Reconsidering Community: The Unintended Consequences of an Intellectual Romance

Advanced Seminar

April 12–18, 2003

On April 12-18, 2003, ten scholars attended an Advanced Seminar chaired by Gerald Creed on the topic “Reconsidering Community: The Unintended Consequences of an Intellectual Romance.” Creed’s inspiration for the proposal was sparked by his observation that use of the term “community” had become common “almost to the point of saturation,” not only crossing nearly all academic disciplines, but also in widespread popular discourse across cultures. However, “the more we talk about the importance of community, the more fractured our communities seem to be,” Creed found.

The seminar participants addressed the historical and contemporary utility and limitations of the concept of community, posing a wide variety of questions from their diverse areas of expertise. For example: What do people who identify themselves as a community think the concept implies? How do such conceptualizations differ cross-culturally, across localities, and over time? What do state and non-governmental organizations mean when they utilize the concept? Does the community concept generate its own dynamic of fragmentation? What are the relations between concepts of community and identity vectors such as race, class, and gender?

Is it possible that the romantic image of community as a unit of consensus and cooperation might actually lead to fragmentation and “community” decline? The purpose of this seminar was to “direct overdue critical attention to the long-standing intellectual romance with the concept of community in an effort to understand this irony.”

Gerald W. Creed, Chair Department of Anthropology, Hunter College and CUNY Graduate School Community as Modern Pastoral
Peter Brosius Department of Anthropology, University of Georgia Seeing Communities: Technologies of Visualization in Conservation
Elizabeth Chin Department of Anthropology, Occidental College Dead Center and Nowhere at All: Kids and Community in the Land of On and Off Ramps
Kate Crehan Deparment of Sociology, Anthropology and Social Work, and College of Staten Island, City University of New York Hunting the Unicorn: Working with the Community in South Africa and East London
Miranda Joseph Women’s Studies, University of Arizona A Debt to Society
Aisha Khan African Studies, State University of New York, Stony Brook Caribbean ‘Community’: The View from ‘Diaspora’ and Beyond
Susan H. Lees Department of Anthropology, Hunter College and Graduate Center, CUNY Making a Place for the Diasporic Community: Geography, Genealogy and the Eruv
Gyanendra Pandey Department of Anthropology, Johns Hopkins University The Politics of Community: Some Notes from India
Michael Watts Institute of International Studies, University of California, Berkeley Economics of Violence: Governable Spaces, Oil, and Antinomies of Community in the Niger Delta, Nigeria
Mary Weismantel Department of Anthropology, Northwestern University Introduction: Community Real and Imagined

Follow us: