Rethinking Neighborness

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Olga Brednikova
Elena Bogdanova


Neighborness is a fairly obvious object of anthropological and sociological research, as the study of relations among neighbors essentially seeks to answer the main questions these disciplines pose: what makes communal life possible and why and how people live together. Neighbor relations have been studied for a long time, yet, surprisingly, they remain a popular subject matter. Its seeming stability and long-lasting relevance notwithstanding, neighborness is a dynamically changing phenomenon. In Russia, over a period of 30 years, that is, literally, in the span of one generation, several models of neighbor relations have come and gone, and the repertoire of neighborly practices has changed almost entirely. The openness, intimacy, and mutual dependence typical of communal life in Soviet times gave way to post-Soviet walling in and distancing, only to be replaced by diversified relationships in a whole range of scenarios, including both careful maintenance of boundaries and intensive communality. Today neighborness continues to undergo changes. A partial transfer of neighbor relations into digital space yields a variety of communication scenarios and allows for a more efficient management of relations with one’s neighbors. Processes of urban gentrification activated by the development of real estate market give relevance to new topics in research on neighborness. Prior to the 2000s, researchers mostly asked “Where do neighbor relations emerge?” and “What kind of relations bind neighbors together?,” whereas now, in response to growing social disparity, the most frequently posed question is “Who are neighbors?”



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