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POLICIES TO FIGHT URBAN POVERTY - page 7 / 30

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the mobilised section. Second, they are engaged in ongoing discussions with institutional actors situated outside the neighbourhood, especially the State. We shall analyse the first process below. The relationship between neighbourhood organizations and their socio- political environment will be dealt with when we examine the role of the State (cf. infra, III. Public institutions and the State.)

Neighbourhood organizations are the mobilized section of a human group (the neighbourhood) which is underpinned by a local support network. The nature of this network is a factor that determines the potential of local organizations for action and for their inclusion in a democratic process4.

This fabric of local support characteristic of the urban poor and socially excluded can be represented metaphorically in terms of “social clusters” (Ndione, 1987). This striking image accurately encapsulates the structure of a local society whose building blocks are groups of various kinds attached by stalks to a common trunk. Family, lineage, ethnic groups, neighbourhood associations and brotherhoods are the constituent clusters of Senegalese neighbourhoods. Within each cluster are micro-societies whose ground-rules are traditional or customary, religious, family- or association-focused and which lay down a series of hierarchical procedures. The cluster image is a key to understanding the fragmented yet interconnected nature of local society.

Mobilisation of populations therefore requires that consideration be given to people’s multiple affiliations, i.e. one person will usually belong to several groups. A young person may, for instance, be part of a supportive family, belong to a brotherhood, respect a hierarchy based on custom or lineage and be a member of a local association concerned with children’s education or sport. These multiple local affiliations constitute people’s main rampart against social disintegration. People tend to belong to as many clusters as possible. This survival strategy is comparable to a comprehensive insurance cover enabling people to cope with sickness, unforeseen expenses such as weddings, funerals or births, temporary lack of funds or a house fire.

At the community level, the groups overlap like circles in the intersections in a Wenn diagram. This collective expression of the above-mentioned phenomenon of multiple affiliation provides an insight into the role of the various actors and agents in social life. All forms of group action are superimposed, and while each level retains a certain degree of autonomy, affiliation to local support networks (often family- or religion-based) determines the complexity of the social fabric. This pattern of community relations constitutes the substance of the primary support which Robert Castel has defined as “systems of rules which directly link members of a group on the basis of their family, neighbourhood or work affiliations and weave networks of interdependence without mediation by specific institutions” (Castel, 1995: 34ss). Regulations are made on the

4 Local support networks have often been studied by urban sociologists (cf. the work of the Chicago School) and by anthropologists (cf. the work of Oscar Lewis), but have hardly ever aroused the interest of decision-makers, militants or planners of public policies.

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