migrant and low-income families are complex and sensitive issues to address. This paper is based on a pilot study on a radical municipal approach to housing for low-income migrant families in a community in Norway; “Ownership first”.

The model offers homeownership for families that would not be able to buy a house without guarantee and help from the municipality. The main objective of the study is to explore the impact of homeownership on belonging and well-being for these families.

During the last decade, the number of children growing up in low-income families has increased with about 9-10 percent. This mirrors an increased number of people who for different reasons, such as migrant background, are not able to enter the work market so as to secure sufficient income to purchase self-owned housing. As such, it appears a link between housing policy and infrastructural spatial processes affecting senses of belonging, identity and well-being.

In this paper I understand urban development and housing of low-income migrant families to form an infrastructure which shapes the urban physical space and entangles migrant families as it configures their social status, belonging and well-being. I underline how housing infrastructure can be seen as dynamic and relational (Larkin, 2013).

Infrastructures are present to our senses, though also overlooked by our focus on the matter they move around. This is a view that includes the physical, psychological and social perspectives and processes, and have crucial effect on shaping place and space and generate belonging, identity and well-being in urban planning and cities of diversity.

Paper 2:Queuing for food and playing lottery for beds: A parallel social service system and the lived experiences of humanitarian service provision to homeless EU migrants in Norway, Turid Misje, VID Specialized University

This paper analyses humanitarian social service provision to homeless EU migrants in Oslo, Norway. Most of these migrants have no or weak affiliations with the formal labour market, resulting in restricted rights to public welfare services.

Recent years have seen an upsurge of humanitarian services such as basic healthcare, food, shelter, and sanitary facilities, provided through nongovernmental organisations (NGOs). Nevertheless, availability is limited; thus, with the intention of securing fairness in a context where resources are scarce, service providers create strategies for restriction of access and queue management.

The different services are spread out within the city, making migrants spend considerable time moving between them in their struggles to get basic needs met. Taking an afternoon spent with Bogdan, a Romanian man navigating several services, as my point of departure, I explore how humanitarian social service provision to homeless EU migrants simultaneously alleviates migrants’ precarious situations and regulates their everyday lives.

The concept of the humanitarian administration of time is introduced to call attention to this duality. A main contention is that a parallel social service system, taking on a bordering function, is emerging in Oslo.

Paper 3: Ethnic minorities’ responses to covid-19 in Oslo. Information, compliance and impact on daily life, Marit Ekne Ruud and Susanne Søholt, NIBR, Oslo Metropolitan University

How did people with an immigrant background in Oslo understand and respond to the information about infection control measures during the first period of the Covid-19 pandemic? In what ways did the pandemic lead to changing behavior and change in daily routines, and in what ways did the pandemic have unintended positive or negative consequences for their everyday life?

Official figures showed that the immigrant population had the highest infection rates, especially in some districts in Oslo. Various causes such as cramped housing, language problems and/or culture were suggested, but there were almost no studies focusing on the target group’s own experiences and interpretations of how to cope with the situation.

Our descriptions and analysis are based on empirical studies in Oslo (April 2020 to April 2021)1.. The data include qualitative in-depth semi structured interviews with people with an immigrant background who work in exposed or vulnerable occupations, interviews with representatives from immigrant organizations and from two city districts, as well as a survey to 600 respondents: families with minority background in another city district.

Our findings demonstrate high compliance among our informants and respondents, despite structural obstacles such as job situation, reduced income, cramped housing, or language challenges. The compliance is primarily justified by fear of getting sick oneself, by infecting other family members and close relatives and by fear of transferring the virus from one arena (school, job) to another (family, acquaintances, leisure activities).

Paper 4: CROSS-CULTURAL MEDIATORS: INNOVATIVE INTEGRATION INITIATIVES IN SPORT, Torill Nyseth and Marit Aure, University of the Arctice:

The narrative of the multicultural society might be established as a discourse, everyday practices of integration is however a different story. Social and cultural integration need, in order to be successful, to include integration into everyday activities, such as leisure activities and sport, which represent the lifestyle of the host society, particularly in Scandinavia.

Sports clubs can be understood as an example of what Ash Amin defines as micro-publics such as workplaces, schools, colleges, youth centers, sports clubs, and other spaces of association. These are sites for coming to terms with ethnic difference (Amin, 2002, 971).

Although sport clubs are understood as inclusive arenas open for all, they are highly organized and institutionalized with particular codes of conduct and expectations to be met both by the children themselves and their parents in order for the kids to attend the activities The threshold to get membership and enter the activities of a sport club can be experienced as quite huge for newly arrived immigrant families.

To facilitate immigrant children into these activities several strategies are employed. Some sport organisations in some communities have trained immigrants that see themselves as well integrated in the host society to function as brokers or mediators between the immigrant families and the sport clubs.

This article focus on the role of these intercultural mediators and their work in bridging the gap between the immigrant families and the sport institutions. They can be portrayed as human interfaces or meeting points bridging between cultural groups (Panareda, 2006:413) or cultural brokers.

Based on a qualitative study of the Activity-guides of Tromsø Idrettsråd this paper present this initiative, what they do and how this work and discuss pitfalls and challenges, conditions for success, why they are necessary and whether sports activities may be organized in a way that makes such programs redundant. 


The session is organised by members of the Diversity Studies Centre Oslo (DISCO)’s working group on urban space and diversity, Oslo Metropolitan University

  • Chair: Erika Gubrium, Oslo Metropolitan University

We plan hybrid panels to accommodate international participants unable to travel to Oslo.

Note: This session is one of three sessions under the theme «Changing dynamics of urban diversity’»