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LYNN FENDLER Michigan State University East Lansing, MI, USA
Community building has been a key concern for a wide array of educational projects. Recently, educational theories concerned about social justice have begun to challenge assumptions about community in U.S. education by criticizing its tendencies toward assimilation and homogeneity. Such theories point out that a communitarian agenda excludes the Other, the stranger, or the person of difference. This paper analyzes various conﬂicting constructions of community in current U.S. education literature, including the establishment of common values in schools, the attempt to integrate racially diverse views into educational discourse, and the exhortation for political solidarity within underrepresented groups. I analyze the construction of community and suggest that community has three distinct strands of meaning: the appeal to “third way” kinds of compromise, the appeal to solidarity for empowerment, and the appeal of emotional bonding. After providing examples of these three strands, I argue that current deﬁnitions and assumptions about community building can be politically dangerous insofar as differences are appropriated, assimilated, or excluded. Finally, by bringing some examples from feminism and postcolonialism into conversation with education, I suggest that problematizing the idea of community allows for critical appraisal of the meanings of community and difference, commonality, and diversity.
Community building is all the rage. From broad curriculum theories to classroom micro-practices, educators are exhorted to build community as part of the curriculum to promote democracy, moral development, better learning, and citizenship. Terms like community tend to be used so loosely that their meanings become vague and muddy. Generally speaking, however, U.S. educational literature uses community to mean shared values, uniﬁed purpose, and/or common beliefs. In other words (and not surprisingly given the etymology of the word) most educational literature assumes that community is based on some sort of commonality.1 Community building has been advocated for various kinds of professional development: to counteract the divisive effects of racism, sexism, and other prejudices;2 to promote constructivist learning;3 and to encourage active participation in a group.4 I recognize the importance of the idea of community for these reasons. At the same time, the purpose of this paper is to
© 2006 by The Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto. Curriculum Inquiry 36:3 (2006) Published by Blackwell Publishing, 350 Main Street, Malden, MA 02148, USA, and 9600 Garsington Road, Oxford OX4 2DQ, UK
contribute a critical perspective on the discourse of community in education. This is a critical review of recent literature on community.5 Community is a notion that is widely celebrated in education and other ﬁelds; we do not ﬁnd literature that says, “We must resist the forces of community building!” Williams (1976/1983) remarks on this when he writes, “unlike all other terms of social organization (state, nation, society, etc.) [community] seems never to be used unfavorably, and never to be given any positive opposing or distinguishing term” (p. 76). I am not opposed to community either, but I am concerned to ﬁnd out the ways assumptions about community may have undesirable effects like assimilation and homogenization. My studies in political philosophy suggested to me that community can have unintended effects like excluding diversity, perpetuating the norms of the already privileged, and reducing questions of freedom and liberation to voting procedures.6 The problem with community is that its assumptions may serve to exclude Others. From that perspective, this critical review is designed to make sense of the different ways the discourse of community can have limiting and/or exclusionary effects, despite efforts to the contrary. My inquiry joins other research in education that allows for critical perspectives on community. For example, Furman (1998) writes:
Community is assumed to be based in commonalities, the shared values, visions, and purposes typically mentioned in the education literature. Yet, school populations are increasingly diverse. Efforts to build community schools that focus on articulating and advocating certain values over others may have the perverse effects of alienating segments of the school population who do not share those values, thus defeating the intended purpose of community. (pp. 298–299, emphasis added)
As a critical strategy for understanding the assumptions embedded in the discourse on community, my line of inquiry is shaped by the following questions: “What is assumed or stated to be the purpose of community?” and “How is community justiﬁed?” In my analysis I do not seek the essential deﬁnition of community or the meaning of authentic community. Rather, by extending the arguments of Shields (2000), Abowitz (2000), and Noddings (1996), I try to understand the complex historical relations that come together to constitute the discourse of community in educational literature. As Rose (1999) writes:
To analyse, then, is not to seek for a hidden unity behind this complex diversity. Quite the reverse. It is to reveal the historicity and the contingency of the truths that have come to deﬁne the limits of our contemporary ways of understanding ourselves, individually and collectively, and the programmes and procedures assembled to govern ourselves. By doing so, it is to disturb and destabilise these regimes, to identify some of the weak points and lines of fracture in our present where thought might insert itself in order to make a difference. (pp. 276–277)
however. Community is advocated on the grounds that it makes people feel welcome and comfortable. Community in educational literature is a construct that both embodies and constitutes what it is possible to think about who we can be and what we can (and cannot) belong to. in fact. it entails moral regulation. and (2) these same strands of community perpetuate assumptions about assimilation and normalization. Abowitz. the ﬁrst discursive strand supporting the idea of community is its third-way appeal. 1995. I expected that the term community would have a political meaning. 2000. teacher-learning community. The discourse of community is not just an argument about communitarian versus liberal forms of association. In brief. and communities of practice. Interestingly. could be. and. In this analysis I make no claims about what community should be. community is theorized as an alternative to the two unsatisfactory options of state control (communitarianism) and free-market individualism (liberalism). so I focused only on recent literature in order to make the inquiry historically speciﬁc. educational literature in the last 10 years. e. I excluded from the analysis the use of community when it referred to the place outside the school.” The meaning of the term community has changed over time. Based in the assumptions of labor union activism. emotional management. As popularized by Tony Blair. community-as-solidarity is assumed by both mainstream and leftist community advocates. and also with leadership and policy issues of accountability. but these assumptions may be dangerous if we are unaware of them. I found that the current discourse of community in education is not only about politics. I examined the term community as it is being used to talk about classroom community. community is theorized as a strategic weapon that promises empowerment and ability to effect change. and behavior practices that normalize forms of participation and specify particular relations among people. I am doing historical inquiry in the sense that I refer to discourses of community that are speciﬁc to U. The third strand is an appeal to emotion. I approached the analysis with the assumption that the deﬁnition of community has been produced from the interweaving of divergent political projects and intellectual traditions.g.7 The second strand infusing community discourse is the trope of solidarity. Surprisingly. a provision that is often couched in terms of safety. Rather. Assumptions about community are not necessarily bad. Anthony Giddens. much debate about community is conducted in traditional political science terms like liberal and communitarian (see. 2000). as in “school and community relations. or necessarily is. and Amitai Etzioni.OTHERS AND COMMUNITY 305 For purposes of this paper. Etzioni. I found that the discourse of community in educational research is inextricably intertwined with psychological notions of identity and affect. In my critical appraisal of the discourse of . In this paper I suggest two things: (1) there are three discursive strands in educational literature that support the appeal of community and make community seem like a good thing.S.. Instead.
