‘The Inner Citadels of the Color Line’: Mapping the Micro-Ecology of Racial Segregation in Everyday Life Spaces



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.