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The Blow-in Community

DanielMiller4 April 2018

Sneem, Kerry, photo by Bill Barber

Most people one meets in this small Irish town describe themselves as blow-ins, meaning they were born in some other part of Ireland. That’s hardly surprising since given the huge expansion of housing estates since the 1970s it is demographically true. More interesting is their dedicated participation in the vast number of community and volunteer groups that can be found here. Many of these organisations were founded by people born here, but it is the blow-ins who have sustained and expanded them and seem quite passionate about their contribution to the subsequent sense of vibrant community.

There is an important lesson here for anthropology. We have tended to see authenticity through ideals of tradition and continuity relating authenticity also to actual origin. But in most places this ideal of community is a modern invention and antidote to the fragmentation of the forces that we call modernity. The original population had less need for such an explicit ideal of community. As one such person noted – when he was young his large family was sufficient for his social interactions. The Catholic Church was and still is often the primary vehicle for a sense of wider socialising. While identity with this pleasant town was simply a given by birth. The same person noted that he would always say he was coming into the town, while blow-ins might say they were coming into the village.

By contrast, the vast majority of blow-ins initially encountered this town through tourism and viewed it as a rural seaside idyll, very likely often the place they wish they had been born into. Once they have settled, and in many cases retired, community and identification develop through their active and creative labour. This is an opportunity to help create the idealised community that they have imagined themselves moving into. Some of them would like to call the centre a village while those born here are clear that it is a town. It is the blow-ins that need fascinating and anecdotal history, prizes from being a tidy or age-friendly town, books, chess, bowls, theatre, creative writing, painting, music, sports, film and many other clubs. In this they are joined by the original inhabitants who gratefully accept this support and appreciation, while remaining quite aware as to who is or is not a blow-in, for example, who has rights to be buried in the original cemetery.

 

Puzzling contrasts in Santiago

LauraHaapio-Kirk6 February 2018

Written by Alfonso Oteagui

Photo 1. (CC BY) Alfonso Otaegui

I arrived in Santiago de Chile over a week ago, in order to conduct a 16-month ethnography on the experience of age, the use of smartphones and their relation to healthcare among migrants working in this city.

The very first time I walked around Santiago I was puzzled by the sudden and stark changes in its architecture and general appearance. You can be walking by a beautiful cobbled street among art nouveau three-storey houses with iron work in their wooden doors (Photo 1) and just fifty meters later you can find a whole block of damaged late 60s ugly functionalist six-storey buildings (Photo 2). It is a feature local Chileans are aware of and remark on: the absence of transitional features that might soften these abrupt changes.

Photo 2. (CC BY) Alfonso Otaegui

These stark contrasts are evident in the neighbourhood where I am conducting fieldwork. Yungay is a protected heritage zone inhabited by the Chilean upper class in the early twentieth century. Nowadays this population has migrated Eastwards and uphill leaving behind many of these beautiful old big houses, which have been occupied by multi-rental low income migrants. By contrast, other old houses, restored as lofts, provide huge continuous areas for the few. As a result, we find well maintained homes within dilapidated neighbours. While art nouveau houses are covered by colorful graffiti, as part of this architectural palimpsest of different eras and social classes (Photo 3).

Photo 3. (CC BY) Alfonso Otaegui

These contrasts make manifest a deeper material contrast: the income inequality gap. As is sadly the case in much of Latin America, Chile has a high index of income inequality (47,7 2015 World Bank estimate). According the National Institute of Statistics, the average income in Chile in 2016 was of $ 517.540 (roughly U$S 862). But only 28,6% of the working population, receive this amount or a higher salary, with just 9,7% of the working population earning over one million Chilean pesos (around U$S 1660).

Notwithstanding the high index of income inequality, Chile shows deeper internet penetration (71,7% had access to Internet in 2016) compared to the rest of Latin America (average 56,1%). The same study by IMS Mobile showed that 9 out of 10 users connect to the internet through their smartphones. As in the Why We Post project, with which a number of the ASSA team were involved, this suggests that greater equality in online access may not result in diminished inequality more generally. But the situation is likely to be quite complex and hopefully the next 16 months will provide a more nuanced picture, beyond the facades of the architecture.

References

IMS Mobile in Latam Study, 2nd Edition, September 2016, free access through https://www.imscorporate.com/news/Estudios-comScore/IMS-Mobile-Study-Septiembre2016.pdf

OECD (2018), Internet access (indicator). doi: 10.1787/69c2b997-en (Accessed on 04 February 2018)

The World Bank. Databank. Poverty and Equity. http://databank.worldbank.org/data/reports.aspx?source=poverty-and-equity-database