Rather. which is “more concerned with issues of social cohesion” (p. we can understand new languages of public life. Furman (1998) refers to this dualism as a paradox. Examples of Third-Way Thinking. in ways that are a poor match with postmodern conditions. Community-as-third way is an attempt to avoid both too much centralization and too much decentralization. In another example. and educational research circulates third-way logic in some constructions of community. . Furman frames her perceptive analysis as a dissonance between modernist and postmodernist concepts of community.” and communitarianism. She clearly outlines what she sees as the beneﬁts and drawbacks of modernist and postmodernist concepts of community. languages that lie outside of the dualisms of justice and community as historically created. I am arguing that assumptions about community are dangerous when they function to perpetuate existing inequities and censor possibilities for differences. Abowitz rejects both sides of this dualism and proposes instead that we form alliances: “Through the particular brand of philosophical praxis utilized in this inquiry. 185). In this section I provide four examples from educational literature that illustrate community as a kind of third-way thinking. “a theoretical commitment to extensive individual liberties. In this section I argue that when community building is advocated as a compromise between commonality (which does not allow for diversity) and individualism (which does not allow for unity). and she strives to reconcile the paradox of community by combining the constructive normativity of modernism with the deconstructive political challenges of postmodernism. and which enable us to continue the endless quest for community but with the existential watchfulness required for community maintenance and construction” (p. 12). She argues in favor of a postmodern notion of community because “community . Redding (2001) expresses third-way thinking when he writes: . continues to be used in a modernist sense. In a third example. I am not arguing that community is a bad thing or that it should be avoided in educational projects. COMMUNITY AS A THIRD WAY Third-way thinking is fashionable in many circles (perhaps more in the United Kingdom than the United States). 309). I draw from Rose to suggest ways in which community-as-third way may have unintended normalizing consequences. In the spirit of pragmatism. and in ways that serve the interests of the powerful” (p.306 LYNN FENDLER community. then that is an example of third-way thinking. . An example of third-way thinking in educational literature is Abowitz (2000) who divides models of community between liberalism. Following those examples.
instructional strategies. At the same time. In that sense. As such. and alignment—can transform those communities of practice into sites of learning (see especially pp. without regard to social circumstances. the distinct character. In contrast. 1998. 1–2) After providing a historical overview of the term. imagination. Transfer theory explains learning as a set of cognitive skills that can be applied. The fundamental tension between seductive and threatening conceptions of community is evident in Abowitz’s (2000) concluding thoughts: . and inexorable forces of mass society. Redding concludes by saying. communities of practice constitute a third way between collectivism and individualism. and curriculum. but that the presence of certain criteria—engagement. He recommends that common experiences be built into policy events. transfer theory explains learning in highly individualistic terms. Wenger’s book develops a line of inquiry that he and Jean Lave inaugurated in Situated Learning (Lave & Wenger. and c) the remote. just as Abowitz’s pragmatism constitutes a third way between communitarianism and liberalism. Wenger’s argument is an example of third-way thinking because its overall project negotiates a middle ground between the individualism of psychology and the collectivism of sociology. “common experiences deﬁne the meaning. 85). transferred to an array of disparate tasks. and it explains learning as a product of social interaction. 23). . communities of practice are not understood as collectivities or sociological structures. (pp.OTHERS AND COMMUNITY 307 community . b) the family’s limiting strictures on the individual. has been idealized as a counterbalance to: a) excessive individualism. . and the central purpose of a school community” (p. and Wenger does not assume that communities are a good thing: “Communities of practice are not intrinsically beneﬁcial or harmful. impersonal. educational research. Community as constructed in Wenger’s text is less normatively deﬁned than in most other research.S. 173–187). the theories of community in these examples ultimately resolve into normative frameworks. Critique of Third-Way Thinking. Perhaps the most widely cited reference on community in U. Wenger’s theory of learning in communities of practice does not rest on assumptions of individualism. A fourth example of community that inscribes the third-way appeal is Wenger’s (1998) Communities of Practice. Wenger’s analysis posits that communities are inevitable among people who work together. Even while recognizing the potential dangers of community building. p. Lave and Wenger’s work on communities was innovative in educational psychology because it proposed an alternative to the transfer theory model of learning. Redding continues by suggesting ways to “restore connections” in modern schools. They are not privileged in terms of positive or negative effects” (Wenger. Rather. 1991).
