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'It’s what I’ve always done': Continuity and change in the household sustainability practices of Somali immigrants in the UK

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Catherine WalkerORCiD


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This paper explores the household sustainability practices of people who have migrated from the Global South to the Global North, by studying how Somali immigrants living in the UK engage with the sustainability agenda, why, and to what effect. We report on the findings of a mixed methods study conducted in Manchester in summer 2018, identifying patterns of continuity and change between country of origin and current residence in three environmentally significant areas of practice: resource conservation, recycling, and enjoyment of the natural environment. We then show how engagement or non-engagement in household sustainability practices is motivated by material/structural, ideational, and social factors. Our findings suggest that Somali immigrants are engaged with household sustainability for a variety of reasons, experience tensions and frustrations related to barriers to sustainability, and have knowledge that could make a positive contribution to green policy agendas. The findings allow us to disrupt dominant conceptions of household sustainability and to challenge the assumption that newcomers from ‘less developed countries’ need to be socialised into adopting household sustainability practices. We further argue that policy makers should consider more elastic notions of household sustainability, to better fit with and respect the lifestyles and motivations of immigrant communities.

Publication metadata

Author(s): MacGregor S, Walker C, Katz-Gerro T

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Geoforum

Year: 2019

Volume: 107

Pages: 143-153

Print publication date: 02/12/2019

Online publication date: 15/10/2019

Acceptance date: 24/09/2019

ISSN (print): 0016-7185

ISSN (electronic): 1872-9398

Publisher: Elsevier Ltd


DOI: 10.1016/j.geoforum.2019.09.013


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