Neither ‘Deepest, Darkest Peckham’ nor ‘Run‐of‐the‐Mill’ East Dulwich: The Middle Classes and their ‘Others’ in an Inner‐London Neighbourhood


This article examines how middle‐class residents of an inner‐London neighbourhood draw up socio‐spatial and symbolic boundaries between themselves and their ‘others’. Through a discussion of accounts of two very different boundaries — the boundary of a multi‐ethnic high street and a less clearly defined boundary of a neighbouring middle‐class area — we argue that the production of middle‐class identities is bound up with processes of disaffiliation not only from proximate stigmatized areas, but also from more upmarket areas and the people who populate them. Against this background it becomes clear that middle‐class claims to belonging are made through (1) the asymmetric processes by which the middle classes create and maintain spatial boundaries between themselves and racialized/classed others, and (2) the subtle processes of distinction that go on within the middle classes. Nevertheless, relationships to place remain ambivalent, and as neighbourhoods undergo change, physical boundaries separating one area from another refuse to stay put. We argue that the re‐inscription of such boundaries in the accounts of middle‐class respondents are attempts to create a stable identity on the shifting ground of the contemporary global city.