Location dynamics, owner occupation and ethnicity in Scotland

Using surname grouping to identify ethnic identity, this project set out to model the spatial dynamics of ethnic migration within and between cities in Scotland. The aim was to fill an important gap in evidence for health, housing, education and social service planning by modelling, explaining and predicting inter-Census spatial patterns of ethnicity (currently unknown) of migration flows. The project combined advanced statistical techniques with nuanced qualitative research to deepen our understanding of how changes within communities are experienced, represented and responded to, and how ethnicity is claimed and ascribed within/across communities.

The qualitative dimension of this project focused on a local, residential area, Pollokshields, in the South side of Glasgow. We explored how the area has been constructed, experienced and understood, how intersections of ethnicity and class interact with this, and finally how choices about residency are shaped, constrained and informed.

In investigating these questions we used a combination of residential interviews on three contrasting streets within Pollokshields, allowing for a class comparison in a multi-ethnic area, alongside a series of ‘key actor’ interviews which were undertaken with different local estate agents. Through this combination of methods we explored how the area is imagined, reproduced and sold and how ethnicity interacts with these different meanings.
We have also worked with the local Heritage society and have had access to the society’s local archival collection which documents important historical debates and activities within the area.

Throughout the study the research has been interested in investigating how different constructions of the area invoke either ‘sameness’ or ‘difference’ in terms of ethnicity and class.

Emerging analytical questions included:

• How do particular material objects within the area interact with wider social relations? Symbolic struggles over the framing of glass windows, for example, emerged as significant within the interviews in a number of different ways and we are exploring how material objects of this kind become significant markers and foci of contestation.

• What is the role of ‘taste’ in the production of racialized and classed understandings of social space, and how might we make use of Bourdieu’s conception of cultural capital to account for the classifying work of social taste in reproducing ideas of difference in an area like Pollokshields?

Recent outputs from this research project include:

A view through a window: social relations, material objects and locality

Shirin Hirsch and Andrew Smith

The Sociological Review, 2017.


Timothy Birabi

Sue Easton

Shirin Hirsch

Andrew Smith