gated communities as barometers


According to Atkinson & Blandy:

“Gated communities represent a new or at least relatively novel form of housing development in the European context and their number is increasing. With growing consumer and media interest the US and South African models of such development may form templates for understanding this direction in preferences, primarily directed by fear, privacy and predictability. What is less clear is why such development is growing in societies characterised by lower prevailing crime rates and higher levels of social cohesion. In this sense perhaps gated communities might be seen as barometers indicating the future shape and scale of social forces linked to social fear and aspirations toward ex-territoriality (Bauman, 2000). In this sense the significance of gated communities lies less in their number and more in what they say about a wider bundle of social pressures now directing where and how people live.” (p.184)

“The club good of security and neighbourhood services represented by gated communities resemble new medieval city-states wherein residents pay dues and are protected, literally as their ‘citizens’. With the growth of these gated mini-states, the argument has been that gated residents should not have to pay twice for services they already receive. This may ultimately have the effect that entitlements to vital aspects of citizenship, such as security, welfare and environmental services, become based on which neighbourhood one lives in.” (p.185)

Ref: (emphases in blue bold, mine) Rowland Atkinson & Sarah Blandy (2005): Introduction: International Perspectives on The New Enclavism and the Rise of Gated Communities, Housing Studies, 20:2, 177-186


Gated communities – Atkinson and Blandy


Introducing a volume of papers on gated communities, Rowland Atkinson & Sarah Blandy explain that:

Gated communities (hereafter GCs) have been defined in a number of ways. These definitions tend to cluster around housing development that restricts public access, usually through the use of gates, booms, walls and fences. These residential areas may also employ security staff or CCTV systems to monitor access. In addition, GCs may include a variety of services such as shops or leisure facilities. The growth of such private spaces has provoked passionate discussion about why, where and how these developments have arisen. This volume presents an opportunity to gather together contemporary and diverse views on what is at least commonly agreed to be a radical urban form.
The apparently ‘unique’ characteristics of GCs present immediate problems for an accurate definition. Should we include flats with door entry systems, tower blocks with concierge schemes or partially walled housing estates, even detached houses with their own gates? Among this confusion we suggest that the central feature of GCs is the social and legal frameworks which form the constitutional conditions under which residents subscribe to access and occupation of these developments, in combination with the physical features which make them so conspicuous.

Living in a gated community means signing up to a legal framework which allows the extraction of monies to help pay for maintenance of common-buildings, common services, such as rubbish collection, and other revenue costs such as paying staff to clean or secure the neighbourhood. However, such legal frameworks can also be found in many thousands of non-gated homeowner associations in the US, and indeed in blocks of leasehold flats in England. This leads us back to the important physical aspects of these developments. Where a combination is found of these socio-legal agreements and a physical structure which includes gates and walls enclosing space otherwise expected to be publicly accessible, we can finally achieve some clarity of definition. Gated communities may [-p.178] therefore be defined as walled or fenced housing developments, to which public access is restricted, characterised by legal agreements which tie the residents to a common code of conduct and (usually) collective responsibility for management.” (pp.177-178) [although Atkinson and Blandy do note further down that many residents are not well-read on the nature of these agreeements (p.183)]

Atkinson & Blandy continue: “While this definition may be useful it is often argued that gated communities express more than a simple constellation of particular physical and socio-legal characteristics. In the built environment around us we increasingly see examples of an attempt to boost defensible space and the means to exclude the unwanted. This has meant that we can now observe a continuum of ‘gating’ which can be seen moving between symbolic and more concrete examples. Suburban areas with booms across private roads, housing estates with ‘buffer zones’ of grass and derelict land, and cul-de-sacs all express a mark of exclusion to non-residents with varying degrees of efficacy. All of these built forms suggest a lack of ‘permeability’ in the built environment directed at achieving increasingly privatised lifestyles, predominantly through the pursuit of security. It is this attempt at self-imposed exclusion from the wider neighbourhood, as well as the exclusion of others from the gated community, which has driven a much wider debate about the relative merits of gating and other strategies to achieve security, when set alongside other key concerns such as freedom of access to the wider city, social inclusion and territorial justice.” (p.178)

Under the title “The Fortified Neighbourhood” (which I rather like), Atkinson and Blandy acknowledge that “It is now well documented that gated communities can be seen as a response to the fear of crime (Atkinson et al., 2004) but other drivers also appear significant. In particular the desire for status, privacy and the investment potential of gated dwellings all form important aspects of the motivation to live behind gates.” (p.178)

