Bringing the aesthetics in: migrants’ relationship with urban space in Toxteth


British Academy Small Grants (2015)


Dr Zana Vathi (Principal Investigator); Dr Kathy Burrell (Co-investigator); Natalie Robinson (Research Assistant)


This project will interweave cultural geography, urban sociology and environmental psychology to investigate the role of physical environment in the belongingness of migrants. It will look at a specific locality in Liverpool, Toxteth, which is characterised by a strong local identity. Although Liverpool has a diverse historic and contemporary profile as a city, it is almost absent in the literature on contemporary migration into Britain. While there have been discussions on the significance of the aesthetics of physical environment for community satisfaction or the human experience of inhabiting urban spaces, the appreciations that migrants may build of material space have been largely ignored. In this project we put migrants’ appreciation of aesthetics centre stage; rather than focus on migrants as passive subjects of the host country’s politics of immigration, or on processes of integration into the culture of the host society, we concentrate on the ways in which migrants’ appreciations of aesthetics relate to their perceptions of place, identity and sense of belongingness.


Vathi, Z. (2016). Visualising belongingness to urban space: migrants and locals in Toxteth, Liverpool. The Black E, Liverpool, 15 June – 15 July.

Vathi, Z (2016). ‘Here to stay’. Plenary talk for the event Migration, locality and the physical environment in Toxteth. Edge Hill University, 15 September.

Vathi, Z. (2017). Diaspora without the nation-state? Spatial transformations of urban space and Toxteth’s glocal diaspora. IMISCOE Annual Conference, Rotterdam, 28-30 June 2017.

Vathi, Z. and Burrell, K. (2016). Dereliction and revival: belongingness and wellbeing among migrants and locals in Toxteth. Annual Conference of RGS-IBG, London, 29 August – 2 September.