Mapping the meaning of ‘difference’ in Europe: A social topography of prejudice

Gill Valentine, Aneta Piekut, Aleksandra Winiarska, Catherine Harris, Lucy Jackson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)
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This paper draws on original empirical research to investigate popular understandings of prejudice in two national contexts: Poland and the United Kingdom. The paper demonstrates how common-sense meanings of prejudice are inflected by the specific histories and geographies of each place: framed in terms of ‘distance’ (Poland) and ‘proximity’ (United Kingdom), respectively. Yet, by treating these national contexts as nodes and linking them analytically the paper also exposes a connectedness in these definitions which brings into relief the common processes that produce prejudice. The paper then explores how inter-linkages between the United Kingdom and Poland within the wider context of the European Union are producing – and circulating through the emerging international currency of ‘political correctness’ – a common critique of equality legislation and a belief that popular concerns about the way national contexts are perceived to be changing as a consequence of super mobility and super diversity are being silenced. This raises a real risk that in the context of European austerity and associated levels of socioeconomic insecurity, negative attitudes and conservative values may begin to be represented as popular normative standards which transcend national contexts to justify harsher political responses towards minorities. As such, the paper concludes by making a case for prejudice reduction strategies to receive much greater priority in both national and European contexts.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)568-585
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2015


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