Dislocating identity: Desegregation and the transformation of place

John Dixon, Kevin Durrheim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

172 Citations (Scopus)


Whatever other changes it engenders, desegregation invariably produces a re-organization of space and place, a fact whose implications the psychological literature on the process has generally disregarded. The present article begins to address this gap. Drawing on research on place-identity processes, we argue that desegregation may alter not only the relationship between self and other, but also the relationship between self and place. As such, it may be experienced as a form of dislocation: an event that undermines shared constructions of place and the forms of located subjectivity they sustain. In order to develop this idea, we analyse a series of interviews conducted with holiday-makers on a formerly white but now multiracial beach in South Africa. The analysis demonstrates how white respondents' stories of desegregation evince an abiding concern with the loss of place, manifest in terms of an erosion of a sense of place belonging, attachment and familiarity and an undermining of the beach's capacity to act as a restorative environment of the self. The implications of such accounts for understanding personal and ideological resistance to desegregation are explored. The paper concludes by arguing that this problem provides an opportunity to conjoin environmental and social psychological work.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)455-473
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Environmental Psychology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2004
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Applied Psychology


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