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Public Keynote, Monday 5 September, Irchel Campus (Y04-G-30), 18:30-19:45

John Dixon, Ph.D., Professor, The Open University, United Kingdom

Navigating the Divided City: Place Identity and Sectarian Segregation in Belfast

Desegregation is a process through which members of formerly separated groups are brought together, often through the removal of institutional barriers to interaction. Two recurring arguments have been presented in favour of desegregation. The first holds that it promotes intergroup harmony and the reduction of prejudice; the second that it promotes social justice and equality. However, although most commentators now agree on the potential benefits of desegregation, evidence suggests that systems of segregation often prove highly persistent and adaptable, being driven not only by evolving institutional and structural processes, but also by so-called informal ‘preference schemes’ (Goldberg, 1996). Exploring this theme, my paper discusses the role of everyday mobility choices in sustaining everyday ‘activity space’ segregation in the historically divided city of Belfast. More specifically, it explores the role of place identity dynamics in shaping ongoing patterns of sectarian segregation in five communities in North Belfast, as expressed through everyday movements, trajectories, and use of public spaces.  To do so, I draw on data collected as part of the Belfast Mobility Project, which has combined large scale GPS tracking data and GIS analytics with questionnaire data and walking interviews.  In conclusion, I highlight how attempts to accomplish desegregation in divided cities must transform not only relations between different communities, but also relations between those communities the spaces and places in which they are embedded.