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Continuities and Discontinuities of Place

Journal of Environmental Psychology

Author: Fried, M.
Year: 2000
Type: Journal Article


Early studies and observations of working-class communities reveal the physical environment itself as a very meaningful aspect of urban social life, a finding strongly borne out by the study of the relocation of several thousand people from the West End of Boston (1958–1961). Attachment to place is a characteristic feature of life in many poor, ethnic, immigrant communities. The development of a sense of spatial identity is a critical component of attachment experiences in such local areas. As a consequence of such spatial identity, built on the convergence of physical places and social relationships, displacement from the community entails widespread grief and mourning. But life, even in these relatively stable and enclosed communities, is not simply continuous: people change, communities change, social discontinuities are inevitable. And the stable forms of attachment which are so highly adaptive to the first or second generation ethnic community inhibit progression to new urban environments and to new conditions of social life when these become desirable or necessary. While community ties are often of importance at all social class levels and serve as stabilizing forces, the transition to new statuses, wider opportunities, and new conditions of life implies a more attenuated form of place attachment. However, many people remain addicted to encompassing forms of continuity in community attachments. Spatial identities which are highly functional at one point can thus become dysfunctional. These commitments can become the basis for contagious violence and bloodshed especially after the demise of long-term autocratic controls which leave a political hiatus and present us with pathologies of community attachment, visible in the territorial conflicts of recent decades.

Further Details

Full Title Journal of Environmental Psychology
Pages 193-205
Volume 20
Issue 3
Accession Number November, 2010
Keywords United States, Housing, mental

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