What, exactly, is community? Can you define “neighbor?” The guy next door? Sure. Around the corner? Maybe. Turns out academics have been debating such questions for some time.
This article investigates the practices and functions of neighboring. It is based on interviews and “go-alongs” with over sixty residents and on ethnographic observation of two middle-class neighborhoods in Hollywood, California. Building on Lofland’s (1998) model of three social realms (the public, the parochial, and the private), I conceptualize neighboring as a set of interactive principles that characterize parochial or communal territories such as neighborhoods. I discuss four distinct patterns in detail: friendly recognition, parochial helpfulness, proactive intervention, and embracing and contesting diversity. While integrating previous research and theorizing on neighboring, the article contributes to the continuing debate in sociology over what constitutes community.