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Abstract

The role of racial segregation in perpetuating racial prejudice and inequality has been widely investigated by social scientists. Most research has concentrated on the macro-sociological organization of institutions of residence, education and employment. In this paper, we suggest that such work may be usefully complemented by research that investigates the so-called ‘micro-ecology of segregation’ in everyday life spaces – the dynamic, largely informal network of social practices through which individuals maintain racial isolation within settings where members of other race groups are physically co-present. Developing this argument, we discuss some historical examples of research on the micro-ecological dimension of race segregation in the United States. We also draw examples from an ongoing program of work on everyday practices of contact and segregation in post-apartheid South Africa. The paper concludes by exploring some conceptual and methodological implications of treating racial segregation as a micro-ecological practice.