Gathering Kilburn: The everyday production of community in a diverse London neighbourhood

Farhan Samanani, Apollo-University Of Cambridge Repository, Apollo-University Of Cambridge Repository, Sian Lazar
This thesis presents an ethnographic account of the everyday meanings and processes associated with the idea of 'community' within the London neighbourhood of Kilburn. In policy and popular discourse, community is cast both as somehow able to unite people across difference, and as under threat from the proliferation of difference, which is seen as impeding mutual understanding, cooperation and belonging. Within scholarly writing, 'community' is often challenged as too archaic, too rigid or too
more » ... mbiguous a concept to provide sufficient analytical leverage or to work as a normative ideal. Against this background, my PhD takes a look the neighbourhood of Kilburn, where amidst significant diversity, tropes of community are still widely used. I investigate how residents imagine various forms of community in relation to diversity, as well as the connections and discontinuities between these various imaginings. I draw on 16 months of ethnographic fieldwork, following over a dozen community projects and groups, tracing informal local networks and getting to know residents individually. My ethnography ranges from community cafes, to religious youth groups, to urban 'gangs', to government-led urban regeneration projects. Despite the variation in how different individuals imagined 'community', there was a shared view of community as a space which facilitated the bridging of difference and the construction of shared moral projects. These spaces did not exist sui generis. Rather they were opened up through the balancing of two traits: fixity and fluidity. Fixity involved defining community in terms of a clearly identifiable and familiar set of boundary markers, which serve to give it an 'objective' existence. Fluidity involved suspending this attempt to define community in terms of the familiar, once people were involved, in order to allow for new, shared understandings and values to emerge. The first two chapters unpack this balancing of fixity and fluidity. Chapter 1, traces inclusion and exclusion in a range of community p [...]
doi:10.17863/cam.17160 fatcat:7x42ddge55eahpw42q3v6cy7ze