ANT 11 Nardi


Friendship has the potential to develop and maintain unconventional values and styles of behaviour through shared choice and to transform social and political life. How gay people develop an identity is related to friendship networks.

The personal (own identity and friendships) can become the political (motivation for social movements). ---> Friendships are a powerful social source.

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The role of friendship

Smith and Hume

Friendship in precommercial societies was instrumental and necessary to avoid conflict and maintain the smooth running of society. The purpose was to create a divide between groups: to help friends and to hurt enemies.


By limiting instrumental exchange a morally superior friendship can be formed through affection and sympathy.


Friendships constitute communities.

Solidary (community, shared interests) networks occur where traditional ties break down. Commerce and friendship have a dialectical relationship, not a causal one.

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Identity communities and friendships

Because gays tend to grow up outside of and fearing the community they eventually join, they need to create their own communities and sense of belongingness (separate from the one they knew before. They have experienced the fear of the gay community / homosexuality. It is not possible for them to remain in the same community so have to create their own).

---> They form a collective identity. A chosen 'family'. Friendships that then develop into community. This fom of community is optative, unlike that of being born in to kin.

A network of gay friends does not constitute comunity unless one also has a gay identity. Participation in the gya communities institutions (bars, restaurants, clubs, etc) contributes to gay identity achievement.

Gay identity ---> creation of an dmaintenance of gay community.

This provides and reproduces identity in a new generation of people searching for meaning and riendship.

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Networking and Mentoring

Older gay men serve as mentors to youger ones. They provide:

  • Sexual adivce and romantic encounters.
  • Advice
  • Skills
  • Information valued by the gay community

In the 1920s and 30s, drag balls brought together thousands of gay men, creating networks and friendships.

In the 1930s and 40s private house parties were the main source of meeting people and networking.

GL in rural areas tend to rely on social networks with people they have little in commong with other than sexual orientation. This can lead to lonliness and isolation, as well as the formation of incompatible relationships.

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Social movements and friendships

'Communities are potential bases for collectve action.'

Friedman: friendship has disruptive possibilities. They are founded on shared perspectives, creating loyalties between friends and also disloyalties to others. These may be people, social institutions.

The wider distribution of e-mail has acted as a significant source of increased support for scial movements. Having netowkrs of people to contact who can then further contact others is essential.

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Friendship and Space

Informant Dan on living in a gay community:

'Best move I ever made. It's nice to be in a place where you're presumed gay... Sometimes I dislike the "enclave", harrio, phetto aspect of it. On the other hand... there is a liberating aspect of being part of a gay neighbourhood.'

As Cottin Pogrebin argues and this quote demonstrates, sexual orientation can affect where people choose to live and hence their friendship patterns.

In general men control public space; gay men - and especially white middle-class gay en with their relative economic and political power - have been at the forefront in controlling gay public space.

Chauncey apartment buildings slowly became more and more gay as flats opened up and gay residents invited their gya friends to move in. Likewise, hotels, bars, restaurants, clubs etc all gained reputations for being gay.

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The meaning of friendship

  • An involuntary and uncontrollable disclosure of the self.
  • An escape fom the dictates of social life.
  • Identity.
  • One who is rather than ones roles and statuses.
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Many argue that attempts to construct same-sex marriage rights and ceremonies merely replicate the dominant and oppressive structures of heterosexual society. Two people, leitmate relationship through marriage.

This is something that would not occur in a model of domestic partner and family rather than being excluded from those concepts, which are usually limited to romantic dyadic (two people together) relationships. i.e. if friendship was an acknowledged form of relationship legally, might there be less pressure for rights to gay marriage?

It is through friends that gay men 'do' identity and community work.

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