Thinkpiece – On Stephen Vertovec’s “Superdiversity’’

Published by: Gemma Hoult

Published on: 22 Oct, 2021

Thinkpiece – On Stephen Vertovec’s “Superdiversity’’

A overview of the some of the thinking of Vertovec’s compared with how TogetherintheUK is using story telling of lived migrant and refugee experiences to explain the complexities of migration.

Reference: Vertovec, S. (2007). Super-diversity and its implications. Ethnic and Racial Studies, 30(6), pp.1024–1054.

TogetherintheUK helps people who have come to the UK live an inclusive life through sharing insights from people who have made a similar journey”

TogetherintheUK serves people migrating to the UK for whom English is not their first language and who face challenges in adapting to life in the UK. Our aim is to develop the tools and information that will support an inclusive life for migrants. We solve challenges through storytelling.

We believe that a keyway to share in the complexity of moving to a new country is to provide a platform that celebrates storytelling – to enable conversation, connection and create new communities of diverse experience. Everyone one of us has a story to tell, and every time it is shared, it has the potential to help someone else who is in the process of moving, settling in, or might have been here for a while.

When we think about storytelling, we want to make sure we amplify a broad range of voices, to make sure that as many people as possible have the chance to share their experience, encourage others to do the same, and ultimately shine a light on how you can navigate your move to the UK.

The anthropologist, Stephen Vertovec, suggests that “the nature of immigration to Britain has brought with it a transformative ‘diversification of diversity’ not just in terms of bringing more ethnicities and countries of origin, but also with respect to a multiplication of significant variables that affect where, how and with whom people live.” (2007). At TGIUK, our purpose is to share stories about what life can be like as you move to the UK, to support as wide a range as of people as possible, in a time of change. We agree that migration is dynamic, ever changing, and often the product of a unique set of circumstances and decisions for individuals, families, and communities. Everyone’s experience of moving will be different – unique to them. We see that as special, and a point to be celebrated and shared. But by sharing we also see that there are common questions, issues, experiences, and emotions – which can help others as they move here, to the UK.

Migration is a complex web of dynamic stories that connect individuals to multiple communities, at different points in time and at different places. We draw on Vertovec’s framework of superdiversity as a means to find clarity in this web.

Key factors that Vertovec points to are:

  • Immigration status: are you an international student, asylum seeker or on a temporary work visa? What does that mean for you in terms of how long you can stay, if you can work, and what services you can access?
  • Divergent labour market experiences: Your skillset – and whether it is recognized in the UK
  • Age and gender: how do these factors affect the jobs that you take? Your accommodation, relationships with your community, and the wider infrastructure (be that healthcare, education, social services etc.)?
  • Patterns of spatial distribution- where you (are able to) live, with whom, and where you are able to travel to and from
  • Local resource provision- how do local councils and service providers manage their resources for non-UK citizens, and what is the local opinion on migration?

However, we have also found that there are so many other variables that affect the way in which everyone can feel included within their local communities, for example, food and access to ingredients, community events, volunteering opportunities, and access to green space. Through our storytelling platform, we will be able to develop on Vertovec’s list and show how the different factors impact on people’s lives.

Overall, stories that express the complexities of migration, are proving to be a brilliant way to celebrate and see the benefits of superdiversity. Storytelling has, after all, provided the bed rock for sharing the human experience for at least 80,000 years. We place value in each person’s story. We are all unique and our voices are all valuable. Enjoying listening to our podcasts and reading our blogs to find out many different and individual stories about the experience of migration and get ready for 2023 when TogetherintheUK / Support Us will be publishing an anthology of individual stories, poems and essays.

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