Gentrification as a driver of social and racial tensions: the case of Brixton

Amélie Bertholet
In)famous for the various riots that have occurred there since the 1980s, the working-class district of Brixton in south London has recently seen an influx of middle-class residents who prize the area for its diversity and tranquillity. However, as Amélie Bertholet shows, this trend does not mean the end of the area's troubles. Brixton, a neighbourhood in the inner-London borough of Lambeth, 1 has been marked by a strong Jamaican presence since the end of the Second World War. 2 This "[ethnic]
more » ... ommunity area" 3 (Guillon and Taboada-Leonetti 1986) has long been the textbook example of a "relatively autonomous social space (...) based on the existence of an ethnic-community infrastructure (...) and dense networks of relationships" and was generally regarded as a neighbourhood resistant to all forms of gentrification (Haumont 1998). However, the socio-economic profile of the population has been changing over the last decade, with an influx of young, mainly white, populations in managerial occupations, attracted by good public transport links (notably the Northern Line of the London Underground) and property prices that are still significantly lower than those of central areas or more sought-after neighbouring districts. 4 This (until recently) relatively homogeneous working-class area now seems to be becoming more divided. New populations are introducing new lifestyles and consumption habits to the area (Knox 1991) that are gradually generating both symbolic and spatial fractures. The process of social and symbolic re-evaluation of the neighbourhood seems to benefit the newly established social group to a greater extent, despite the fact that they are in the minority in Brixton numerically, and appears to marginalise the existing residents of Jamaican heritage.