“How is diversity incorporated at the local level?” and “What is to be the relationship between local communities and a global community?” The problems of diversity are not addressed at the local level. however. even postmodernist educational critics recognize that the human need for community transcends the negations of a postmodernist critique” (p. tyrannical structures and relations. although often misguided in popular discourses by nostalgic romanticism. will not wish away the human needs for companionship and solidarity with others” (Abowitz. p. By deﬁning community according to this model. The nested deﬁnition of community building promotes a perspective on community that does not provide for visions of . in the name of justice. and the problems of unity are not addressed at the global level. 309). and appreciation” (p. we must agree on educational systems that reproduce the best of our culture. to a global postmodern community “based on the ethics of acceptance of otherness with respect. namely. valuational” kinship groups. Her nested theory constructs a model of community “from above. Her third-way solution to this paradox is a continuum that extends from “smaller. in the end Furman resolves the theoretical problems by proposing a nested model for community: “Normative postmodernism .” as it were. 318). may have at its core this recognition of interdependence. I ﬁnd two problems with Furman’s “nested” theory of community. Furman’s theory promotes a top-down vision of community. So Furman’s nested model does not deal with the paradox that frames the entire analysis. . At the same time. 307). and she portrays the global level as liberalist. The second problem with Furman’s theory of nested community is that her model deﬁnes a particular vision of community. the mandates of educational policy formation and leadership form the matrix for understanding the debate. . her concept of local-level valuational kinship is vastly different from her concept of a global-level postmodern community. in contrast. The nostalgia can too frequently evoke. per se. She characterizes the local level as a community of commonality and solidarity. A similar tension is present in Furman’s (1998) notion of paradox: “Indeed. After wrestling with the downsides of both liberalism and communitarianism. 183) The traditional political debates about community provide the terms of Abowitz’s analysis. (p. 2000. 183). she characterizes the global level community as one of pluralism and liberal tolerance. provides a new metaphor for community—the interconnected web of global community—which requires cooperation within difference and ‘an acknowledgement and celebration of otherness’” (p. The conﬂict between unity and diversity is not so much resolved as separated into two distinct spheres. justice. Community rhetoric. In the end. First. community is constructed as a privileged and normative condition that can address administrative concerns: “But disparaging or ignoring community ideals.308 LYNN FENDLER As a society. Furman portrays the local level as communitarian.
an examination of what he calls ethopolitics. replacing the brute force of direct orders and coercion. Gee’s analysis points directly to the ways communities of practice reinforce new practices of capitalism. For example. and the analysis can be extrapolated to technologies of governance in general. becomes a vehicle of self-governance by which educators can envision their participation in ways that appear to avoid both centralization and individualization. and for the destiny of society as a whole. but no longer in a social form: in the form of individual morality. 323). 2001). xiv). 519). to unravel the paradox of community and postmodernism by shifting both concepts away from their more extreme interpretations toward closer theoretical alignment” (p. Politics is to be returned to society itself. third-way thinking embodies its own disciplinary mechanisms. Third-way thinking paves the way for community to be instantiated as a new site for government. Building Community in Schools. Although Furman’s argument incorporates postmodern critiques of modernist norms. . . Rose’s (2000) critique of third-way thinking focuses more on the construction of the citizen as a moral subject. while appearing to operate outside the structures of government. The paradoxes and nuances of Furman’s (1998) analysis (balancing communitarianism with diversity and pluralism) tend to get buried in compromises for the sake of coherence: “I have attempted . Yet. in the end those critiques are subordinated in favor of a coherent and normative resolution. 1998. Gee (2000) argues that “communities of practice are new and ideal forms of tacit indoctrination. third-way thinking appears to be an inclusive middle ground. in new ways. In them.OTHERS AND COMMUNITY 309 community that are radically different from hers. people may form value-laden identities through immersion in practice without much overt reﬂection and critique” (p. and normalization are not readily available for critique. . Rose (1999) also explicates a “double movement” in the shifts in governance patterns from the society to the community: Organization and other actors that were once enmeshed in the complex and bureaucratic lines of force of the social state are to be set free to ﬁnd their own destiny. . censorship. so its mechanisms of exclusion. However. The rhetoric of the third way is seductive because it appears to bypass the compromises of communitarianism and the selﬁshness of liberal individualism. they are to be made responsible for that destiny. where he writes: “Community building is the secret weapon that can help domesticate the wild cultures that now seem so omnipresent in our schools” (p. (pp. Membership and participation in any given community enacts the simultaneous processes of inclusion and exclusion (Popkewitz. organizational responsibility and ethical community. Popkewitz & Bloch. however. then. Nowhere is the normalization impulse of community more blatant than in Sergiovanni’s (1994) widely cited book. . 174–175) The discourse of community. at the same time. .
We can see this vision as being related to labor union organizing because solidarity has been endorsed as a strategy of empowerment. and intercultural .310 LYNN FENDLER COMMUNITY-AS-SOLIDARITY Educational literature is generally critical of the melting-pot model of building community. Liberal Mainstream.” Guarasci and Cornwell critique the problems of classical and modern deﬁnitions of democracy. integration. For Guarasci and Cornwell. mutuality. identity. and privacy” (p. As the title of their book asserts. 20). which they deem to be instances of “cultural isolation” (p.S. another way to promote community is to appeal to solidarity. solidarity tends (ironically) to reproduce existing power hierarchies and foreclose possibilities for diversity. 9) It is clear that Guarasci and Cornwell are aware of the dangers of homogenization. Instead. and second an example of a Marxian approach. they equally strongly reject appeals to identity politics. the politics of difference is not a debate or a problematic. While analyzing those examples. (p. In this section I analyze literature in education that exempliﬁes the ways in which solidarity has been mobilized as a strategy for community building: ﬁrst an example from a relatively mainstream theoretical approach. reliance on the politics of difference and separation is a doomed strategy. and they reject traditional notions of melting-pot democracy. Guarasci and Cornwell (1997) are primarily concerned with laying out a theoretical framework of “democratic education in an age of difference. most educational inquiry tends to recognize the problems of assimilation and homogeneity. community. The vision of community-as-solidarity is that people of different backgrounds can voluntarily come together in support of a common goal. but rather a normative stance to be opposed: Although we live in a world that is obsessed with difference as both sanctuary and threat. especially within structuralist frameworks of dominance and oppression. I draw from Laclau and Mouffe to suggest that in spite of efforts to the contrary. they promote a multicentric version of community: The world of interdisciplinary studies is where connection. 17) Guarasci and Cornwell promote “community-based learning as a pedagogy for evoking the interplay of difference. U. and common destiny. (p. They explicitly decry the dangers of assimilation: “Homogenized commonality is the enemy of respect for difference. and synthesis are prized. 4). Interdisciplinary studies call for a curricular design and a college experience in which interculturalism is the very means of forging connectedness. However. The politics of difference fails to produce a democratic community and it fails as an enduring means to personal liberation as well. However.
