Encountering Difference
Encountering Difference
In the face of the destructive possibilities of resurgent nationalisms, unyielding ethnicities and fundamentalist religious affinities, there is hardly a more urgent task than understanding how humans can learn to live alongside one another. This fascinating book shows how people from various societies learn to live with social diversity and cultural difference, and considers how the concepts of identity formation, diaspora and creolization shed light on the processes and geographies of encounter.

Robin Cohen and Olivia Sheringham reveal how early historical encounters created colonial hierarchies, but also how conflict has been creatively resisted through shared social practices in particular contact zones including islands, port cities and the ‘super-diverse’ cities formed by enhanced international migration and globalization. Drawing on research experience from across the world, including new fieldwork in Louisiana, Martinique, Mauritius and Cape Verde, their account provides a balance between rich description and insightful analysis showing, in particular, how identities emerge and merge ‘from below’.

Moving seamlessly between social and political theory, history, cultural anthropology, sociology and human geography, the authors point to important new ways of understanding and living with difference, surely one of the key challenges of the twenty-first century.
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  • May 2016
  • 200 pages
  • 145 x 224 mm / 6 x 9 in
Available Formats
  • Hardback $67.50
  • 9781509508792
  • Paperback $23.75
  • 9781509508808
Table of Contents
  • Framing the question: a preamble
  • 1. Shaping the tools: three concepts
  • 2. Exploring difference: early interactions
  • 3. Locating identity formation: contact zones
  • 4. Expressing merged identities: music
  • 5. Celebrating and resisting: carnival
  • 6. Constructing heritage
  • 7. Marking identities: the cultural politics of multiple loyalties
  • 8. Encountering difference: a conclusion
About the Author
Robin Cohen is Emeritus Professor of Development Studies, Principal Investigator on the Oxford Diasporas Programme and Former Director of the International Migration Institute at the University of Oxford

Olivia Sheringham is a Postdoctoral Researcher in the School of Geography, Queen Mary University of London and Research Officer at the International Migration Institute, University of Oxford
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"This is one of those rare books which is both erudite, eloquent and existentially engaging. The authors embark on a journey through culturally variegated landscapes, addressing the human condition and the contemporary world as they go along, asking how people are able to live with diversity; and they generously invite the reader to take part in this conversation, which is so crucial for the future of humanity on this shrinking planet of ours."
Thomas Hylland Eriksen, University of Oslo

"This book offers a fresh perspective in shifting the focus from human conflict to how people 'make a life together'. To navigate the difficult terrain of a diverse world, it provides readers with a pair of carefully articulated concepts as guiding lights: while diaspora looks backwards to shared heritage and homeland, creolization gives weight to the forward-looking, creative energies inherent in culture contact."
Brenda S. A. Yeoh, National University of Singapore

"With exceptional range of coverage and strong conceptual engagement, alongside a peppering of informative photographs, this book offers something for research, teaching, and general reading alike. [] an important launchpad for rethinking how we approach the challenging topic of living with, in, despite, and through difference in divided times."

"This book is a delightful read. It succeeds because it grounds empirically rich case studies in a well thought-out theoretical framework, moving beyond bland and uninspiring liberal nostrums that all cultures matter. The volume demonstrates that understanding cultural encounters necessitates more than simply acknowledging differences, but requires delving into how coexisting identities complement rather than contradict one another."
Barney Warf, Social & Cultural Geography
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