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The City as Socio-Ontology: Community, Locality and Social Space within a Minor City in Southern Sweden
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Sociology.
2016 (English)Independent thesis Advanced level (degree of Master (One Year)), 10 credits / 15 HE creditsStudent thesis
Abstract [en]

In sociology in general, community is often seen as an expression for something seriously threatened or even destroyed by modernity. In urban sociology, this question has traditionally manifested itself in a ‘search exhibition’ of communal bonds within the city landscape. This analytical approach tends to split up ‘community’ and ‘city’ into two different forms of social experience. By adopting a socio-ontological approach, this study argues that experiences of community cannot be ontologically separated from experiences of the city.

The aim of this study is to examine how the interviewees, living in the same neighborhood within a minor city in southern Sweden, create a perception of the city as a whole in relation to their own positioning therein. From this aim, two research questions have been formulated as follows: How is Milltown socio-ontologically constituted as a social space of relations? And: How do the interviewees construct a purified community? In order to examine this, nine in-depth interviews were conducted with residents in a middle class neighborhood (Greenwood), located in a minor city in southern Sweden (Milltown). The material was analyzed using a socio-ontological approach combined with Pierre Bourdieu’s concepts of social space and habitus, and Richard Sennett’s concepts of purified community and collective personality.  

The results of this study show how the perceived social complexity of Milltown as a whole is purified into an authentic experience of community. Greenwood is being constituted as a private sphere, which is isolated from the rest of the city. Greenwood represents a simplification of the social environment within the city landscape, where personal feelings and values are projected. It is also shown how interaction between neighbors in Greenwood is almost completely absent, and how the interviewees compensate this absence by constructing a collective personality. This collective personality envisages how they are the same, rather than what they actually do in their relations to each other. The feelings of belonging stem from shared expectations that neighbors have on each other, rather than from interactions. Finally, the results show how this purified community identity is constructed against other neighborhoods in Milltown, which are seen to represent different ways-of-life.  

This study contributes to a more complex understanding of how feelings of belonging are constituted in relation to a specific locality, but also how this understanding enables a perception of the city as a whole. Accordingly, insights have been achieved on how recent attempts to ‘redefine’ the community concept in sociology can be used empirically, and to be further built upon theoretically. Further, urban sociology has traditionally been concerned with big cities. This study argues that the urban sociological tradition has exaggerated the differences between minor and larger cities. The argument is that minor cities should be approached as socially complex milieus as well, where people are aware of each other but do not know each other. Gesellschaft relations should therefore not be understood as something exclusive to the metropolis, but rather as a condition of life in modernity in general. Finally, this study also gives an insight about the mechanisms behind voluntary segregation. This is a matter that is often neglected in urban sociological research, which traditionally has worked in paradigm of poverty, thus focusing on stigmatized neighborhoods.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2016. , 61 p.
Keyword [en]
Socio-Ontology, Urban Sociology, Community, Social Space, Martin Heidegger, Pierre Bourdieu, Richard Sennett
National Category
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-295766OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-295766DiVA: diva2:934682
Available from: 2016-06-13 Created: 2016-06-09 Last updated: 2016-06-13Bibliographically approved

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