in Guarasci and Cornwell’s text. or false and treacherous connections. we will then “develop the tools” to break the seeming “insurmountable barriers” of difference and end the destructive force of invisibility brought on by parochialism and false homogenization. pp.” “exploring.” as they begin to see their connection to difference as well as its presence within themselves. Finally.” Guarasci and Cornwell cite Lorde (1984) as they defend a multicentric community. Guarasci and Cornwell’s appropriation seems to suggest that we need to “break the barriers” of difference and begin to “see connection. 1997. 48). or that they do not exist at all.” Guarasci and Cornwell’s interpretation infuses community with the discourse of solidarity and thereby transforms Lorde’s idea of difference in a way that favors homogeneity and diminishes possibilities of difference. Guarasci and Cornwell make extensive efforts to reach out and include different groups of people and dissenting voices. They cite examples of community-based learning (sometimes called service learning) in order to “build a sense of campus community” (p. the authors do not limit their citations and references to the canonized speakers for Western democracy.” with the “different.” In Lorde’s text. 115–116. In contrast. Their book provides examples of educational practices that engage students as participants in a democratic community as part of the learning process. This is Lorde’s “springboard for creative change within our [own] lives. difference is a source of strength. they draw from writings by Anzaldúa. Lorde’s original vocabulary of “treacherous connections” was tellingly paraphrased as “false homogenization. Lorde. we do not develop tools for using human difference as a springboard for creative change within our lives. Noddings. By direct encounter and experience. Interestingly. To analyze Guarasci and Cornwell’s theory of community. xi). 20). hooks. and West to support their stance against “homogenized commonality” (p. students and teachers increase their comfort with the “other.” and “using” human difference to make creative changes. 20–21. This results in voluntary isolation. Spivak. . (pp. In a subsection titled “Community and Multiplicity. I compare Guarasci and Cornwell’s interpretation of Lorde with Lorde’s original text. we pour the energy needed for recognizing and exploring difference into pretending those differences are insurmountable barriers. This is a subtle but profound alteration in meaning. Foucault. emphases added) The thrust of Lorde’s original text is “recognizing. Here is Guarasci and Cornwell’s interpretation: As Lorde .” (Cornwell & Guarasci. I offer here a close and critical reading of one section. In an effort to be multicentric. emphases added) Here is Lorde’s (1984) original text: Too often. . “a springboard”. difference is a “barrier” to be broken. Either way. . puts it.OTHERS AND COMMUNITY 311 citizenship” (p.
illustrate how community underlies Marxian political programs in critical theories of education. Many critical theories in education derive from Marxian premises. Brown. and gender) and account for their overlap at the same time. problem of ‘modern’ capitalist societies concerns the alienation caused by the homogenization of culture and the resultant loss of personal identity through a process of assimilation into a common culture” (p. In these quotations.312 LYNN FENDLER In linguistic moves such as these. (p. construct a particular kind of community when they advocate culturally autonomous schooling on the grounds that such community building will increase the likelihood of empowerment. (1997) write: “The . and Wells’s (1997) anthology. they need to be judged against the broader aims of the preservation of living cultures and languages and as a way of “getting out from under”: education here is seen as providing a platform for access to power and full democratic participation in society. argue that homogenization and assimilation are bad. ends up by denying the possibility of difference and/or reinscribing existing power hierarchies. Education: Culture. class. When they argue in favor of sex-segregated or race-segregated schooling.e. they do not intend to support exclu- .g. Halsey et al. Lauder. the impulse toward solidarity. . 14). So Halsey et al. Economy. been to reconcile the relativism and nihilism of a set of theories denying the possibility of social progress with a politics of difference advancing the liberation of women and people of colour” (p. The analyses in these chapters attempt to preserve demographic categories (e. The multiplication of categories has been a key element in cultural studies of education as these critical theories attempt to recognize diversity while they maintain a structural basis for understanding collectivity and solidarity.. I ﬁnd this concept of community troublesome because of its assumptions about who needs solidarity and who does not. 3). and hence to evaluate. Examples from Halsey. . segregated) communities are good for purposes of solidarity and empowerment in the face of a different dominant culture. Marxian Solidarity. and culturally autonomous (i. . . race. participation. The tension between homogenization and fragmentation is evident when Halsey et al. seem to imply that culturally autonomous schooling is appropriate for minorities and underrepresented people but not for all cultural subgroups. they mean to support women and racial minorities. and voice in the larger society: While the projects of culturally autonomous schooling will take years to realize. Society. we can read the concern about homogenization and assimilation that accompany some versions of community. 18) Halsey et al. They assert that “a central problem for critical educationalists has . even as it tries to be inclusive..
