Unpacking a closed concept: understanding sustainability through the everyday practices of Somali immigrants in Manchester

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


We present findings from mixed-methods research conducted in summer 2018 into the environmentally-significant household practices of Somali immigrants in Moss Side, an ethnically ‘super-diverse’ (Vertovec 2007) ward in Manchester. Like other Global North cities, Manchester is juggling the pressures of inward migration and urban austerity while trying to become a ‘world leader in inclusive and sustainable growth’. An identified challenge to this ambition is the lack of informed understandings of the environmental concerns and knowledges of ‘hard to reach’ groups such as immigrants from the Global South (cf. Head et al. 2018). Our research was framed by a theoretical critique of the dominance of Western imaginaries in conceptualising and governing sustainability and by an intersectional approach to considering the composite effects of gender, socioeconomic background, ethnicity, and religion on the dynamics of sustainability practices. Drawing on analysis of survey and interview data, we present three key contributions to this emerging area of study: first, we theorise the cultural, economic and structural factors that may determine the continuation or discontinuation of practices as people migrate. Second, we identify a number of motivations (cultural, economic, governmental and environmental) underpinning the performance of practices such as food acquisition and preparation, use of water and energy and recycling. Third, and building on these observations, we argue that these findings allow us to trouble dominant understandings of sustainability and have potential to contribute to more inclusive strategies for addressing the intersecting challenges of international migration and urban environmental change in Manchester and beyond.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusUnpublished - 17 Jun 2019
EventNordic Geographers Meeting : Sustainble Geography; Geographies of Sustainability - Norwegina University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway
Duration: 16 Jun 201919 Jun 2019


ConferenceNordic Geographers Meeting
Internet address

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Sustainable Consumption Institute


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