In many contemporary societies, the potential benefits of racial integration are undermined by de facto or informal segregation. The present research focuses on this phenomenon, and its role in (re)producing group boundaries, particularly those realized spatially. A multimethod approach was employed. Naturalistic observational techniques were used to examine the seating patterns of 26 undergraduate tutorial groups across a full academic year. Results from the longitudinal study show strong patterns of racial segregation. Focus group discussions were conducted in order to explore the social practices and processes that underlie informal segregation. We argue that an implicit system of unofficial rules governs intergroup relations and shapes contact opportunities among students. The perpetuation of racially homogenous spaces-intentionally or incidentally-is proposed as both a key outcome and as a key determinant.

South Africa, education, observational method, racial disparity, racial segregation, spatial analysis, student,
Journal of Social Issues
Erasmus MC: University Medical Center Rotterdam

Alexander, L, & Tredoux, C. (2010). The spaces between Us: A spatial analysis of informal segregation at a South African University. Journal of Social Issues, 66(2), 367–386. doi:10.1111/j.1540-4560.2010.01650.x