or deserving of support from those more fortunate. then culturally autonomous schooling is applied remedially. If Halsey et al. and other groups are seen as normal and acceptable as is. White. heterosexual males because they are assumed to have a de facto community and privileged access to resources. Presumably. the group that is seen as forming an acceptable community is not regarded as pathological or in need of therapy or intervention in any way.’s idea of culturally autonomous schooling is not supposed to be applied to everyone in the society.’s theory of community does not address these issues. and the status of the excluded is also afﬁrmed and maintained. 18). White. As Skutnabb-Kangas (1990) argues. “providing a platform for access to power and full democratic participation in society” (Halsey et al. 1997. by what means is the possibility for cultural (or other) differences maintained in the context of the larger society? Halsey et al. still prevails in many countries” (p. To summarize my criticisms of community-for-solidarity. If culturally autonomous schooling is designed to compensate for the disadvantages of some demographic groups. That is. then I become concerned about deﬁcit-model thinking that may underlie the distinction between those who are perceived to need autonomous schooling and those who are perceived not to need it.OTHERS AND COMMUNITY 313 sive schools for the cultural subgroup of rich. and so their suggestion of culturally autonomous schooling has not fully accounted for the participation of Others in their vision of community. the need for community does not apply to the society at large but rather to isolated cultural groups. in need of assistance. which may convey deﬁcitmodel thinking. unintended consequences arise: the status of the included is afﬁrmed and maintained.’s promotion of community-for-solidarity raises other troublesome questions for me: What is suppose to happen when the cultural subgroup reaches (as they say) “power and full democratic participation in society”? Do they no longer need culturally autonomous schooling? At what point will the subgroup be considered ready for admission to the society at large? And then on what grounds should that larger composite entity be called a community? Will everyone be assimilated? Will the differences eventually wither away? Conversely. Halsey et al. Halsey et al. . So in the model of community-assolidarity. heterosexual males. like all values are. At the same time. I see this as an example of deﬁcit-model thinking in which those who are excluded from the community are regarded as lacking. p.. and where the dominant group’s values are presented as somehow ‘shared and universal.’s concept of culturally autonomous schooling is not for wealthy. I argue that solidarity platforms (like that of Halsey et al.’ rather than particularistic and changing. intend for this sort of community building to serve as a means to an end. 87). “This static and ethnocentric view. Halsey et al. able-bodied. where the whole burden of integration is on the incomer alone.) reiterate existing hierarchical power relations because some groups are positioned as deﬁcient and in need of remediation. Presumably.
Apple (1997) writes. to identify terrains of mutual support. 8). that research has ignored pervasive practices of exclusion that are inherent in all attempts at inclusion.” and since all forms of consensus are based on acts of exclusion. and even more signiﬁcantly. 180. solidarity is ultimately required. since those principles are open to many competing interpretations. 492). equality) and post-modern feminist thought (e. for example. the fragmentation of the ﬁeld.g. One is our loss of collective memory” (p. (p. p. but that for purposes of political mobilization. Yet. A similar strategic solidarity for empowerment is articulated by those who embrace cultural feminist project. 599). a “grammar of conduct” that coincides with the allegiance to the constitutive ethico-political principles of modern democracy: liberty and equality for all. for example. cannot avoid establishing exclusions of some sort: The idea of the common good speciﬁes what we can call . Such a stance not . and to articulate common concerns and agendas” (Halsey et al. There will always be a “constitutive outside. It is crucial to recognize that. We must reconcile modernist questions of feminist solidarity and social structure with postmodern concerns about hierarchies of identiﬁcation and difference. Mouffe (1992) articulates how visions of solidarity. Mouffe concisely summarizes the analytical argument for problematizing community-as-solidarity that is evident in the above examples from educational literatures. regardless of how comprehensive. we risk endorsing struggles in which the politics of differences collapses into new forms of separatism” (p. Insofar as educational research denies the constitutive outside. . one has to acknowledge that a fully inclusive political community can never be realized. 30) Here.g. since to construct a “we” it is necessary to distinguish it from a “them.” McLaren (1997). 1997. writes that is it important to maintain a sense of totality in emancipatory projects: “Without a shared vision (however contingent or provisional) of democratic community. . write: we must counter the “false antithesis” expressed about the distinctions between modern feminist thought (e.” an exterior to the community that is the very condition of its existence.. emphases added) This example illustrates the deﬁnition of community in which theoretical diversity and even incommensurability are good up to a point. (p.. the condition of possibility of the political community is at the same time the condition of impossibility of its full realization. “I say all this because of very real dangers that now exist in critical educational studies. In the assumption that empowerment requires solidarity I can see some ironic consequence insofar as solidarity minimizes attention to differences. Arnot and Dillabough (1999). . . difference). . These critical researchers are interested in forging community at a very broad level: “This book attempts to build a coalition that enables dialog..314 LYNN FENDLER Critical theorists who promote solidarity for empowerment frequently decry the tendencies toward fragmentation or “separatism.
