Strangers in Paradise (StIP). Understanding the polarisation between natives and migrants in the urban periphery (KU Leuven-C2) (2020-2023)

Hans Leinfelder, Elise Schillebeeckx, Pascal De Decker & Willemien Van Damme

As is happening worldwide, migrants in Belgium are increasingly settling outside traditional gateway cities. While for many people with an immigration background the move from the city to the urban fringe symbolizes social mobility, it kindles feelings of alienation, resentment and grief for the loss of a local identity and socio-spatial recognizability amongst a part of the native population. This translates itself in eruptions of right-wing populism. The aim of our research is to study migrants’ intricate pathways of socio-spatial incorporation into the Brussels’ urban periphery, while focusing on the cumulating tensions that form the breeding ground for the increasing polarisation between the ’established’ and the ‘outsiders’. By doing so, our study will contribute to the literature on immigration outside urban contexts and the ensuing tensions with natives. The project aims to provide local and supra-local authorities with tools to facilitate migrant incorporation and to contribute to a more nuanced debate in society.