Central to the post-2001 British policy shift from multiculturalism to community cohesion is the assumption that the disturbances were the product of youth identities that were shaped by ‘parallel lives’ and that there is a need for increased contact between communities. There is evidence to support the notion that many young British people, particularly in areas of significant ethnic physical segregation, favour distinct and racialised identifications, although the positional and situational nature of youth identification is sometimes understated. This paper draws on research techniques based on word association, carried out in Oldham and Rochdale, two towns in Greater Manchester often portrayed as epitomising ethnic segregation. The research provides some evidence regarding ways in which young people view the ‘other’ in relation to their self-identification, and also how they perceive their town and area. The research suggests that the factors structuring the development of identifications and categorisations are complex and multilayered, but that, although there is evidence of negative views of ‘out-groups’ held by both White and Muslim young people, the latter group have more positive place attachments and attitudes towards multiculturalism. The findings suggest that the context in which contact between groups takes place may be important for the success of enhanced contact as a strategy.