but also forgoes a critical perspective that might address the mechanisms by which exclusion is exercised. the vocabulary of political science is subordinated in favor of the language of affect and emotion. Abowitz argues that community necessitates the integration of affective elements. 82). 1999). Abowitz (2000) calls attention to emotion under the rubric of feminism. In some cases. By bringing Laclau’s and Mouffe’s analyses into educational discourse. especially the notion of caring (Noddings. and argue that the discourse of emotional safety functions simultaneously to include and exclude. 1995) and “feeling power” (Boler. Such work involves the affective domain as well as the logical thought patterns of weighing evidence and evaluating statements and ideas” (p. it becomes possible to take another look at the ways community-building practices tend toward homogeneity and assimilation despite their explicit intentions to the contrary. 1995. EMOTION. she points repeatedly to the inescapable role of emotions in community building. recent literature has been integrating the affective aspects of community.OTHERS AND COMMUNITY 315 only ignores the practices of exclusion. so it is not surprising that emotions play a part. and she criticizes liberal reason for its detachment: “Liberal reason. together with third-way thinking and solidarity. it would behoove researchers to keep constant vigil and continually challenge the ways community constructs inclusions and exclusions simultaneously. asserting that the “integrationist” assumption of liberal democratic community was “originally conceived for far more homogeneous societies” and that “this theory was based on all kinds of unexpressed assumptions that no longer pertain” (p. has come to mean that which is antithetical to passion or feelings” (p. 89). COMMUNITY AS AFFECT. Emotion is also fashionable in research now with such concepts as “emotional intelligence” (Goleman. for example. Instead. then it is dangerous to celebrate and promote community building as if it were unproblematic. AND CARING Recognizing the complexities inherent in theorizing community. as constructed against emotion. schools would be places where the time and scale of the institution would allow for . If some sort of constitutive outside is inevitable in all political communities. neither does she romanticize the emotional realm. “if we were to take the affective seriously. In this section I analyze examples in the literature of community-as-affective-bond. This point suggests that critical curriculum theorizing may proﬁt by exploring the ways community platforms reiterate unintended impulses toward commonality. in the constitution of community for education. Abowitz does not dichotomize reason and emotion. In another critique of solidarity. At the same time. Laclau (1992) historicizes the relationship of the universal to the particular. “our subjectivities can intersect over common issues and problems. 82). 1996).
but also the loss of a feeling of connection and closeness with the world beyond the academy. and casts the project in emotional terms: One of the dangers we face in our educational systems is the loss of a feeling of community. literature usually appear in German (italicized. . . “Noddings’ . 98). However. This research deploys the terms Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft to understand how schools are organized. Research must now observe. Gemeinschaft describes relationships in which there is an “a priori and necessarily existing unity” (1887/1957. however. analyze. 65). recent U. they set up a theoretical framework in which Gemeinschaft signiﬁes an intimate sense of belonging. Hooks advocates what she calls beloved community. community becomes constituted via normative understandings of Gemeinschaft: “we believe that schools have become too gesellschaftlich” (p. Interestingly.S. these terms in U. and she describes community as something that must cross differences. xv) This is an example of the discursive construction of community as an emotional feature of curriculum. (p. not just the loss of closeness among those with whom we work and with our students. 72). educational research on community endows the term with other meanings and other uses. 144). bell hooks (2003) emphasizes the need for educators to “undermine the socialization” (p. record. Readers familiar with Tönnies’s original work might be surprised at the ways these 19th-century concepts have been appropriated and transformed from analytic descriptors to normative values in educational inquiry. and evaluate a whole array of emotional relationships so that administrators and policy makers can propose therapeutic interven- . Further.S. In doing so. but Gemeinschaft does not necessarily implicate the emotional aspect of those relationships. 89). but for schools to do so requires giving up some choices and tolerating some idiosyncratic procedures and outcomes” (p. p. Gemeinschaft describes relationships in which emotions are factors (blood and proximity). 36) that occurs under domination. The analytical categories serve as warrants for new research agendas. Similarly. though not always capitalized). For example. in one chapter. and “Gemeinschaft can be created by choice.S. Tönnies (1887/1957) used the terms Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft to describe various existing forms of associations among people. Stronger appeals to emotion have been brought into U.316 LYNN FENDLER the kinds of work that facilitate the full expression of feeling and thinking that should accompany learning and teaching” (p. educational research through frequent deployment of the concepts Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft. work is highly consistent with making schools more gemeinschaftlich” (p. Merz and Furman (1997) carefully summarize Tönnies concepts as analytic descriptors. and this framework makes it possible to extend an analytical lens onto emotional relationships in schools. In the course of their argument.
belief systems. Bodine & Crawford. 1999. The separation of reason and affect perpetuates the assumption that reason is somehow objective and impartial. acts and forms of behaviour” (Foucault. A sense of belonging. Second. The norms of community are described as commandments. see also Rose. and safety—have also been constructed in histori- . xiii). Sergiovanni’s school community is often described with religious terminology. This effort to reintegrate emotions with reason seems to suggest that it is possible to separate emotion from reason in the ﬁrst place. I address the problems of each of these points in turn. Sergiovanni (1994) advocates perhaps the strongest appeal to emotion as the foundation of building community in schools: “The need for community is universal. 1980. 2002. and infringements are called sins. which Sergiovanni means to do. Hargreaves. In this way. 2000. religion. of being connected to others and to ideas and values that make our lives meaningful and signiﬁcant—these needs are shared by all of us” (p. 1998. 29). p. the universality of emotions.g. Beatty. 2005). Sergiovanni distinguishes authentic community from substitutes for community. and the modern separation between individual and society. 1989. “To be blunt about it. 1998a. Zembylas. systems of reason and rationality have always been shaped by emotion. Goldstein. Many writers recommend that affect and emotion be brought back into social relations and understandings (see. The recent trend that constructs community on the basis of emotional appeals raises four contentious points: the dichotomization of reason and emotion. 1996. purposeful groups of people (like gangs) do not meet the criteria for authentic community because he regards their sense of belonging as dysfunctional. as critical histories clearly argue. Cooper & Sawaf. To argue that emotion and affect need to be included in rational debates is to assume that rationality is not already shaped by emotion. This distinction is necessary because other criteria for community do not exclude gangs. 1998b. 61. Dirkx. the separation does not recognize that systems of reason have been produced as the effects of culturally and historically speciﬁc power relations that always entail an array of human faculties. When researchers normalize concepts and criticize communities for being too gesellschaftlich.OTHERS AND COMMUNITY 317 tions that will build communities in their schools. Cherniss & Goleman. community requires altruistic love. So certain tightly bonded. and power dynamics: “The archaeology of the human sciences has to be established through studying the mechanisms of power which have invested human bodies. 1999). 2000. However. Blackmore. of continuity. they perpetuate a very old dualism of mind and body. the feelings that are identiﬁed as aspects of the affective domain—trust. 2001. the construction of enemies. 1997. e. caring. 2001. we cannot achieve community unless we commit ourselves to the principle ‘love thy neighbor as thyself’ ” (p. cognition and emotion.. educational research itself—with its technologies of surveillance and rehabilitation— exercise normalization and governance in the process.
