Neighbouring as a Liminal Act of Citizenship

by Simpson, Sheryl-Ann, Assistant Professor, Landscape Architecture + Environmental Design; Department of Human Development, University of California, Davis 

Home is an important site of both incorporation and politicization, and isolation and separation. This study examines action at home as a starting point for a comparative inquiry into the ways in which new immigrant residents in Canada and Denmark are defining citizenship for themselves, and in relation to the expectations and actions of longer-term residents and institutions.

The study draws on data from approximately 20 months of fieldwork between 2010 and 2013 in two cities Winnipeg Manitoba in Canada and Copenhagen Region Hovedstaden in Denmark. This research included participant observation, narrative interviews, and mapping exercises with new immigrant workers and staff at neighbourhood organizations serving these communities. This data is used to articulate the idea of neighbouring as a type of liminal act of citizenship. This is a focus on the acts that happen in the spaces between the private and the public: front lawns and gardens, stoops, streets and sidewalks, neighbourhood parks, building-wide courtyards, neighbourhood centres, and hallways. Understanding actions in these spaces provides an opportunity to 1) examine connections between scales, the ways in which these spaces are shaped and conditioned through actors, actions and institutions, at municipal, national and international scales; 2) build a stronger understanding of migrant interpretations of these spaces, and the ways in which they might connected them to citizenship. Here, paying particular attention to encounters between difference in terms of gender and sexuality, alongside race, ethnicity and nationality; and 3) the ways in which these neighbouring acts might move forward our understandings of everyday and vernacular citizenship. A key finding of the study is the importance of willing interlocutors within non-migrant communities. In both cases migrant residents identified both the importance of, and the difficulty of entering into neighbouring relationships with non-migrant, non-racialized people as a major challenge to incorporation.

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