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Changing perspectives on the insider/outsider distinction in community sociology

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This article reports on a community study which explores the nature of the distinction between insiders and outsiders in contemporary community life. Although the presence of this distinction is reported in many community studies, detailed examination of how it operates in practice reveals that insider status is open to negotiation. A person's claims to be an insider may be based on other grounds besides length of residence, for example the degree of participation in local community organizations. In addition, doubts are cast on the supposition that long local residence is always positively regarded, in the light of the finding that in-migrants may associate it with parochialism. These ideas are linked to recent developments in the sociology of community that emphasize the importance of distinguishing between the different dimensions of community relationships (including the time dimension). On this basis it is argued that in-migrants should not be equated with outsiders, since their position within community relations will be influenced by several other factors, notably social class and employment status, household type, position in kinship networks, age and gender. The insider/outsider distinction is therefore more complex than is allowed in approaches that reduce it to a single dimension related to length of residence.

Este articulo presenta un informe sobre una investigacion comunitaria que explora la distincion entre los de dentro ('insiders') y los de fuera ('outsiders') en la vida contemporanea comunitaria. Aunque la presencia de esta distincion se nota en muchos estudios comunitarios, un examen detenido de como se aplica en la practica revela que la condicion de 'insider' se presta a negociacion. La afirmacion de 'insider' de cualquier individuo se puede basar en otras razones ademas de por extenso de residencia, por ejemplo, el nivel de participacion en organizaciones comunitarias de la localidad. Ademas se pone en duda la suposicion que la residencia extensa en la localidad siempre se mira bien, ya que 'in-migrants (los que entran) la pueden asociar con el provincianismo. Estos ideas se relacionan con recientes desarrollos en la sociologia de la comunidad que ponen enfasis en la importancia de disinguir entre las diferentes dimensiones de relaciones communitarias (incluyendo la dimension temporal). Asi se sostiene que los 'in-migrants' no deben ser equiparados con los 'outsiders' ya que su posicion dentro de las relaciones comunitarias se vera influida de varios otros factores, en particular clase social, estado laboral, categoria de hogar, posicion en las redes de parentesco, edad y sexo. Por lo tanto, la distincion 'insider-outsider' es mas compleja que lo que permiten considerar los enfoques que la reducen a una sola dimension relacionda a duracion de residencia.
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Keywords: COMMUNITY; INSIDERS; KINSHIP; MIGRATION; OUTSIDERS

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Sociology and Social Policy, University of Southampton, UK 2: School of Social Relations, Keele University, UK 3: The Isle of Wight College, Newport, Isle of Wight, UK

Publication date: April 1, 2001

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