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CULTURAL AND SOCIAL DISCONNECTION IN THE CONTEXT OF A CHANGED PHYSICAL ENVIRONMENT

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Abstract:

ABSTRACT.

The context of the study was provided by the enforced relocation of an old coal mining community in the UK and describes the changes that were experienced by relocatees. The study is longitudinal in design over a six year period and this article is based on the qualitative part of the study. The old village had consisted of five straight rows of terraced houses whereas the new village was built in a curvilinear design with additional housing, occupying a much larger space. Reduced visual access to others not only diminished a sense of connectedness but also restricted an information flow which had been part of the functioning of the previous community, leaving indigenous participants with a sense of isolation. This unwanted isolation diluted the previous collective identity and weakened social support. In addition, an abrupt change in the community's socio-cultural patterns occurred and previously learned privacy mechanisms were found to be inappropriate in the new setting. New values, priorities, lifestyles and overt materialism were evident and the data suggest that the earlier mostly collective functioning of the community had been replaced by individual functioning. It is proposed that spatial aspects provide constraints and opportunities for different behaviour patterns, highlighting the crucial importance of the physical environment and illustrating the essentially dynamic relationship between person, group and place.

Keywords: coal mining community; cultural and social disconnection; enforced relocation; identity and place; isolation

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-0467.2009.00327.x

Affiliations: 1: Department of Psychology, University of Surrey, Guildford GU2 7XH, United Kingdom., Email: g.speller@surrey.ac.uk 2: Collingwood Environmental Planning, 1E, The Chandlery, 50 Westminster Bridge Road, London SE1 7QY, United Kingdom., Email: c.twigger-ross@cep.co.uk

Publication date: December 1, 2009

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