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Collective life: parents, playground encounters and the multicultural city.

Wilson, Helen F.



For parents, the school playground is a site of daily intermingling—an important and yet often overlooked site of sociality. Yet whilst it is a space where common needs and experiences are shared, and where friendships and subtle gestures of familiarity are formed, it is also a site of ‘panoptic force’, where on-going conflicts over class, religion, race and competing interpretations of morality are played out and reinforced. This paper focuses on an ethnographic account of an urban multicultural primary school in Birmingham, UK, to argue that the playground, as a prosaic space of urban encounter, can open up a new set of discussions around segregation and the everyday (dis)assemblies of collective life. Attending to both the routines of daily school life and the work of a voluntary Parents Group that aims to address the challenges of living with difference, the paper details the fragile associations, friendships and mechanisms for social learning that develop within the prosaic spaces of the playground. As such, the paper (re)positions the playground as a site of productive sociality, ongoing negotiation and incremental change, which can work to counter anxieties around cultural diversity and challenge wider concerns about the state of contemporary multiculturalism.


Wilson, H. F. (2013). Collective life: parents, playground encounters and the multicultural city. Social and Cultural Geography, 14(6), 625-648.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Feb 25, 2013
Online Publication Date Jun 3, 2013
Publication Date 2013-09
Deposit Date Sep 14, 2017
Journal Social and Cultural Geography
Print ISSN 1464-9365
Electronic ISSN 1470-1197
Publisher Taylor and Francis Group
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 14
Issue 6
Pages 625-648

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