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Neighbourly relations can be ordered and defined in a number of ways whether it is through certain identities or virtual social rules, created, maintained and repaired by people in groups with a situation in common or a relationship to act out in their everyday lives. This essay examines the relations, conflicts and differences that come with neighbourhood life both in the Uk and other countries where contradictions and the limits between what is seen as friendly and where invasive behaviour starts are an important part of ordinary, daily life.
Last of all it will show how these relations can easily break down due to tensions caused by conflicts over noise and space where the division between private and public life is hard to define. When we speak about local residents we see them as having a collective or group identity with a particular situation in common, but they also have relational identities as neighbours with conflicting feelings of trust and suspiciousness.
In addition people seem to behave in certain ways when they are part of a group as many researchers have discovered through studies on identity, one of these Tajfel cited in Taylor, 2009, p.
170, from his study found that if you tell people that they are part of a group this automatically influences the way they act. We often behave in ways which tell others who we are or how we want to be seen, a little like play acting, our daily lives become a stage on which we perform and relate to our public in social situations, as Ervin Goffman cited in Taylor, 2009, p. 72, found from his study in 1959 on everyday lives, society is a moving picture and identities are understood by looking at what people do rather than who they are. Furthermore a social identity is created through connections with others in different situations or places as we can find in neighbourhoods, by looking at the way people interact with each other and the sort of virtual, unwritten rules regarding privacy and friendship that people abide by everyday. Stephanie Taylor, 2009, on pg. 173) seems to sum all this interaction up in just one short sentence; “social life proceeds rather like an endless slow dance”, and if we look at the discursive psychological approach that Jovan Byford (2009) uses to analyse a conversation he had with his neighbour, a perfect example of this dance is the way his neighbour tries to maintain a pattern of identity and typical behaviour of a how a ‘good’ neighbour should act.
These patterns of behaviour and uses of identity are an essential part of maintaining and repairing order within certain groups or in society in general something which we have heard an example of in ‘Studying Identities’, 2009, track 1, when Professor Margaret Wetherall speaks about the studies carried out on conflicts of a segregated society in Ireland. She explains that the segregated groups had a stronger sense of community with less elaborate identities and social networks, but that this had a great impact on the levels of prejudice towards other groups.
Neighbourly relations can be complicated and contradictive as there are two contrasting sides to this type of relationship, the first being that neighbours need to live together happily, be helpful and always be there when needed and the other is that they need to respect a person’s privacy and mind their own business. This is when the dancing partners need to keep an adequate distance from each other trying not to step on each other’s toes, and as (Jovan Byford, 2009, pg. 251) says “good fences make good neighbours”. This is particularly so with regards to the UK, Anthropologist Stanley Brandes cited in Byford, 2009, p. 59, from his study on social order in Becedas, Spain found the same kind of strong contradictions in rural life, but with a difference in how they acted and danced in their every day lives. He compared neighbourly relationships to the family and found that they feared privacy and saw it as being rude something which could be seen as a breath of fresh air from an English point of view, but these neighbours needed each other to survive and this closeness was seen as a form of surveillance and the necessity to lean on each other brought with it great suspicion, vulnerability and distrust.
However there can be tensions in neighbourly relations causing them to break down, this can be for a series of reasons but mostly regarding space and noise when we talk about neighbourhoods. Disputes can arise through people stepping over unwritten, social or group boundaries and if the two sides are unable to repair or settle their dispute then a mediator is often introduced to try and stop the case getting out of control and ending up in court.
Elizabeth Stokoe, cited in Byford, 2009, p. 264, in 2006 examined cases of complaints about sexual intercourse and found that people didn’t really want to complain as they were afraid of invading a person’s private life, but at the same time they believed that private activities should be kept private. Another example of tensions between neighbours is a study done by Joanna Bourke, cited in Byford, 2009, p. 66, in 1994 on the noise in overcrowded working-class housing in the 1940/50s, and here too we can see that residents took measures to distance themselves from their neighbours like placing their bed on the other side of the room to try and resolve and repair the conflict that could or had already arisen. In conclusion we can say that the fine line between what is seen as a friendly or intrusive neighbour is very difficult to decipher, and we are continuously dancing with each other throughout life to find the right balance, so finally we can say that neighbourly relations are definitely characterized by a friendly distance.
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