Journal of Community & Applied Social Psychology

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Volume 12 Issue 1 (January/February 2002), Pages 1-82

Representations of ethnicity in people's accounts of local community participation in a multi‐ethnic community in England (pages 13-29)


In this paper we examine the impact of the social construction of ethnic identities on the likelihood of local community participation. We do so in the context of an applied interest in the current policy emphasis on partnerships between government and local communities in initiatives to reduce health inequalities, and a conceptual interest in the role of social representations in perpetuating unequal power hierarchies. Semi‐structured interviews were conducted with 75 residents of a deprived multi‐ethnic area in south England. Informants described themselves as African‐Caribbean, Pakistani and White English; half men and half women, aged 15–75. We draw attention to the way in which ethnic identities may be constructed in ways that undermine the likelihood of local community participation. Stereotypical representations of ethnically defined ingroups and outgroups (the ethnic ‘other’) constituted key symbolic resources used by our informants in accounting for their low levels of engagement with local community networks. We examine the content of these stereotypes, and highlight how their construction is shaped by historical, economic and social forces, within the context of the ‘institutional racism’ that exists in England. Copyright © 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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