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Much of British life and experience happens around the high street. By engaging with this space we can explore how national and global processes, such as migration, shape our experience.

Dr Suzanne Hall is an urban ethnographer and Director of the Cities Programme in the Department of Sociology at the London School of Economics. In this podcast we speak to Dr Hall about how people make, shape and participate in their urban spaces based on her research into ordinary and super-diverse streets.

You can follow Dr Suzanne Hall on twitter at @SuzanneHall12

Key words

The practices (laws, language, material objects, and object use) that people under-take in order to make spaces such as the street their own.

An approach to research that involves spending time in a particular place in order to gain a greater understanding of how that place is habitually experienced by the people that live, work, or pass through it.

Global capitalism
The transnational flows of capitalism that is shaping states and displacing people through capital.

The space outside that is designated by authorities; it refers to places that are governed by everyday practices and people.

Super diversity
The notion that population diversity is higher than ever before.

A vendor who owns, or operates a business with five or fewer employees, such as a fruit, or vegetable vendor or mobile phone shop.


City Street Data Profiles on Ethnicity, Economy and Migration

Rookery Road, Birmingham

Stapleton Road, Bristol

Naraborough Road, Leicester

Cheetham Hill, Manchester

Lesson Plans

Show students the film, Ordinary Streets. In class discussion: what have they learned about the particularities of Rye Lane, Peckham? Introduce today’s lesson as focusing on ordinary high streets. 

As a starter, ask students to consider their local high streets – what are their experiences of it? Students should sketch a pencil illustration of their high street that considers how the space is used.

Introduce the Super Diverse streets project and provide students with City Street Data profiles for one of four places: Birmingham, Bristol, Leicester, and Manchester.

Students should work in groups to look over these profiles and present their findings to the class. Ask them to describe the economic and social landscape at this place. How is it linked to other parts of the world? In class discussion considers: how does this complicate the idea of place being fixed?
As part of their own independent research, students should return to the pencil illustration of their local high street. What are the economies populating this place? What are the activities that take places there on an everyday basis? How is this linked to other parts of the world? Expand this illustration so it becomes a ‘world to street’ map similarly to the data profiles. Is their local high street diverse? If not, consider why not.

Ask students to reflect on times that their local high street has been used beyond what has been intended by the council, or official place-makers. What activities have taken place here? How are people participating in this space?

To finish, as a class, debate how retail spaces can be used as a place-making activity beyond economic value, for example, as a form of community, and social exchanges.


Ordinary Streets, LSE Cities (Video)

Super diverse Streets, LSE Cities

Global cities, local streets

The Casey Review

Suggested Reading

Bayat, A (2005) Life as Politics: How Ordinary People Change the Middle East. Routledge: London

De Certeau, M. (2011) The Practice of Everyday Life. University of California Press (3rd Edition)

Hall, Suzanne M. (2015) Migrant urbanisms: ordinary cities and everyday resistance. Sociology, 49 (5). pp. 853-86

Robinson, J (2005) Ordinary Cities: Between Modernity and Development. Routledge: London

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

Zukin, S, Kasinitz, P, Chen, X (2015) Global Cities, Local Streets: Everyday Diversity from New York to Shanghai. Routledge: New York