Presented by Najia Zaidi

The research examines invisible boundaries which prevent ethnic minority communities accessing urban public spaces, including complex dynamics of ethnicity, caste and class. Focusing on the case study of Gujrati community in Leicester, it shows multiple cultural sensitivities that are often not taken into consideration by civil society institutions, even as they seek to enable participation. The data suggests that considering how residents imagine boundaries traversing the urban environment, and how these bound them from others – including powerful institutions – explains why certain physical spaces and spaces of participation remain inaccessible to them. This research demonstrated that the perception of accessible spaces extends beyond distance and physical accessibility to a desire for power to shape those spaces. By critically examining the factors that delimit movement in space, the study extends the understanding of access and participation, highlighting that the two are not in a straightforward linear or hierarchical relationship in which one precedes the other. Rather the two can be sought together, with participation a prerequisite for access. Secondly, effective participation does not just require power to be shared across the boundary between institution and “community” – it should also be distributed across the community, and traverse social boundaries within it.

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