Separate Enclaves and Apartheid

Separate enclaves can gradually form, where a cultural group is largely isolated from other people; this was imposed under apartheid.

The tendency for people to want to live next to others of the same culture can, if unchecked, lead naturally to developing communities which interact very little with the other cultural groups in a society.  There are also examples of political action to separate people from different cultures.  Apartheid, as practised in South Africa, has now officially ended but there are widespread examples of milder forms – such as redirecting housing by what the Electronic Encyclopaedia of Chicago describes as ‘Steering’, to develop separate enclaves and form ghettos.  Ostensibly this separation might be expected to reduce conflict between different cultural groups, but in practice it leads to mutual suspicion and fear; it is politically unstable because it inevitably leads to unfair treatment of one group or another, or at least a perception of inequality, so that it fosters discontent.

In some countries, action has been taken to increase social cohesion by combating separatism.  In 2001, after riots in Britain, the Cantle Report on Social Cohesion found that “many communities operate on the basis of a series of parallel lives.  These lives often do not seem to touch at any point, let alone overlap and promote any meaningful interchanges”.  The report referred on page 70 to ‘racial steering’ in Oldham, a “local authority, which, in the early 1990s, had been found guilty of operating a segregationist housing policy”.  It made 67 recommendations, including taking positive measures in schools to encourage mutual understanding and setting up initiatives to ensure that people from different cultures meet each other and reduce their mutual distrust by working together.

The Electronic Encyclopaedia of Chicago entry, Oak Park, IL, described how the Oak Park Housing Center in Illinois managed most of the housing rentals to successfully maintain the district “as a multicultural, cosmopolitan middle-class community” rather than follow the pattern of block-by-block segregation that had emerged in nearby Chicago.  That has led to more peaceful coexistence.


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This page is intended to form part of Edition 4 of the Patterns of Power series of books.  An archived copy of it is held at https://www.patternsofpower.org/edition04/6634.htm.