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Neighborhoods Culture Definition

Until now, the scenes have been widely used to understand the transformation of the neighborhood. For scenes or other forms of urban subculture to influence the cultural mechanisms of neighborhood effects, we need to develop a broader understanding of how scenes in a neighborhood affect individual residents. What types of scenes are most common in and around disadvantaged neighborhoods? In which scenes do residents of disadvantaged neighbourhoods outside their own neighbourhood participate? Do the scenes favoured by the upper class offer local residents the opportunity to acquire cultural capital? Do the scenes offer sources of identity or neighborhood narratives? For example, Wherry (2011) shows how branding a neighborhood as a cultural hub can reinforce ethnic identities and provide context for the practices and performance associated with those identities. Do the scenes offer employment or consumption opportunities for local residents, or are their equipment primarily produced for and by foreigners? What types of scenes increase or decrease social cohesion and collective effectiveness? Does a variety of scenes create or contribute to cultural heterogeneity? The dominant conceptualization of the cultural context of poor neighborhoods in the literature on neighborhood effects is what we call the “deviant subculture” theory. The predominance and pervasiveness of this theory has meant that its fundamental ideas and assumptions are rarely stated explicitly, resulting in significant differences among researchers in its presentation and application. Our description of this perspective therefore comes from a variety of sources. These relationships can be used to promote culture and strengthen the character of the neighbourhood by bringing different cultural communities to the table to achieve complementary goals. The literature on neighbourhood effects has mainly used the concept of institutions in a narrow and particular sense, considering them as organizations that create, aggregate and (to some extent) cultural resources. Wilson (1987) argued that the exodus of middle-class blacks from inner-city ghetto neighborhoods in the post-civil rights era weakened the institutions of these neighborhoods, leading to what he called “deinstitutionalized ghettos” (see also Wacquant (2008) on “hyperghetto” and the deinstitutionalization of marginalized neighborhoods in general). Although the contours of the institutional landscape in poor neighbourhoods remain an open empirical question (Small 2006, 2009; Small and McDermott, 2006; Small and Stark 2005, Sánchez-Jankowski 2008), it becomes clear that institutions play an important role in the life of neighbourhoods. For example, Small, Jacobs and Massengill (2008) argue that local institutions foster and maintain neighbourhood network relationships by connecting otherwise segregated people. Cultural change has been motivated, at least in part, by empirical work on the values, attitudes and ideals of the poor, and continues to be applied in this area.6 Studies of education, fertility and work in poor communities have shown a strong adherence to conventional values such as the importance of education.

marriage, parenthood and work. Qualitative research has provided evidence of high levels of cultural conflict in poor communities (Hannerz 1969, Anderson 1999);7 has argued that local cultures are derived from the dominant culture but are reinterpreted to meet local needs and in response to blocked opportunities, rather than a rejection of the dominant culture due to lack of opportunities (Liebow 1967, Duneier 1992, Anderson, 1978, Rodman, 1963); and showed that local values are compatible with dominant values (Edin and Kefalas 2005, Newman 1999). 15There are a number of other ideas from cultural sociology that seem promising for the study of neighbourhood effects. In particular, we challenge researchers to examine the applications of group style (Eliasoph and Lichterman 2003) and semiotic context (Tavory and Swidler 2009) to the study of neighbourhoods. The first could be applied to models of interaction at the neighbourhood or sub-neighbourhood level, examining how different group styles are provided, adopted and modified, and how they limit or enable certain types of collective social action. The latter, it seems, could presumably be used in the analysis of the different codes and scripts at play in a neighborhood, ideally to show how the availability or unavailability of certain codes makes actions more or less likely. A number of topics seem feasible, but the direct application of the case of Tavory and Swidler (condom use) could be one of the most interesting. Because of the confounding challenges caused by family history and individual characteristics, the vast majority of neighborhood effects research in the United States has focused on documenting the existence and relative magnitude of these effects. However, as we move beyond questions of selection bias, scientists have begun to study the processes or mechanisms by which neighborhood effects occur and for whom they matter most. This is not to say that the literature on previous neighbourhood effects was not theoretically motivated, but that the empirical emphasis was on the existence of neighbourhood effects rather than on studying how neighbourhood effects arise and function. Several theories about neighborhood effects in the United States have been proposed, including, but not limited to, social isolation, social (dis)organization, environmental risks, violence, institutional resources, and, the subject of this article, neighborhood culture. Each theory proposes one or more mechanisms by which neighborhood disadvantage is associated with individual outcomes.

Beyond these conceptual obstacles, there are a number of methodological challenges in studying the cultural mechanisms of neighbourhood effects. Some of these are shared by all studies on mechanisms, such as identifying the role of one mechanism over others (see Harding et al. 2011 for a discussion of these and other methodological issues). Others are shared by all studies on neighbourhood effects, but may be particularly important for cultural mechanisms, such as neighbourhood definition. Qualitative research, which focuses on processes and on interpretations and understanding of topics, is well suited to study certain types of cultural resources and processes. Cultural processes at the community level may be much more accessible to ethnographic studies than, for example, to survey research. Qualitative researchers must enter the field with existing concepts in mind and an eye for new cultural processes. Cultural differences within and between neighbourhoods are important subjects of investigation, as are neighbourhood boundaries, networks and patterns of interaction. The concept of sedentary and hectic times offers a fourth possible contribution to the study of neighborhood effects.

Simply put, culture sometimes “does” more. The best-known formulation of this idea is proposed by Swidler as a distinction between “the role of culture in maintaining existing strategies of action and its role in constructing new strategies” (1986: 278). In times of sedentary lifestyle, culture serves more as a background, an obvious resource that can be used selectively: individuals have a limited set of cultural resources that can limit their actions, but are not sufficient to explain why they follow one available strategy of action rather than another. In times of turmoil, on the other hand, culture can manifest itself as a very clearly expressed strategy of action in a delimited area of life (an ideology, as Swidler put it). For example, culture may be more direct in revolutionary moments (Sewell Jr. 1996) than in the prosaic interactions of everyday life. The above criticisms suggest that alternative conceptualizations of neighborhood cultural mechanisms are possible and necessary. In this section, we examine other possible links between neighbourhood effects and cultural and sociological literature. In reviewing this literature, we found links – some implicit, some potential – between the two fields. We believe that there are well-established theories about neighbourhood effects that nominally have nothing to do with neighbourhood culture, but contain elements of cultural explanations or could be reinforced by explicitly considering cultural concepts.

There are also central concepts of cultural sociology that could come into play fruitfully to explain neighborhood effects. We would like to highlight some of these possibilities in this section. We suggest that this distinction between sedentary and unresolved may be important when considering the “when” of neighborhood effects. Empirical questions – whether a time is fixed or fuzzy, and for whom – can be difficult to resolve, but the conceptual distinction should remind us that the effects of culture should not be understood as uniform.