Painter J, 2012, "The politics of the neighbour" Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 30(3) 515 – 533
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The politics of the neighbour
Received 11 November 2010; in revised form 12 October 2011
Abstract. This paper argues that the neighbour is a neglected figure in public debate and political theory. Whereas the spatial concept of ‘neighbourhood’ has long been the focus of geographical research, its underpinning concept of the ‘neighbour’ has received less scrutiny. This paper seeks to address that gap. It takes its cue from recent British policy debates about neighbourhood renewal and the ‘Big Society’. However, it is not concerned with urban policy in a conventional sense, but with the nature of the neighbour relation and of the ethics and politics of neighbours and neighbouring. These themes are explored through a discussion of debates in political theology about the meaning of the Biblical injunction to ‘love thy neighbour’, the etymological significance of proximity to the idea of neighbour, and the importance of radical ambiguity, unknowability, and fragility in neighbourly relations. These issues are thrown into relief by The Neighbour, a short story by Naim Kattan, that records the fleeting encounters across difference that often seem to constitute neighbourliness in urban settings. The paper ends by using Kattan’s story to reflect on the apparently opposed understandings of the neighbour to be found in the work of Emmanuel Lévinas and Slavoj Žižek.
Keywords: neighbour, neighbourhood, Big Society, city, urban materiality, proximity
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References 37 references, 10 with DOI links ()
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