The terror of territoryOctober 14, 2008 at 9:10 pm | Posted in Education, Working Class Britain | 2 Comments
As part of a Rowntree Foundation report into young people, a group of kids were asked to draw pictures of their neighbourhoods showing those areas they felt safe in and those they felt too frightened to go near. The image above is one of the chaotic, heartbreaking examples.
The JRF intended to better understand what role territorality (defined as “a social system through which control is claimed by one group over a defined geographical area and defended against others”) plays in their lives, and given the increased concern about gang violence – which is largely based on territory – this is a timely intervention. The report found that territory is a concern for many young people, but particularly those in deprived areas; they protect their imagined boundaries to the point of obsession, and any ‘incursion’ could be met with ugly consequences.
The reasons for this behaviour are numerous: friendship, respect, the power inherent in thinking you ‘control’ a certain area, the fact there’s nothing else to do. Like any other social norm, it’s a generational trend, learned and imitated from the example of their older peers, and those who embody it the most are also most likely to be associated with underachievement in school, crime & other ‘antisocial behaviour’.
The report essentially concludes that this aspect of childhood & teenage experience needs a lot more work at a policy level, but any attempt to solve the problems it creates must involve a greater effort at having kids from different areas socialise with each other in safe situations.
I’d like to write about this some more when I’ve got the time, but in the mean time I’d recommend this report by Rowenna Davis, whose reporting on the problems facing the young has been exceptional.