As Rose (1989) has argued extensively: Yet our conceptions of normality are not simply generalizations from our accumulated experience of normal children. 1994. they know they belong. processes of negotiation and dialogue are not neutral or immune from cultural bias. When students share the responsibility for developing norms and when their commitment to these norms is expected. pp. People learn to recognize when they are supposed to feel safe and when they are not as discourses of community are circulated and reiterated. Negotiations about norms are shaped by a variety of expectations that include reliance on modern expertise. and therefore uncomfortable and disconcerting. Therefore. but privileges endowed by existing hierarchies. criteria of normality are elaborated by experts on the basis of their claims to a scientiﬁc knowledge of . More importantly. affective bases for community can be just as exclusive as they are inclusive. However. when people acknowledge difference in anything but trivial ways. Therefore. Some researchers call for a community in which such things as participation and safety are negotiated among members. To essentialize these affective aspects is to assume the universality and naturalness of feelings that are culturally and historically speciﬁc. Norms of interaction will always favor some and exclude others. (Sergiovanni. even when communities ostensibly establish their own norms.318 LYNN FENDLER cally speciﬁc circumstances. They get the message that they are needed. They experience community. they fail to recognize the power that circulates as socialization or governmentality. For example: Democratic community is aimed not just at improving student behavior but at creating the kinds of ties that bond students together and students and teachers together and that bind them to shared ideas and ideals. Even when norms of behavior are stated in such seemingly innocuous terms as “respect. In other words. More important. comfort and respect are easy to afﬁrm. that experience can be expected to be precisely unfamiliar. it is misguided to require a sense of caring or safety as a basis for community because these dimensions are neither universal nor natural. there is no reason to assume that an atmosphere that feels safe. comfort has no essential meaning. welcoming. and caring to one person will feel that way to another person. 120–121) However. On the contrary. in practice (as operationalized behaviors) comfort and respect are not the same to all people in all places. People who face systematic injustices daily generally recognize that feelings of trust and safety are not prerequisites of participation.” those norms generally remain unspeciﬁed: Under what circumstances are humor and laughter considered respectful? How much time between conversational turn taking does courtesy require? How loud can voices be? What terms of address are acceptable? What observations should remain politely unspoken? What vocabulary is uncouth? What rhythm of eye contact feels impertinent? What body postures appear offensive? As abstract concepts.
there have been two types of authority: one coming from the people and the other coming from the enemy. . television images. and alienation. seemingly as individuals but actually following a generally shared dream. Third. In his provocatively titled book. pride. what we understand to be respect is a conglomeration of expert advice. fragmentation. doctors. gets folded into the meaning of community. to break out of marriage and live together “in sin” outside of the comfortable legal safety net? Is this a type of “ego fever” that can be treated by hot compresses of “us”? Not likely. same and Other. . The discourse creating communities/enemies entails appeals to nationalism. is a collective fate. the discourse of psychology. [E]xpert notions of normality are extrapolated from our attention to those children who worry the courts.” “programmed individualism. like Rose. Beck (1998) argues that it does not make sense anymore to talk about an agonistic or dichotomous relation between the individual and the collective: “Individualization therefore. and parents. not an individual one” (p. (p. The prospects of building community in response to an enemy threat are not new. . and movements have typically established their unity and identity not on the basis of what they support but on the basis of what they oppose. 143) After historicizing the relationship between communities and enemies. One corollary of demarcation of community is the simultaneous construction of ally and enemy. Beck (1998) points out the ways communities create enemies: In all previously existing democracies. Beck argues that the current historical milieu. 131) As Rose points out. Democracy Without Enemies. is comprised of a new constellation of social relations. which deals with the domain of affect.OTHERS AND COMMUNITY 319 childhood and its vicissitudes. after postmodernity. stereotypes. Enemy stereotypes empower. teachers.” and “do-it-yourself biography” to convey that the idea of a modern autonomous individual is anachronistic: But what drives millions of people in all the countries of the globe. (p. (p. Beck uses problematic terms such as “imposed freedom. intimate encounters. Fourth. Insofar as community is constructed as an emotional bond. 35). Nations. and a sense of belonging. assumptions about community can construct enemies in attempts to prevent extremism. One could say that enemy stereotypes constitute an alternative energy source for consensus. A new relationship between individual and society is announcing itself here. 34). Enemy stereotypes have the highest conﬂict priority. tribes. to pick out one peculiarity. . gangs. The simultaneous construction of community and enemy is analogous to the processes of inclusion and exclusion. and ethical commitments. They make it possible to cover up and force together all the other social antitheses.
