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Episode 7 (sz 2) Professor Maurice Crul on the Art of Living Together

"The research shows that while attitudes towards diversity are generally positive, people's social circles often remain homogeneous. To change this, we need organized efforts that create opportunities for meaningful interactions, such as mixed sports teams or community projects that bring people together with a common purpose."

>>> intro

Dear listener, inclusion is the central theme throughout this podcast series, and we strive to approach this topic intersectionally. Just as inclusion involves more than only ethnic background, health, or socio-economic status, it also intersects with employment, education, housing, and feeling at home in society.

In this episode, we explore these intersections and reflect with Professor Maurice Crul, professor of education and diversity at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, on the new minority and how these people participate and contribute to the art of living together.

The book 'The New Minority: On People Without a Migration Background in the Super-Diverse City' is the basis for this conversation – a book that is freely available online. Join us in this discussion, which forms the seventh episode of our second season, and explore with us what integration, belonging uncertainty, and segregation mean for our future.

Good morning.

Thank you, Professor Crul, for having this conversation with us. I asked you to join us based on your book 'The New Minority' - could you perhaps introduce yourself to our listeners: who are you, what do you do, and why?

I am Maurice Crul, I work here at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. I am a professor of education and diversity, and I have been researching the school and labor market careers of migrant children for about 25 to 30 years.

Could you tell us more about your research into the practice of living together?

Well, as I said, I have conducted extensive research on migrants and children of migrants - now also grandchildren of migrants - and about five years ago we realized that there is actually one forgotten group when it comes to society, integration, and diversity, and that is people without a migration background. In many large Western European cities, they have become the numerical minority. Their lives have also changed significantly over the past 30 to 40 years. So, we decided to look into how these people experience life in the big city, in the diverse city. Do they have contacts with people with a migration background? Do they feel comfortable in a diverse neighborhood? That was the starting point for the new research. And so, we arrived at the question: how do we live together?

Before we dive into that, I am curious about why this group has become somewhat forgotten - why hasn't there been much research on them?

Yes, well, that's a good question, of course. If I look at the research, it's clear that since the 1980s, the focus has been on labor market performance, school achievements, and crime. And it was always about the disadvantaged position of children of migrants. And that was justified, of course. There were many concerns about school performance and labor market discrimination... But we have also been saying since that time that integration is a two-way process. There are two parties that are important in this. And yes, the party without a migration background is also important in shaping society. And, strangely enough, there has almost never been any attention to this.

I read in your book that there seems to be a sort of taboo around focusing on people without a migration background. How would you explain that?

Yes, that taboo became apparent fairly quickly when the research started. There were many reactions in the media about this research. And it was more in the line of 'What are we going to experience now?' 'Do people without a migration background have to integrate, do they have to adapt?' And our answer is: let's just look at how these people themselves experience living in this diverse society. It is always said that it is a huge challenge for people without a migration background to live in a diverse society. Let's now look at how they actually experience and do this.

And what were the reactions to your research?

From the right wing politics, there was a lot of attention on the position of people without a migration background in diverse societies. However, our research was framed as suggesting that people of Flemish or Dutch descent had to adapt to migrants, which is not the case. Instead, it is about everyone contributing to the practice of living together.

You mentioned earlier that people sometimes don't see the consequences of their choices. Could you elaborate on that?

Yes, for example, in Amsterdam, people can choose to send their children to less diverse schools outside their neighborhood. This can result in children not knowing other local children or parents not knowing their neighbours, which affects their integration into neighborhood activities. Such choices, although made for good reasons, have social consequences that are often overlooked.

This can potentially place children at a disadvantage in the future, right?

Exactly. At our university for example, half of the students have a migration background. Students who grow up in less diverse environments often struggle to integrate into such a diverse student body, which can affect their social and professional futures. They might face challenges leading diverse teams or working with colleagues from various backgrounds.

How do you plan to address this issue practically?

We give many lectures and are in discussions with politicians and policymakers to create inclusive policies that focus on everyone, not just migrant groups. We are also talking with housing associations to design living spaces that encourage interaction among diverse residents. The key is to consider the impact of every policy decision on segregation and the practice of living together.

In your book, you discuss the concept of 'belonging uncertainty.' Could you explain this?

This concept, which my PhD student Lisa-Marie Kraus identified from American literature, refers to the uncertainty people feel about their acceptance in a particular environment. This feeling is not unique to minorities with a migration background but is also experienced by white Flemish and Dutch individuals in diverse settings. They often feel uncertain about their acceptance and whether they know the right social codes.

Many people express positive attitudes towards diversity but have limited interactions with people from different backgrounds. How can we address this?

The research shows that while attitudes towards diversity are generally positive, people's social circles often remain homogeneous. To change this, we need organized efforts that create opportunities for meaningful interactions, such as mixed sports teams or community projects that bring people together with a common purpose.

It seems that practical, organized interactions are key to fostering genuine integration. What would be your most pressing advice?

My main message is that living in diversity requires a psychological shift, especially for people without a migration background. They need to see themselves as part of the solution and actively participate in creating a successful inclusive society. This means embracing the privilege of contributing to this practice, which ultimately leads to a better and more fulfilling life for everyone involved.

Thank you very much for the conversation.

Thank you.

>>> outro

You were listening to an episode of 'Let’s Talk About Work,' the podcast of the WEB-Blenders group. Our discussions are about work, the path to work, well-being in the workplace, and everything that comes with it. You can find us on your favorite podcast platform and at www.blenders.be/podcast. Follow us on social media on LinkedIn and on Instagram. Stay up to date via the Blenders newsletter. Were you intrigued? Did this conversation make you think? Would you like to be one of our next guests? Let us know via info@blenders.be, and who knows, you might join us at the table soon.