Ironies of proximity: Intergroup threat and contact avoidance on neighbourhood interface areas

John Dixon, Colin Tredoux, Kevin Durrheim, Philippa Kerr, Brice Gijbertsen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Research on the dynamics of neighbourhood desegregation and diversity has identified a paradox. On the one hand, such processes may engender positive intergroup contact experiences, improving intergroup attitudes and relations. On the other hand, they may have the opposite effect, exacerbating negative intergroup relations and generating new forms of avoidance and exclusion. The present research explored one aspect of this paradox. Building on a field survey conducted with Indian residents (n = 364) of a suburb of Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, we demonstrate how their relative proximity to areas occupied by ‘incoming’ Black African residents has shaped their perceptions of intergroup threat and associated reactions such as contact avoidance, boundary fortification and support for policies resisting desegregation. At the same time, we demonstrate how such effects are moderated by residents' wider experiences of positive interracial contact. In conclusion, we emphasize the need to better integrate psychological work on the contact hypothesis with work in companion disciplines such as urban studies and human geography. Please refer to the Supplementary Material section to find this article's Community and Social Impact Statement.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1331-1346
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Community and Applied Social Psychology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2023


  • contact hypothesis
  • neighbourhood diversity
  • segregation
  • threat

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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