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CCRU home background on CCRU community relations equality and equity research

Project Title:Integration and Division
Contact:Brendan Murtagh
Address: University of Ulster
Magee College
Northland Road
BT48 7JL
Telephone:028 71 375282


Research on the geography of religion has almost exclusively been concerned with spatial segregation and the processes of polarisation. This has provided important material on the reality of locality life in Northern Ireland but has tended to close down rather than open debate about the possibilities of other community future. Research on integrated education and workforces has been fundamental in shaping locally relevant policy, legislation and institutional responses. Similar research, debate and policy have not been replicated in the fields of community development housing and planning. This proposed research aims to investigate the production of new integrated housing in outer-South Belfast to try and unpack the processes at work on the opposite end of the segregation continuum. But it suggests that answers to questions about community integration can best be answered by looking at the ‘social’ and ‘cultural’ capital resource of each and both communities and the connectivity within and between them.

A number of related propositions will help to direct the research:

Fundamentally, it tests whether these areas are spatially integrated but socially segregated in the way in which the two communities go about their daily lives;

Segregation will be evident in the degree to which social networks are integrated or separate. Networks describes the linkages (connectivity) between local ‘social’ and ‘cultural’ capital;

Social capital is the resources that belong to each community in the form of schools, churches, groups and societies and in and friendship connections;

Cultural capital consists primarily of the benefits produced by a shared identity, heritage and common interest in the future;

Understanding the nature of segregation and integration will reply on a detailed analysis of social capital, cultural capital and the connectivity between them.

In order to address these propositions the research proposed a household survey to examine social distance, social capital and networks in the area. Defining measures for social and cultural capital will be an important methodological objective of the work, particularly as it aims to look at local ‘capital’ in outer-South and differences with the rest of the Northern Ireland population using Omnibus data. The latter will produce important control and comparative data in order to assess the distinctiveness of community life in integrated communities.

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