Panel 3: Regulating Neighborliness: The Neighbor between State and Neighborhood

Chair: Franz Waldenberger (German Institute for Japanese Studies Tokyo)

Robert Pekkanen (University of Washington):
Making Neighbors: The Case of Japan’s Neighborhood Associations

An important aspect constituting “neighborhoods” and “neighborliness” in Japan is the widespread existence of neighborhood associations. Although local neighborhood associations are found in many countries, Japan’s are distinguished by their ubiquity, scope of activities, and very high participation rates, making them important for the study of society and politics. Most Japanese belong to one local neighborhood association or another, making them Japan’s most numerous civil society organization, and one that powerfully shapes governance outcomes in the country. And, they also often blur the state-society boundary, making them theoretically intriguing.

The inclusion of Japan’s neighborhood associations in the conference will help address the question of “How have states and municipalities in different times and places regulated neighborhoods to maintain security and order, prevent violence and keep up ‘good neighborliness’?” To be sure, “maintaining order” and keeping up “good neighborliness” are central to the missions of most neighborhood associations. Membership and participation are voluntary, with only social stigma applying to those who opt out. However, there is wide variation in the rates of active participation across the country.
This paper will begin with a working definition of the “neighborhood association,” placing it firmly into the Japanese context but allowing for comparative analysis. Next, the paper will present a short overview of the history of Japan’s neighborhood associations. These groups developed in a few places as indigenous self-help (neighborhood security and fire prevention) organizations, then were spread by the modernizing state (as part of sanitation policy), before being subsumed by the authoritarian government in Japan’s military period. In post-war Japan, these groups are “ambiguous associations” connected to and legitimated by the state but at least nominally independent. The porousness of the state-society boundary in the history and current practice of the neighborhood associations calls for reconsideration of the relationship between state and civil society.
In addition, the paper will draw on a unique and novel body of empirical data derived from the first national survey of neighborhood associations carried out in 2007 and to provide a multifaceted empirical portrait of Japan’s neighborhood associations. It will examine how local associational structures affect the quality of local governance, and thus the quality of life for Japan’s citizens and residents, and illuminate the way in which these ambiguous associations can help us refine civil society theory and show how they contribute to governance. As well as outlining the key features of neighborhood associations, the paper will examine in detail the way in which neighborhood associations contribute to governance, in terms of social capital, networks with other community organizations, social service provision, cooperation with local governments and political participation.
This paper will draw up on previous research by the author, including Japan’s Dual Civil Society (Stanford, 2006) and Neighborhood Associations and Local Governance in Japan (Routledge 2014, coauthored with Yutaka Tsujinaka and Hidehiro Yamamoto).

Botakoz Kassymbekova (University of Liverpool):
Neighborhood under Dictatorship: Surveillance and Co-Existence in a Soviet Apartment House

The Soviet experiment aimed at producing an egalitarian society. One of the biggest obstacles to a ‘just and equal society’ was seen in individualism. This is why a core component of Soviet society was supposed to be a commune. Members of a commune were not simply neighbors. Neighborhood could be interpreted as a bourgeois or feudal construct and social system, which was based on private home ownership. In a Soviet revolutionary society without private property, instead of neighborhoods there were supposed to be collectives in which an individual became part of something bigger than him or herself. In collectives or communes, people were supposed to share not only space and household, but also communal spirit and a way of life. As a result, the first Soviet housing projects did not have any individual kitchens and often even separate family apartments. Rather, apartments were designed for people to share their everyday lives with each other: instead of bedrooms there were bed cells and instead of living rooms there were big recreational community halls. While in the revolutionary period new communes were created, old neighborhoods were destroyed – the government collectivized private apartments of the “bourgeoisie”, distributing the rooms of each apartment among workers and peasants. Housing in its broader sense was seen as a key for creating a new society, “correcting” social inequalities and punishing class enemies.
During late Stalinism and until the demise of the Soviet Union, the housing and neighborhood ideals changed. Family again was interpreted as the core component of Soviet society. Separate rooms for families in communal apartments and later separate family apartments became the most common and accepted housing type. Moreover, rather than ‘mixing’ classes, individuals and families often received rooms and apartments according to their “class” origin and place of work. During Khrushchev era especially, one’s work place defined one’s address and neighborhood. There were “engineer houses”, “houses of doctors”, “houses for scientists”, etc. Colleagues not only worked together, but they also lived in the same apartment blocs. Neighborhood, then, was often a prolongation of one’s working space. One’s neighbor was often one’s office colleague. One’s boss could also be one’s neighbor.
In my presentation, after giving a historical background into official housing policies in the Soviet Union, I will analyze how those affected neighborhood structures and experiences. For example, I ask whether being colleagues affected one’s experience of neighborliness. I also ask whether the state expected colleagues to observe each other and how this influenced people’s possibility to rely upon one’s neighbors. To make sense of neighborhood experience for different groups of people, I will differentiate between different generations: children, working people and ageing people (in their pension age). By using memoirs, diaries and scholarly works of Soviet sociologists as a source base for my analysis, I will try to understand how Soviet people interacted with their neighbors, what influenced their relationship and what could change it. What were people’s neighborhood arrangements and how, if at all, did one try to evade neighborly control?

Betül Basaran (St. Mary‘s College of Maryland):
Residents and Neighborhood Dynamics in Ottoman Istanbul, 17-19th Centuries

My paper will examine neighborhood dynamics in Ottoman Istanbul during the time period between the 17th and 19th centuries. I will address the question of “How have states and municipalities in different times and places regulated neighborhoods to maintain security and order, prevent violence and keep up “good neighborliness”?” through an examination of community petitions presented to the courts to expel “undesirable” and “unidentified” residents from the neighborhood.
The paper will focus on the interactions of dynamic communities including Muslims and non-Muslims, religious dignitaries, women, merchants, immigrants, and Janissaries to name a few. Topics to be explored include public order and security (such as illicit sex and accusations of illicit sex); expulsions and procedures used in different neighborhoods including different kinds of kefalet (surety) and ways of rehabilitating the “undesirable” or “immoral” residents; the role/purpose of the courts in the resolution of such cases; and the strategies developed by vulnerable residents to resist systematic exclusion.   This paper will contribute to the overall exploration of the dynamics and workings (as opposed to normative existence) of Ottoman neighborhoods in the early modern and modern periods, focusing mainly on the records of the Shari‘a courts.  It will also add to the growing body of literature that challenges the ideal representations of neighborhoods as rather homogeneous units of administration regulated by the government (top-down) by focusing on residents themselves as the main agents.


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