Panel 1: Neighborliness and Friendship – The Neighbor as Friend

Chair: Birgit Schäbler (Orient-Institut Beirut)

Ajay Skaria (University of Minnesota):
Political Friendship:  Gandhi and the remaking of the neighbor.

One of the key words in Gandhi’s vocabulary is swadeshi.  Opposing the nationalist reading of the phrase, where swadeshi is exclusively economic in dimension, with a focus primarily on consuming goods from one’s own country, he tries to make it a more broadly ethical practical practice of neighborliness.  Such neighborliness, this paper suggests, involves a certain political friendship.  Neighborliness as political friendship is quite different from intimate friendship: one does not choose one’s neighbors, one’s neighbors are those in whom one finds oneself in relations with, and with whom there might often be intense disagreements.  The essay explores the tensions of neighborliness as political friendship.  

Regina Schäfer (Universität Mainz):
Neighbors and frunde – negotiating the conditions of living together in the late Middle Ages

Neighbors/friends/relatives were not defined categories in rural and urban communities in the late middle ages. If someone needed help – i.e. to give testimony in court – he (or she) would call on his (her) frunde; and relatives, neighbors and friends would give their support. The frunde could encompass all three modern categories.
This changed in early modern times. Early modern state organisation enforced the implementation of patrilinearity. Now it became important to specify the relation of one to another as exactly as possible; blood became significant.1 The category frund changed its meaning right away. Friendship was now indicating an emotional bond between two people. Kin and friends were separated into different groups. Moreover, “neighbor” started its career as a word to describe people living side by side. This need to locate someone was new as well. Henceforth, it was possible (for the government) to classify everyone, marking his origin in several ways (parentage, neighborhood). This helped to manage subordinates.
In premodern times people belonged to different groups (community, parish, craft guild, sodality, neighborhood, kinship) with different, sometimes contradictory rules. Because of this “lack” of a hierarchy of rules and laws in the late middle ages, negotiation between attendants was essential, to solve legal questions or problems between two parties. The group to negotiate changed with the task to solve – hereditary conflicts, commercial transaction, real estate, etc. Negotiation was an oral process. Luckily, we have testimonies in court protocols; they give us an insight into the discussions. In my paper, I will take a closer look at this negotiating process. My example is a town in the middle of Germany, Ingelheim, a village of roughly 600 to 800 inhabitants. The village was under direct rule of the king but impawned. The preserved court records provide a comprehensive view of routines and procedures of a local court that handled all kinds of civil and penal proceedings, from unpaid wages to insults, from property transfer to unnatural death. The court of lay assessors rarely decided a conflict but mediated it, asking the frunde to find a solution. Ingelheim society was stratified: nobleman and day labourer were neighbors, and all appeared in court. People were mobile, serfdom was not common and one could easily leave the village. Hence, neighbors changed. Assuming that there is a change in the concepts of friendship and neighborhood within the 15th century, I will concentrate on three questions: 1. Since when were “neighbors” addressed instead of frunde? 2. Did this change came along with expecting a special “neighborly” behaviour? 3. How important was neighborliness for social relations? Or, to put the question in another way: Who was closer, a neighbor or a relative who left town? 1David Warren Sabean, Simon Teuscher: Kinship in Europe. A new approach to a long term development. In: Kinship in Europe. Approaches to the Long-Term Developments (1300-1900), ed. David Warren Sabean, Simon Teuscher, John Mathieu. New York 2007, 1-32.

Patrick Rummel (Universität Marburg):
Neighbors, kinsfolk, brothers? – The United States, British North America and Victorian empire federalists

The shared history of the British Empire and the United States of America did not end with the American Revolution in 1783. Still and especially in the late 19th century the relations between today’s Canada, then British North America, as a part of the world-wide British settler empire and the former colony and now autonomous neighbor at the southern border were intensively debated with regard to modes of economic exchange or concerning a potential military conflict, which would end in an integration of the dominion of British North America into the republic of the United States. In addition to this there has been a third category, which flanked the debate: How to characterize from a cultural perspective the relation between the ‘role model’ settlers of British North America and the former colonists of now the United States? Aren’t they ‘more than just neighbors’ bind together by economic ties or looking hostile towards each other because of local proximity but different political organization and orientation? Aren’t they part of a global kinsfolk or a global brotherhood of settlers, who once had their common origin in Great Britain? – these are question British empire federalists asked themselves especially between 1870-1900 and imagined a Greater Britain as a global federal polity consisting of Great Britain, the settler colonies and the United States in order to ‘re-unite’ the ‘English-speaking peoples’.
In my talk, I will focus on views of British empire federalists on the relation between one of still ‘their’ colonies – British North America – and their southern neighbor they wished to ‘re-integrate’ – the United States. How did they explain the fact of ‘sheer’ neighborliness although ‘they shared the same common origin as British settlers’? Why are they separated by different political systems although ‘they are more than neighbors’ – kinsfolk or part of a global brotherhood? Because of what did this ‘degeneration from being brothers to neighbors’ happen, how could it be rolled back and why is the neighborly capacity of co-existence and sometimes cooperation not enough?
By giving two examples of the mentioned British Empire federalists I would like to highlight and answer these questions in my potential talk. The historian and public moralists Edward A. Freeman (1823-1892) and the industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919) both imagined and tried to imply concepts of Greater Britain with an emphasis on the situation between the ‘empire’s extremity’ of today’s Canada and the ‘re-integration’ of the neighboring United States. By doing this they tried to go beyond terms like neighborhood, friendship, kinship by using concepts of ‘character’ and ‘race’ to argue for a global political entity federated by common cultural heritage or political institutions, which should transcend the status of sheer neighborliness between the dominion and the republic and ultimately as well as in a global perspective between Great Britain and the existing and former settler colonies.