Articles | Volume 72, issue 1
Geogr. Helv., 72, 45–54, 2017

Special issue: Theorien der Praxis in der Geographie

Geogr. Helv., 72, 45–54, 2017

Standard article 27 Jan 2017

Standard article | 27 Jan 2017

Social practices in a café: community through consumption?

Anna Marie Steigemann Anna Marie Steigemann
  • Technical University of Berlin, Faculty for Planning, Building, Environment Department of Architecture, Habitat Unit Straße des 17. Juni 152, 10623 Berlin, Germany

Abstract. The transformations of economic structures as well as of transportation and communication means have altered neighborhood-based interaction in the last decades. Therefore most urban studies argue that local neighborhoods have lost their function as places of sociability and solidarity. But if one looks at the more semipublic local contact sites and therein on a more superficial and fluid interactional level, interactions and ties among local residents do not seem to decrease in the same way as close and intimate ties have exceeded the neighborhood boundaries. This article thus examines the neighborhood-based interactions in one example of an important neighborhood space – a café – that demands different kinds of commitments.

Practice theories thereby provide a particularly advantageous set of approaches to examine these rather spontaneous and loose micro-interactions. This is why this article ethnographically analyzes a café, as one of the important social neighborhood spaces. The article elaborates on Theodore Schatzki's (2010) and Elizabeth Shove's (2012) idea of practices as linked entities of material, competence, and meanings, coupled with Erving Goffman's conceptualization of public behavior (1959, 1963) regarding why local businesses represent locational material neighborhood settings for local micro-interactions (as social practices). Furthermore, the article addresses how these interactional practices lead to a sense of belonging and community for their carriers.

Short summary
This article demonstrates with an ethnographic and praxeological analysis of one café how the social practices therein foster and generate interactions that link urban dwellers with each other and increase their place attachment as well as their senses of home and community.