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Moving on from ‘Anti-Racism’? Understandings of ‘Community Cohesion’ held by Youth Workers

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  07 June 2007

School of Education and Professional Development, University of Huddersfield, Queensgate Campus, Huddersfield HD1 3DH. Email:


‘Community Cohesion’, and the apparent lack of it, was rapidly offered as the explanation for the 2001 disturbances across northern England, and has since become a cornerstone of government approaches to race relations policy. This article explores what Community Cohesion means to welfare practitioners in Oldham, one of the affected towns. Academic discussion of Community Cohesion has been largely hostile, focusing on the language and assumptions of the government reports. While highlighting important issues, these debates have been virtually free of empirical evidence on how Community Cohesion is actually being understood and operationalised by welfare practitioners. Drawing on in-depth research with youth workers in Oldham, I argue that the Community Cohesion analysis of the state of race relations is largely accepted, and supported, by those youth workers, and that it has enabled a significant shift in the assumptions and operations of their professional practice. Within this ‘modal shift’ in practice is a moving away from the language and assumptions of ‘anti-racism’, as it has been largely understood and operationalised by youth workers on the ground, towards what I argue can be seen as ‘critical multi-culturalism’.

© 2007 Cambridge University Press

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