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City, Street and Citizen: the measure of the ordinary

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Suzanne Hall 
Routledge (27 April 2012)

How can we learn from a multicultural society if we don’t know how to recognise it? The contemporary city is more than ever a space for the intense convergence of diverse individuals who shift in and out of its urban terrains. The city street is perhaps the most prosaic of the city’s public parts, allowing us a view of the very ordinary practices of life and livelihoods. By attending to the expressions of conviviality and contestation, ‘City, Street and Citizen’ offers an alternative notion of ‘multiculturalism’ away from the ideological frame of nation, and away from the moral imperative of community. This book offers to the reader an account of the lived realities of allegiance, participation and belonging from the base of a multi-ethnic street in south London.

City, Street and Citizen focuses on the question of whether local life is significant for how individuals develop skills to live with urban change and cultural and ethnic diversity. To animate this question, Hall has turned to a city street and its dimensions of regularity and propinquity to explore interactions in the small shop spaces along the Walworth Road. The city street constitutes exchange, and as such it provides us with a useful space to consider the broader social and political significance of contact in the day-to-day life of multicultural cities.

Grounded in an ethnographic approach, this book will be of interest to academics and students in the fields of sociology, global urbanisation, migration and ethnicity as well as being relevant to politicians, policy makers, urban designers and architects involved in cultural diversity, public space and street based economies.

  • Dr Suzanne Hall is a lecturer in the Department of Sociology at LSE and a research fellow at LSE Cities.

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'Suzi Hall breathes new life into discussions of multiculturalism, citizenship and identity. These commonly focus on nation-states, but in this lucid, engaging ethnography she shows how local practices and their contexts shape a sense of belonging and nearness that facilitates relations across lines of difference.'
Craig Calhoun, president of the Social Science Research Council

'Here is the story of a street in south London, a working-class part of the city. Suzanne Hall explores its street-life as a kind of theatre; she shows how sociability develops as bodily gestures, clothes, and speech become performing practices. The evocative ethnography is meant to prompt readers to think about how streets in other cities, other settings, might be designed to become vivid spaces. In sum, this is an impressive and moving book.'
Richard Sennett, University Professor of the Social Sciences at New York University

'With the precision of an architect's eye and the attentiveness of an ethnographer's ear Suzanne Hall offers us a profound and urgently needed account of the multicultural life in Britain. This book should be read widely by anyone who has a serious interest in the future of city life.'
Les Back, Professor of Sociology, Goldsmiths

Book Launch

On: Tuesday 12 June from 6.30-8pm in the Alumni Theatre, New Academic Building, LSE.
Speaker: Suzanne Hall, lecturer, Department of Sociology, LSE and research fellow, LSE Cities
Discussant: Caroline Knowles, professor of sociology and head of the Centre for Urban and Community Research, Goldsmiths.
This event is free and open to all on a first come first served basis. No booking or RSVP required. For more information, click here|.