By Morten Nielsen MAKING SPACE Being close to other human beings is often a precondition for establishing a viable social existence. Feelings of closeness and intimacy seem to arise simply through physical proximity; social bonds are created between people living close to one another. Indeed, although kinship connotes a relationship based on blood and is therefore a biological given, it is something that people work with to such an extent that physical promixity becomes expressed in kinship terms: my neighbor is my brother; my landlord is my father, my boss is my mother. 152 In both urban and rural environments across sub-Saharan Africa, communities are built around the need for physical proximity. And still, intimacy is not unproblematic. Intimate relations are seen as essential but, at the same time, it is also those who are closest to you who pose the greatest threats to one’s very existence. This might pertain to relatives, neighbors, friends, state officials or even deceased ancestors still affecting the lives of the living. They are all crucial to one’s social existence but might, equally, be potentially harmful when seeking to appropriate your belongings or simply by attempting to hurt you out of envy or vengeance. Thus the crucial question is how to make physical spaces that accommodate the presence of others, who are crucial to one’s social existence but to whom one needs to maintain a functional distance. When physical proximity essentially equals peril, the challenge that people face is how to allow for distance and nearness to exist simultaneously. To make space designates the process of creating a physical, social and spiritual room that will accommodate the coexistence of contrasting and often opposing forces in world. SEPARATION CLEARINGS The clearing of land does not merely serve to prepare the soil for habitational or agricultural use; it also establishes a crucial distinction by which social life is organised. Unknown dangers lurk in the wilderness. In order to create a relatively safe space, land therefore has to be cleared and kept tidy. By clearing land, the cultivated is thus separated from the uncultivated, the inside from the outside and the visible from the invisible. FENCES In both rural and urban areas, fences mark the outer and inner boundaries of a community that is made up of a number of households. The fence both divides and unites. It divides between village insiders and outsiders, who are sometimes enemies, and it unites the village residents internally as a collective. Village fences often trace concave lines with circular huts within. By contrast, fences in urban areas mark straight lines with rectangular houses within.
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