or ascription. . because each side is deﬁned by opposition to the other and membership in one community implies marginalization in another. then community membership becomes the problematic issue: “we deﬁne who we are by the ways we experience our selves through participation as well as by the ways we and others reify our selves. which usually connotes coherence. Wenger’s (1998) communities of practice are delimited by participation and nonparticipation: When communities deﬁne themselves by contrast to others—workers versus managers. (p. collaborating versus rebellious students. 1991. I suggest that such theories have limited explanatory and predictive capacity with respect to the operation of race in education and in daily life. a coherent identity is of necessity a mixture of being in and being out” (Wenger. more broadly. p. 98. p. or. and gender—that rely on sociological categories (Castel. p. and differentiated. Cameron McCarthy. Hacking 1990. Otherness. constructions of community. She characterizes heteromity as being ﬂuid. and inclusion are also disrupted. class. 149). . 246) When constructions of identity are problematized. italics in original). This situation makes boundary crossing difﬁcult. or political group versus another—being inside implies. A great deal of educational research on community understands difference in those terms. paradoxically. 165). (1990. When identity is assumed to be coherent. In recognition of the theoretical difﬁculties inherent in the term community. 168) This construction of community is infused with assumptions about identity. I argue that one cannot understand race. Popkewitz. For example. “I think the time has come to disavow community because the concept itself carries the historical and ideological baggage of the failures of western liberal association” (p.320 LYNN FENDLER Educational psychology has based discussions about community on assumptions about identity. 1998. Lynda Stone (1993) has proposed the term heteromity. But other. saying. and is largely deﬁned in terms of. individuality. Both McCarthy and Stone contribute dimensions of the discourse of community that avoid assimilation and homogeneity. . We deﬁne who we are by the ways we reconcile our various forms of membership into one identity” (Wenger. religious. Modern identity is commonly understood in terms of demographic ascriptions—like race. more nuanced versions of diversity have become available in postcolonial literature. . has advanced theories of race in terms of “nonsynchrony” (1990) and “counterpoint” (1995) that disavow unities of race and identity: I offer a critique of essentialist theories of race. “In a landscape deﬁned by boundaries and peripheries. being outside. one ethnic. by looking at race alone. 1998). decentered. for example. 1998. Further.
and caring open new doors of research and analysis. oppressive. and deliberative. policy research contrasts successful schools with failing schools and concludes that success is both correlated with and caused by a feeling of intimacy between school and community. and emotional comfort. or disciplinary than casting the debate in terms of society or democracy. Casting the debate in terms of community is no more or less restrictive. for all of them. when associations and relationships in education are framed in terms of society and democracy. solidarity for empowerment. Through these discursive mechanisms. and textbooks of teaching methods provide rubrics that evaluate the degree to which a lesson on punctuation contributes to a sense of belonging in the classroom. For example. Qualitative studies in education are designed to measure the degree of emotional attachment among working groups of teachers. Democracy and Disagreement. Research and discussion about community has recently overshadowed educational debates that have been cast for centuries in terms of society and democracy. As Rose (2000) writes: Those who refuse to become responsible and govern themselves ethically have also refused the offer to become members of our moral community. When educational debates are framed in these terms. trust and friendship become quantiﬁable and calculable in case studies of mentor teachers’ relationships with their apprentices..OTHERS AND COMMUNITY 321 CONCLUSION The deployment of community as a way to think about relations in educational research is bolstered by compelling appeals to third-way moderation. Gutmann and Thompson’s (1996) inﬂuential work. empowerment. The ideal of the educated person constructed through the discourse of community becomes one who takes on personal responsibility for regulating his or her moral welfare as a member of a community. Three strikes and you are out. harsh measures are entirely appropriate. different kinds of questions rise to prominence. However. The discourse of community has become a mechanism of governance and a forum for specifying norms and rules of participation. educators] into agencies of control concerned with risk management and secure containment. Citizenship becomes conditional on conduct. the connotations of the word community and its associations with moderation.g. analyzed the political consequences of various models of democracy: procedural. research asks other questions and evaluates other dynamics: Are the rules of behavior explicit and applicable to everyone? On what grounds is com- . At the same time. The counterpart to the moralism of these community-based programs is the enhancement of the powers of the penal and psychiatric complexes and the transformation of social workers and other caring professionals [e. constitutional. community is a problem for Others. The spirit of community that Rose highlights is enacted in schools through zero-tolerance policies and Ritalin prescriptions. Hence.
But the community debates in educational research are not only about political theories of justice and inclusion. & Coombe (1999). . and Tierney (1993). and therefore less alienating. private/public. (pp. Examples of work in education that deﬁne community as common ground include Allen (2000). and less divisive. Sergiovanni (1994). Each entails a denial of difference and a desire to bring multiplicity and heterogeneity into unity. and to the editors and ﬁve anonymous reviewers at Curriculum Inquiry. She writes: Too often contemporary discussion of these issues sets up an exhaustive dichotomy between individualism and community. less threatening. and a sense of identity in encounters with others. accountability. Solidarity provides a sense of security in the face of enemies. Calderwood (2000). though in opposing ways. Cocklin. & Powell (1997). When safety is a primary concern. whose work focuses on the politics of difference. so third-way thinking ﬁts the bill by appearing to be moderate and centrist. Arthur (2000). separated self/shared self. there is resistance to the idea of politicizing the debates about school management. individualism and community have a common logic underlying their polarity. Community appears in the oppositions of individualism/community. and BetsAnn Smith. NOTES 1.” in Leuven. and management. But like most such terms. Weis. The idea is to bring people together. argues that community aspirations are fraught with dead ends. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS I am grateful for many critical readings and generous contributions to my thinking about this paper. Guarasci & Cornwell (1997). 228–229) Most educational research about community cites Young as well as Gutmann and Thompson. for example. Salomone. Boyle-Baise (1999). Retallick. Belgium. (2000). My heartfelt thanks go to the Research Community “Philosophy and History of the Discipline of Education. 2. to my colleagues Dorothea Anagnostopoulos. hooks (2003).322 LYNN FENDLER pliance justiﬁed? What sorts of actions constitute transgressions? So the criteria for participation stipulated in a democracy discourse are different from the criteria stipulated in a community discourse. Steve Ryan. Miele (2004). Community carves out a space for discussion that feels politically neutral. These debates are folded into issues of school safety. Fine. See. Young (1990). which makes it possible for them to deﬁne each other negatively.
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