Many have argued that GCs represent a search for community with residents seeking contact with like-minded people who socially mirror their own aspirations. While advertising by developers (primarily in America) draws on this communitarian ideology it has been clear to some that the idea of a gated ‘community’ is something of an oxymoron. Increasing numbers of recorded neighbour disputes and conflict between residents and their management companies suggest at least as many problems as are found in ‘normal’ developments (see for example, Linford, 2001). …. In this volume Evan McKenzie picks up on this theme and argues that gated communities increasingly contain residents openly hostile to the strictures to which they have signed up…. The possibility that GCs contain some kind of built-in obsolescence may become increasingly apparent.” (p.179)

“Even before getting into a debate about the relative merits of gating we find systematic research which suggests that the shelter from fear that gated communities appear to
represent soon fades once residents move in. Research by Low (2003) suggests that living ‘behind the gates’ actually promotes fear of the unknown quantities of social contact
outside them. The lack of predictability and experience of people in social situations outside these compounds appears to play out most strongly for the young, particularly those brought up in gated communities. / In fact, perceived safety and actual crime rates have been found to be no different between gated communities and similar, but non-gated, high-income American neighbourhoods.” (p.181)

We have argued that the contractual legal framework is an essential characteristic of GCs. These detailed rules indicate a different and much more formal structure than the framework of informal rights and rules developed in a neighbourhood through “neighbours understanding the importance of maintaining a shared and reciprocated set of values and neighbourhood attributes” (Webster, 2003, p. 2606). It has been suggested [-p.183] that GCs are an example of a much wider rise in contractual governance, resulting from the new relationship between state, market and civil society, designed to address concerns about social order: the contract of membership takes centre stage in the age of ‘responsibilisation’, in which “exclusion from club goods may be tantamount to exclusion from key aspects of citizenship.” (Crawford, 2003, p. 500).” (pp.182-183)

Ref: (emphases in blue bold, mine) Rowland Atkinson & Sarah Blandy (2005): Introduction: International Perspectives on The New Enclavism and the Rise of Gated Communities, Housing Studies, 20:2, 177-186

Global citizenship


There’s a book I really like, called Freedom (by Nick Stevenson). The whole thing is quotable, but certain sections had me thinking about: spy fiction (in terms of the kind of international relations it works with); urban fantasy (in terms of the kinds of citizenship(s) it works); and what dialogic practices are valued in Young Adult fiction, and a few other things really… Stevenson writes:Freedom - Nick Stevenson

“The freedom to think, debate, argue, create, organise ourselves politically, gain protection of the law and not to suffer unnecessary bodily hardship all depend upon the state.” (p.59)

There is no meaningful global citizenship without a world state, which in turn is likely to remain a fiction in a world where the most powerful nation states are unlikely to be corrected through the use of international law. A citizen is someone who belongs to a meaningful political community that is governed by the rule of law and who has rights and responsibilities similar to others in that community. On this reading, citizenship remains overwhelmingly although not exclusively located at the level of the nation state. There is of course the struggle for human rights but these are mostly attempts to influence local conditions. Elsewhere some environmental activists have tried to take on the mantle of the global citizen by adopting low-carbon lifestyles. This, they argue, is about taking global responsibility as it is the lives of the poor of the planet which are most likely to be affected by climate change. We should also not forget that there is still the possibility of global compassion and of ordinary citizens responding to appeals for charity beyond the borders of the nation. Here there is an attempt in the era of global media to link local struggles to more global concerns. Protestors against weapons systems, the growth of local food, action taken against the pollution of the seas or the depletion of species diversity are all attempts to link local struggles to more global frameworks.” (p.61)

“Freedom needs to become an actual practice whereby new citizens learn to test their ideas, opinions and concerns against others. This can only be achieved by having the confidence to think for oneself, being creative, voicing concerns and acquiring the skilled art of listening. Freedom requires the practice of democratic dialogue. This practice is as much about living in a family as it is about living in a community.” (p.74)

Ref: Nick Stevenson (2012) Freedom. Routledge: London and New York

Children’s citizenship


In an article that I found quite thought-provoking, Allison James considers the concept of children’s citizenship. She looks at how it is enacted in local contexts (using two English children’s hospitals as examples). She discusses how the ‘sociology of childhood’ developed since the 1990s has influenced conceptions of citizenship (particular children’s).

The idea of the child is one that changes from one culture to the next. How ‘the child’ is conceived and understood, though, informs the possibilities open to children in terms of agency. Policy (ostensibly designed to ‘protect’ children) constrains and restricts them; citizenship, as it is lived by children, is limited.

