Heterolocalism: An alternative model of the sociospatial behaviour of immigrant ethnic communities

W. Zelinsky, Barrett Alan Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

227 Scopus citations


This paper evaluates critically the applicability of the well-known assimilation and pluralist models to the contemporary ethnic landscape of the US. The two models, despite their strengths, fail to account satisfactorily for the sociospatial behaviour of recent immigrants or of previously established minority groups. Their deficiencies lead us to propose a third model which we label heterolocalism, which can supplement and partially replace the older two. A late 20th-century phenomenon, heterolocalism is a function of the profound restructuring of the relationships within a globalising society among people, places, and social and economic entities. The term itself refers to recent populations of shared ethnic identity which enter an area from distant sources, then quickly adopt a dispersed pattern of residential location, all the while managing to remain cohesive through a variety of means. Heterolocal situations are readily observed in metropolitan areas, but such ethnic 'communities without propinquity' may exist at the regional scale, within non-metropolitan settings, or - under the designation of 'transnational' - as something approaching 'deterritorialised nations' that span the boundaries of two or more conventional nation-states. Although the most conspicuous heterolocal communities involve the relatively privileged, the model is also valid for certain lower-status groups whose economic survival relies upon movement and transactions over long distances while retaining or creating a sense of peoplehood.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)281-298
Number of pages18
JournalInternational Journal of Population Geography
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1 1998

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Demography
  • Geography, Planning and Development


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