This essay will examine the attributes of desirable neighbouring, looking at the characteristics and unwritten rules of good neighbouring, how material life shapes social identities and social order to regulate and control the distance and proximity between neighbours. Secondly, personal and social identities are discussed and how these affect the interaction with neighbours. Thirdly, tensions around different cultural social rules are considered and the effect of these different rules has on desirable neighbouring. Lastly, causes and effects of neighbourly disputes are examined while also looking at how these broken connections are remade. Qualitative data is used as evidence to support this analysis, this type of data is given in a non-numerical format, usually gathered from an interview or survey form, as well as using observations by the researcher. Desirable neighbouring is described as the balance between preserving the connection with neighbours, examining their material lives of how, where and when they interact with their neighbours, while maintaining a suitable proximity and respecting their ‘need for privacy’ (Wilmott, cited in Taylor, 2009, p. 173). Byford (2009, p. 254) compares desirable neighbouring to a ‘slow dance’, whereby neighbours should preserve their proximity to each other, while not getting too close or be too distant, in order to stay connected with each other. This type of social behaviour is unwritten and learned through socialisation (Byford, 2009, p. 254), whereby individuals observe and follow the norms of acceptable behaviour (Hetherington, 2009, p. 20). Harold Garfinkel (cited in Taylor, 2009, p. 173) argues that social life is fluid, continually changing whereby individuals constantly adapt to preserve the balance of social order in the neighbourhood.
Harris and Gale (cited in Byford, 2009, p. 255) identified that ‘neighbours communicated primarily outside of the home’ in what was perceived as public space, and ‘not in the home’ which could be perceived as ‘over-neighbouring’ by infringing on their neighbours personal space. Kat Fox (cited in Byford, 2009, p. 256) argues that the ‘front garden’ was perceived as a public space, due to it being visible from the street, but it was a ‘grey area’ as it was not a ‘public space in the true sense of the word’. Nevertheless, it was perceived as an acceptable place to socially interact and connect with neighbours.
Taylor (2009, p. 170) explains that personal identity is ‘a person’s own idea’ of who they are, however this is fluid and changes over time. Additionally, Taylor (2009, p. 171) argues that personal identity does not exist in isolation, but an individual has a group of identities. Individuals connect and associate themselves with a particular place, which affects the way they think and present themselves to others, in turn creating a social identity (Taylor, 2009, p. 186). Stephanie Taylor (2009, p. 185) explains that the concept of desirable neighbouring is a discourse, where similar ideas are shared by society, thereby creating an identity, which is associated with expected behaviour, such as the identity of a ‘good neighbour’. For example, Jovan Byford (2009, p. 258) describes an interaction with a neighbour, whereby the individual identifies herself as a helpful neighbour, adhering to desirable neighbourly behaviour, while maintaining the appropriate proximity and distance. This social identity and behaviour helps make sand maintain connections with neighbours, which in turn repairing social order. However, if this connection is broken, then efforts should be made to repair the connection with neighbours which re-balances social order (Taylor, 2009, p. 291).
Jovan Byford (2009, p. 259) argues that cultural differences lead to different neighbouring styles, social rules and identities. Nevertheless, the purpose to provide social structure is still the same. However, social rules can be caused by mistrust and the need for power and control. Stanley Brandes (cited in Byford, 2009, p. 260) explains that in Spain, desirable neighbouring requires individuals to be close, both socially and physically. For example, he observed that neighbours leave their front doors open and neighbours come and go from each other’s houses without hesitation, whereas the qualities of ‘not being intrusive’ and ‘reserved’ were seen as suspicious and rude. However, this proximity and closeness was used as form of surveillance and control. Different social rules can lead to inequalities and unequal connections, some neighbours might be excluded for not adhering to the expected social rules or not being able to participate (Taylor, 2009, p. 158).
The boundaries of good neighbouring are unwritten and are subjective interpretation, which can therefore lead to disputes (Byford, 2009, p. 263). Elizabeth Stokoe (cited in Byford, 2009, p. 264) examined how a neighbour’s intimate noises were intruding into the other neighbour’s private space. The main issue was that the neighbour was not seen to be considerate by minimising the noise, which was intruding into the other neighbour’s private space. Steps were taken to repair the social order using mediation. This is an example of how social order can be broken and repaired, but the neighbour’s relationship was not completely the same as before which highlights the fluidity of social life and how it changes.
To summarise, material life can connect and disconnect neighbours, desirable neighbourliness does not only include social and physical distance and proximity, but also how an individual presents themselves and is therefore perceived by their neighbours (Byford, 2009, p. 258). Taylor (2009, p. 171) argues that personal identity is not fixed and includes multiple identities. One of which is their social identity of being a neighbour, which is made and remade as individuals adapt to the fluidity of social life. Additionally, different cultures have different social rules and expectations around desired neighbouring, which can cause tension and inequality. Inturn, this can lead to disputes to arise leading to a break in social order, different social rules can lead to unequal connections, allowing individuals or groups to dominate and control creating differences and inequality in social order and life (Taylor, 2009, p. 291). Byford (2009, p. 254) compares desirable neighbouring to a ‘slow dance’, requiring neighbours to change and adapt to the differences and inequalities of social life, to make and repair social order created from this.