Seminar of Cultural Anthropology and European Ethnology
Doing neighbourhood: An ethnographic study in Kleinbasel on (trans)local and mediatised neighbourhood practices
Despite recurrent discourses about deterritorialisation and the loss of meaning of local communities, concepts and practices of neighbourhood remain an important part of urban life. The idea of neighbourhood is present in stories about everyday experiences with the „people next-door“, in projects of urban development and sustainable living, in local community initiatives, but also in scientific discourses about for example the emergence of virtual neighbourhoods (Appadurai). This PhD project understands neighbourhood not as a given and clearly defined social and spatial unit. From a cultural anthropological perspective, it is instead interested in the doing of neighbourhood: it views neighbourhood as a practice and as a concept that is imagined and enacted differently by different actors in different contexts. It assumes that various forms of mobility, a growing cultural diversity of the urban population, the availability of a wide range of different media technologies and the emergence of transnational mediascapes do not per se redundantise or destroy neighbourhood(s) but that they do have a considerable influence on urban neighbourhood(s): they change the structures of communication and the ways urban neighbourhood is imagined and lived.
Therefore, taking an urban district of the city of Basel as a point of departure, this PhD project investigates what meaning local neighbourhood in an urban context nowadays has and how it is lived. The main research question is: how is urban neighbourhood strategically and tactically imagined , lived, negotiated and (de)constructed by different urban actors – such as residents and other users of urban space, urban municipalities and politicians or local associations? The project is thereby especially interested in the influence of super-diversity (Vertovec), mobility and mediatisation and the emergence of new forms of doing neighbourhood.
To find answers to this question, the project uses an ethnographic approach – mainly (participant) observation and interviews in combination with other qualitative methods. The ethnographic research has a specific urban district of Basel, which is strongly shaped by mobility and super-diversity, as a physical point of departure. Yet, by following the concept of neighbourhood, it goes beyond administrative neighbourhood demarcations. The field of research consists rather of an assemblage of practices, actors, meanings, objects and discourses connected to neighbourhood and is centred around a selected number of case-studies of concrete neighbourhood practices in Basel.
Supervisors: Prof. Dr. Walter Leimgruber & PD Dr. phil. Dipl. Arch. ETH Gabriela Muri