Concordia Discors January 2011 to October 2012


This was a European trans-national project led by the Forum of International and European Research on Immigration (FIERI) in Italy. The research investigated intergroup relations at neighbourhood level, with the aim of producing a deep, strongly empirically-based and directly policy-relevant understanding of integration and conflict processes in European city neighbourhoods. Its specific focus was eleven quarters of five European cities. COMPAS researchers were responsible for work in the London neighbourhoods of Camberwell and Bermondsey.

By conceptualising integration as an interactive process, which involves both majority and minority populations, the project explored how the residents of selected neighbourhoods, including both the majority population, as well as well-established minorities and more recent immigrants, experience inter-group relations in their own locality. The project also aimed to facilitate dialogue between the research community, policy-makers, migrants and civil society at a local, national and European level. The reports compiled by the various research teams provide evidence-based recommendations to decision-makers at all these levels.

Principal Investigator

Ben Gidley


Hiranthi Jayaweera
Ole Jensen


European Fund for the Integration of Third Country Nationals



European forum of migration studies (efms)

European Policy Centre (EPC)

Grup de Recerca sobre Migracions (GRM), Spain

TARKI Joint Research Centre, Hungary






Overall, the fieldwork carried out in ten neighbourhoods in five European cities found some evidence for the hypothesis that integration is a spatial as well as a social property, and that the texture of urban space is one of the factors shaping the social fabric against which intergroup relations occur. This texture varied hugely not just between but also within cities. In a UK context, the two Southwark neighbourhoods of Bermondsey and Camberwell served to demonstrate how structural properties, such as the housing stock and the demise of the industrial inner-city, impacted ethnic make-up and inter-group relations. Sandra Wallman’s concept of open and closed urban systems provided a useful framing of the history of inter-group relations and the nature of emerging urban dynamics in the two neighbourhoods. The findings also suggested a proliferation of differences, far beyond us-them distinctions based on race and ethnicity, and with much more emphasis on socio-economic differentiation.


The project involved a range of different methods, all of them employed in two neighbourhoods in all participating cities:

Analysis of quantitative data sets: The analysis of quantitative data sets – in particular those relating to demography, immigration and employment – provided a general understanding of the neighbourhoods, and constituted the basis of the background report completed in 2012.

Key informant interviews: 20 semi-structured interviews were carried out with local stakeholders, including black and minority ethnic (BME) communities, resident organisations, local government authorities and other service-providers.

Ethnographic fieldwork: In-depth fieldwork in six ‘sites of interaction’ – three in each neighbourhood – was central to the approach in the main part of the fieldwork. Chosen sites of interaction would, in the London neighbourhoods, include housing estates and public squares. A total of 36 interviews were carried out with residents in these sites.

Media analysis: A quantitative content analysis was carried out of two locally available papers – The Evening Standard and The South London Post – in order to explore representations of immigrant and minority populations. The analysis included articles published in the period 2006-11.


These key findings relate to the fieldwork carried out in London:

Bermondsey and Camberwell are characterised by two very different narratives of community. The idea and memory of Bermondsey as a community is still dominated by a core of white working class residents. Accordingly, narratives around cohesion and integration remain anchored in a distinction between a local, white population and immigrants from abroad. In contrast, Camberwell’s history as an arrival area can be translated into a present day perception of the area as super-diverse, without a well-established resident core with a claim to history and identity of the neighbourhood.

Both Bermondsey and Camberwell are characterised by increasing levels of socio-economic diversity, and this was seen by many as the biggest impediment to inter-group relations. In Bermondsey, the re-development of the former docklands into expensive housing has resulted in a very distinct and visible social and economic delineation. In Camberwell, where class divides have been historically reflected in the housing stock, larger parts of the neighbourhood have been gentrified. In both Bermondsey and Camberwell, this socio-economic differentiation can be translated into an overlaying of class with race/ethnicity, as the majority of incomers can be categorised as white and middle-class.

Long-term mobility dynamics are contingent on the availability and nature of housing stock in Bermondsey and Camberwell. The housing market shapes the socio-spatial dynamics of the neighbourhoods, providing opportunities and barriers for the mobility of different groups within them. Up to the 1980s, the housing stock in Bermondsey consisted almost exclusively of social housing managed by local authorities, making it difficult for outsiders to get access to the area. In contrast, Camberwell is characterised by a very mixed housing stock, and the availability of relatively inexpensive housing is one of the factors that have attracted immigrants to Camberwell in the post-WW2 period.

It is in part the access to local housing that has attributed to generational divides along ethnic lines. In Bermondsey, this is expressed in a ‘skewed’ demography, with an elderly white population contrasted by a younger population of immigrants and ethnic minorities, often with children. In Camberwell, which has been an immigrant destination for much longer than Bermondsey, the same generational trend has served to intensify super-diversity.