Problematising concepts and methods for civil society research in superdiverse neighbourhoods

Jenny Phillimore, gabriella elgenius, magda borkowska, juta kawalerowicz

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This article analyses challenges for civil society research in superdiverse areas and proposes ways to overcome them. Key components of previous studies are problematised, such as the lack of attention to demographic complexity, the focus on formally registered organisations at the expense of informal ‘below the radar’ initiatives, the over-reliance on analyses using administrative data and building on dichotomous categorisations of social capital. The article calls for scholars to develop methodologies and theory that enable research across the full range of civil society activity. We argue for a holistic approach to researching civil society through comparative and mixed-methods designs that facilitate research about the nature of civil society action, its forms, patterns and experiences. The concept of ‘superdiversity’ is useful to reflect evolving demographic complexity, given age, gender, nationality, religion and immigration status, and divergent experiences of rights and the labour market.
Original languageEnglish
JournalVoluntary Sector Review
Early online date6 Jul 2022
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 6 Jul 2022


  • civil society
  • comparative and mixed methods
  • social capital
  • superdiversity


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