A large part of this restriction stems from the way children are understood/defined in terms of their ‘non’-adulthood – the way they are defined in terms of what they are not (adults).

James asserts that “…exploring the ways that the identity of ‘child’ is practiced is core to understanding the cultural politics of children’s citizenship. It is out of the conceptual differences in indentity, between children and adults (Jenks 1996), that the very problem of children’s status as citizens arises.”” (168)

“Marshall envisaged children only as ‘becomings’, rather than ‘beings’; this view is consistent with the idea that it is children’s lack of social competence that separates thier citizenship status from that of adults.” (169)

“Lister (2007) … shows that in social investment states, such as England, Canada and those in the European Union, children’s citizenship is problematic, since a number of the basic building blocks of citizenship are ambiguous when they are applied to children.” (170)

“In societies where children are largely judged in terms of the future adults they will become, their citizenship status as full participants in society is often heavily circumscribed. This is because… such understandings assume that ‘competency’ is something that is acquired the closer one is to becoming ‘adult’. This means, in effect, that ‘competency’ is necessarily (and only) an adult characteristic, i.e. one that children cannot possess’ (Uprichard, 305)” (171) 

What James writes here is relevant to a number of textx/genres, but I couldn’t help thinking of its relevance to children’s spy fiction (Ally Carter, etc.)

Ref: Allison James (2011) ‘To be(come) or not to be(come): Understanding children’s citizenship’ The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 633, January: 167-179

Referring to:

Jenks, Chris (1996) Childhood. London: Routledge

Lister, Ruth (2007) Why citizenship: where, when and how children? Theoretical Inquiries in Law 8(2): 693-718

Marshall, TH (1950) Citizenship and social change. London: Pluto

Uprichard, Emma (2007) Children as ‘being and becomings’: Children, childhood and temporality. Children and Society 22: 303-13

Other references that looked interesting include:

Archard, David. 1993. Children: Rights and childhood. London: Routledge.

Birch, Joanna, Penny Curtis, and Allison James. 2007. In search of the child-friendly hospital. Built Environment 33 (4): 405–16.

Boyden, Jo. 1997. Childhood and the policy makers: A comparative perspective on the globalization of childhood. In Constructing and reconstructing childhood: Contemporary issues in the sociological study of childhood, 2nd ed., eds. Allison James and Alan Prout. London: Falmer.

Cockburn, Tom. 1998. Children and citizenship in Britain. Childhood 5 (1): 99–117.

Hart, Roger. 2009. Charting change in the participatory settings of childhood. In Children, politics and communication, ed. Nigel Thomas. Bristol, UK: Policy Press.

James, Allison, Penny Curtis, and Joanna Birch. 2008. Care and control in the construction of children’s citizenship. In Children and citizenship, eds. Jane Williams and Anatola Invernizzi. London: Sage.

James, Allison, and Adrian L. James. 2004. Constructing childhood: Theory, policy and social practice. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.

James, Allison, and Alan Prout (eds) (1997) Constructing and reconstructing childhood: Contmemporary issues in the sociological study of childhood. 2nd ed. London: Falmer

James, Allison and Adrian L James (2008) European Childhoods: Cultures, politics and childhoods in Europe. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave

Jans, Marc (2004) Children as citizens: towards a contemporary notion of child participation. Childhood 11(1): 27-44

Kjørholt, Anne Trine. 2002. Small is powerful: Discourses on “children and participation” in Norway. Childhood 9 (1): 63–82.

Lee, Nick. 2001. Childhood and society: Growing up in an age of uncertainty. Buckingham, UK: Open University Press.

Qvortrup, Jens. 1994. Childhood matters: An introduction. In Childhood matters, eds. Jens Qvortrup, Marjatta Bardy, Giovanni Sgritta, and Helmut Wintersberger. Aldershot, UK: Avebury.

Roche, Jeremy. 1999. Children: Rights, participation and citizenship. Childhood 6 (4): 475–93.

Spyrou, Spyros. 2008. Education and the cultural politics of childhood in Cyprus. In European childhoods: Culture, politics and childhoods in Europe, eds. Allison James and Adrian L. James. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave.

Such, Elizabeth, and Robert Walker. 2005. Young citizens or policy objects. Journal of Social Policy 34 (1): 39–57.

Woodhead, Martin. 1997. Psychology and the cultural construction of children’s needs. In Constructingand reconstructing childhood: Contemporary issues in the sociological study of childhood, 2nd ed., eds. Allison James and Alan Prout. London: Falmer.

Wyness, Michael. 2006. Childhood and society: An introduction to the sociology of childhood. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.