Major construction sites in Australia are settings of ‘everyday ethnic diversity’ as well as ‘everyday racism’. Scholars investigating the everyday experience of ethnic diversity have concluded that the prevalence of poor ethnic relations has been exaggerated, and that ethnic diversity is marked by as many positive and neutral interactions as negative experiences. The assertions of the ‘everyday multiculturalists’ are strongly confirmed in this paper which examines the attitudes and experiences of 1155 workers and 204 managers who were surveyed on 29 and 16 Sydney construction sites respectively, during 2008 and 2009. The three key findings are: first, that there is ‘everyday ethnic diversity’ on construction sites; second, that there is also ‘everyday racism’, and; third, that the inculcation of the former and the mitigation of the latter is poorly managed. Workers were generally pro-ethnic diversity and were positively disposed towards ethnic mixing. Ethnic mixing at work was very high, much more common than had been anticipated in previous research on this setting. One-third perceived there to be ethnic discrimination on construction sites and roughly the same proportion reported they had been the target of racism in that setting. The most common manifestations of racism were in the forms of racist graffiti and derogatory name calling: almost half of the workers acknowledged that they themselves had told racist jokes in the workplace. Key out groups in Australian society (Lebanese- and Asian-Australians) were the targets of greatest antipathy, reinforced through visceral assertions regarding the poor hygiene and morals of those groups. Construction sites are an especially productive setting in which to analyse the normalisation of negative ethnic interactions – ‘everyday racism’, and in which to consider anti-racism. But anti-racism programs are not currently a management priority.
|Keywords:||Everyday Ethnic Diversity, Everyday Racism, Construction Sites, Australia|
Professor of Human Geography and Urban Studies, School of Social Sciences, University of Western Sydney, Sydney, NSW, Australia
Professor, School of the Built Environment, University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW, Australia
Reader in Organizational Behaviour, School of Construction Management & Engineering, University of Reading, Reading, UK
PhD Candidate, School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Australian Defence Force Academy, University of New South Wales, Canberra, ACT, Australia
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