A naturalistic observational study of informal segregation: Seating patterns in lectures

Jennifer Koen, Kevin Durrheim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Citations (Scopus)


In spite of the removal of legislated racial segregation, a number of observational studies in South Africa and elsewhere have shown that "informal," nonlegislated segregation persists in spaces of everyday interaction. Most of these have been case studies of segregation at single sites. The authors seek to quantify segregation in a sample of sites, in order to develop models of the factors that predict segregation. To this end, the authors use photographs of 67 first-year university classes, taken during the first 2 weeks of the semester, and then again during the last 2 weeks of the semester. Segregation is analyzed using Campbell and colleagues' measure of seating adjacencies. Across the classrooms, segregation correlates with class size, venue size, and class density, and results show higher levels of segregation in the second observation in comparison with the first. The authors conclude that interracial contact at university does not lead to the formation of cross-race friendships and consider a number of ergonomic factors that affect segregation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)448-468
Number of pages21
JournalEnvironment and Behavior
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Informal segregation
  • Observational research
  • Race contact

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Environmental Science


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