Neighbourhood Belonging

Neighbourhood belonging

There are a number of different conceptualizations of neighbourhood belonging which emerged in the scientific discourses on communities, neighbourhood attachment, and social or community cohesion from the early 1970s until today. In general, the literature on neighbourhood belonging and attachment identifies two main dimensions to describe the situatedness of people in their neighbourhood (Blokland 2003; Corcoran 2002, Woldoff 2002).


  1. Place attachment

The first dimension describes a sense of belonging and feeling of home through emotional bonds towards places and local areas. It refers to attitudes and the ties that people have with the immediate living environment. People attach social values to their neighbourhoods which are based on perceived feelings of belonging to their place of living. The bonds between people and places and the role spatial aspects have in the formation of sentiments may be called ‘place attachment’ or ‘sense of place’ (Hay 1998; Low and Altman 1992; Williams et al. 1992).

  1. Social embeddedness

The second dimension summarizes neighbourhood behaviour that leads to a process of social embeddedness through the structure of relationships and social ties among residents in neighbourhoods. While place attachment is merely measured through attitudes, social ties describe behavioural aspects of embeddedness and the connectedness to the locale (Guest et al. 2006). The focus on social ties evaluates social embeddedness through intimates and the frequency of contacts with neighbours, the overall knowledge of one’s neighbours by name and place of living, number of small talks on the street, occasional visits and the number of close friends in the neighbourhood (Hipp and Perrin 2006).

  1. Place attachment and social embeddedness in super-diverse neighbourhoods

In addition to processes of ‘place-making’ which concern the ways in which people give meaning to their physical environment, people also relate to the presence of others in local areas. Besides social relationships, which are discussed in detail below, people perceive or experience others without necessarily engaging directly with them. Even in (ethnically) super-diverse neighbourhoods, studies have shown that interethnic contacts are often limited (see e.g. Pinkster & Völker, 2009). People can value super-diverse places for their ‘atmosphere’, without having diverse networks or being integrated in social life in the neighbourhood (Blokland & Van Eijk, 2010). Given that social contacts between different groups are arguably of limited scope and depth, some authors advocate incorporating other dimensions of neighbourhood encounters which fall under the rubric of ‘lived diversity’. Among these are the visibility of diversity in public space and its sensory experience, which can be constituted of touch, sound, smell/taste, and vision that together make up ‘sensuous geographies of otherness’ (Haldrup et al., 2006; Wise, 2010; Rhys-Taylor, 2013).

List of references:

Blokland, T. 2003. Urban bonds: Social relationships in an inner city neighborhood. Cambridge: Blackwell Publishing Inc.

Blokland, T. and Van Eijk, G. 2010. “Do People Who Like Diversity Practice Diversity in Neighbourhood Life? Neighbourhood Use and the Social Networks of ‘Diversity-Seekers’ in a Mixed Neighbourhood in the Netherlands.” Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 36(2): 313-332.

Corcoran, M. 2002. “Place attachment and community sentiment in marginalised neighbourhoods: a European case study.” Canadian journal of urban research 11(1):47-68.

Guest, A.M., J.K. Cover, R.L. Matsueda, and C.E. Kubrin. 2006. “Neighborhood context and neighboring ties.” City & community 5(4):363-385.

Haldrup, M., Koefoed, L. and Simonses, K. 2006. “Practical orientalism – Bodies, everyday life and the construction of otherness.” Geografiska Annaler. Series B, Human Geography, 88 (2): 173-184.

Hay, R. 1998. “Sense of place in developmental context.” Journal of environmental psychology 18(1):5-29.

Hipp, J.R.and A. Perrin. 2006. “Nested Loyalties: Local Networks’ Effects on Neighbourhood and Community Cohesion.” Urban Studies 43(13):2503-2523.

Low, S.and I. Altman. 1992. “Place attachment: a conceptual inquiry.” Pp. 1-12 in Place attachment, edited by I. Altman and S. Low. New York: Plenum Press.

Pinkster, F.M. and Völker, B. 2009. “Local Social Networks and Social Resources in Two Dutch Neighbourhoods”. Housing Studies 24(2): 225-242.

Rhys-Taylor, A. 2013. “The essences of multiculture: A sensory exploration of an inner-city street market.” Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power, 20(4): 393-406.Sampson, R.J. 1988. “Local friendship ties and community attachment in mass society: A multilevel systemic model.” American Sociological Review:766-779.

Williams, D.R., M.E. Patterson, J.W. Roggenbuck, and A.E. Watson. 1992. “Beyond the commodity metaphor: Examining emotional and symbolic attachment to place.” Leisure Sciences 14(1):29-46.

Wise, A. 2010. “Sensuous multiculturalism: Emotional landscapes of inter-ethnic living in Australian suburbia.” Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 36(6): 917-937.Woldoff, R.A. 2002. “The effects of local stressors on neighborhood attachment.” Social Forces 81(1):87-116.

Woldoff, R.A. 2002. “The effects of local stressors on neighborhood attachment.” Social Forces 81(1):87-116.