Review: Setha Low, “Re-creating the Past,” from Behind the Gates

June 19, 2011 § Leave a comment

“Re-creating the Past” examines the influence of childhood and people’s experiences in the preference and behavior for the decisions regarding their homes. The chapter focuses on the security that people feel in a gated community. The interviews that were done demonstrate how despite different backgrounds people come from, they all refer back to their childhood when they prioritize what is important to them in choosing a place they feel comfortable to live in. Moreover, they “recreate” this environment for their comfort and their children’s safety as well.

An interesting point in the chapter was the meaning of security. In ordinary life, people understand “security” as an interchangeable term as “safety”. However, Setha Low presents numerous interviews about how that is not quite true. People relate security with other emotional and psychological factors as well. For instance, not only privacy is an important factor in security but meeting neighbors and having interactions with them is also a notable factor. In a similar sense, gated communities provide both. The “gated-ness” brings people restriction and therefore, provides privacy but it also gives them a sense of having more open space. As an interviewee says, she thinks that she has more open space to provide for her children and the sense of security because the housing complex is gated.

I think that the main psychological benefits of gated-ness come from people’s desire to have boundaries. The relationship between gates and the formation of community seems to be quite distinct. People desire to have a certain boundary and that is what gives them a sense of belonging. As they choose to become part of a living complex where there seems to be visual restrictions for admittance into the community, it gives the sense of intimacy. In response to the decision of living in such environment and the responsibility that follows, community members may be rewarded with a sense of ownership of part of the community. In comparison, a non-gated land does not seem to draw a distinct line between what is theirs as opposed to what is owned by the public and is available to everyone. Furthermore, this would mentally relax the parents to leave their children outside with less physical protection.

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