The ambivalent implications of strong belonging for young people living in poor neighborhoods

Research output: Book chapter/Published conference paperChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review

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It is a now a commonplace observation that globalization is widely transforming everyday lives, and this includes a practical and symbolic significance of neighborhoods. Experiences of personal and social belonging, grounded in positive attachments to local neighborhoods, have long been considered as important in promoting personal well-being and local social cooperation. Social connections with family and friends, however, are detaching from local neighborhood settings and becoming more spatially dispersed. Metaphors of movement and flow are increasingly used to evoke qualities of contemporary personal, social, and economic life. Social inclusion is conceived as being part of the flows, while problems of socio exclusion and marginalization are experienced as immobility. Paradoxically, neighborhoods are both less and more important in everyday life. They are less important because there is generally diminishing dependence on them to meet everyday needs for services, support, and companionship, yet they have heightening significance in providing access to social, economic, and symbolic resources.

This chapter focuses on the transforming significance of place belonging for young people growing up in poor neighborhoods. If poverty is increasingly likely to involve experiences of being fixed in place, this can inculcate strong feelings of place attachment and local belonging. Within neighborhood zones of high concentrations of poverty and limited flows , young people become dependent on local networks of family and friends to meet a range of needs. It can also be difficult to establish social connections that extend outside of home neighborhoods, and problems of place stigma and racism (often associated with circumstances of poverty and marginalization ) can reinforce these difficulties. Tendencies toward high dependence on local neighborhoods run counter to generalized trends in which individuals are detaching from place. The implications for young people growing up in poor neighborhoods are linked to the ways in which socioeconomic marginalization is acquiring significant spatial dimensions.

The significance of the socioeconomic contexts in which experiences of place belonging are anchored is rarely considered, yet they are critical for understanding the opportunities that are presented to young people. Drawing on theoretical and empirical work from the fields of urban sociology, social geography, and ethnographic studies exploring lived experiences of poverty and socioeconomic disadvantage, this chapter explores the ambivalent implications of place attachments and strong belonging among young people living in poor neighborhoods. Nuanced understanding of the value and constraints presented through powerful experiences of local belonging in these contexts should inform policies and approaches seeking to link young people into opportunities for wider social, economic, and cultural participation.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHandbook of children and youth studies
EditorsJohanna Wyn, Helen Cahill
Place of PublicationSingapore
Number of pages14
ISBN (Electronic)9789814451154
ISBN (Print)9789814451147
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jan 2015


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