Think Tank #8: Topic Notes: Community as a Minority, Deviant Group or Political Body by kristinmarting
March 22, 2011, 2:17 pm
Filed under: American Dream, Community, Events, Research


Community as a Minority
Deviation and Deviants
Community as a Political Body


Definition of terms:

People on the fringe
Genet – part of a community, but all about making the ugly be seen as beautiful.
America founded on principle of acceptance of all, regardless of creed, race, etc.; yet we still divide ourselves into further communities (racial, interests, etc.) – anyone defined as “other” can find a group they can fit into
Is there then a community of deviants?
Minorities form communities, deviants don’t – deviance becomes accepted and then becomes a fringe group/community
Means people who are purposefully excluded (i.e. pedophiles) – people with characteristics thought of as a perversion
Changing standards make these groups shift
But people who feel excluded reject community and form their own

People connected by some commonality
Not necessarily living in the same place/together
What constitutes community as a minority? Ex. Small persecuted ethnic group displaced; finding group of people in a strange environment.
Neighborhoods – shifting around, enclaves, cultural specificity (street signs in other languages, non-English communication as the norm)
Like a suffix thrown on a group of people (i.e. “African American community” “Homosexual community”)
Log Cabin – LGBT/supporter Republicans – trying to keep subset in line with the subset they’re already part of.
Commonality: people needing support for something: language, point of view, culture. Family comes in there – like-minded people.

What if you don’t even know the people in your community? Like the community of VW Bugs, honk and wave as though you know people, shared characteristic even if it is superficial

Community and the American Dream
People came here for opportunity for freedom
Also largely for economic freedom
People thought they had something to gain by coming to America
Freedom of choice.
Who do you choose to join with?
Peculiarly American – ability to reinvent yourself.
Same reason people move to large cities – ability to reinvent, change identity, be known as something different.
Fits in with deviance – not fitting in, option to leave and create/find different community – rather than be minority, become majority elsewhere?
Even living by yourself, there’s still a community you are part of…or perceived to be a part of?

What are you sacrificing to be come part of any given community?
How does this fit with the part of the American dream that idealizes rugged individualism (a la cowboys)

To be an effective political body, you are necessarily sacrificing self-interest for the sake of the group/political entity.

Is community about agreed upon conventions/codes/rules? Parameters to individualism…are our communities groups of people who agree on what is ok to do?
That’s maybe how it begins, it’s how people get along and agree on what they’re doing, then it expands, and transforms. And as it expands, it’s sacrificing itself (or what the original of itself was) to accommodate more people and their individualism.

Beginning with mutual need rather than altruism? Survival as the impetus?
Humans are animals who survive by socializing – so part of that is making up rules.
Complex social norms to establish structure, defense mechanism, way to understand each other quickly
Defining rules is the basis of culture wars
Interdependence, survival instincts (i.e. band together to weather the cold)

Is prosperity a detriment to community?
Takes away need/immediacy which was its original genesis
More people feel rootless in this generation, and feel rootless. Is it because we travel more, and are more likely to end up somewhere other than where we grew up?
How does our “global community” affect this – so many places we are able to go.

Benjamin Barber – Jihad vs. McWorld
How do you become inclusive and accepting without losing the tribal at the root of our traditions.
The interdependence movement – started right after 2001
Philosopher and social economist.
America exports the worst of itself, and no one gets to know the best parts
Yet why do people keep buying the worst of us? It becomes a luxury item elsewhere.

Catastrophe affecting communities
Both draws together and muddles – what do we do? How do we respond?
New York City
Provincial? People know the people in their neighborhoods.
Sense of small communities that doesn’t exist in other cities
Even deviants add local color and are part of the landscape integral to the community – outsider specific to a particular community (“that’s our homeless guy”)
People think it’s dangerous and faceless, and you don’t know anyone…misunderstood.
Difficult in suburban areas, cookie-cutter houses, places you drive – encourage isolation. In NYC we’re physically forced together, rub together, on sidewalks and subways etc.
Creativity sparked through unexpected interactions. Higher occurrences of creativity places where people have to improvise their physical walking paths.
Suburbia – centered around shopping and/or church – nothing to cling to culturally; arid; antiseptic

Community as a political body
To be lumped into a group that doesn’t necessarily match up with outside perception – frustrating, identity confusion; of that but not
Is culture community?
Being on the fringe
You can band together, rally, form mythologies and stories.
You want to define your own community, not have definition imposed from the outside.
“What do you identify as” vs. “What are you?” – allows self-definition and self-determination.
What if we want to be part of community but not necessarily let it dictate what we think? Demands that we toe the line in uncomfortable ways – do we change our beliefs to feel at home in our community, or do we separate from our community to stick to our beliefs (and in so doing, lose our political power)?
The way to fight patriarchy is not to form matriarchy – community-forming as fencing in? Threatens our individuality?
Automatic skepticism toward groupthink.
Changing the culture of a community by joining it.
“I am part of this but not of this” – and then can alter what they’re in. Those people are the leaders – not being totally immersed allows change and insight.
Authentic connection.

Art making as creation of community
Religion creates connection in a similar way
Yoga. Content not as important as collective energy.

At its most basic level, is community just a place to show up?
And how about accidental or organic communities, that form themselves rather than are sought out.
Kids, disasters, sickness – create connections

RAT – theaters from around the country talking about work, how to make it, how it can exist in each others’ communities
Political act; networking act;
Lack of cohesion?
Agreed-upon tenets as a basis: whoever comes is who is supposed to be here; create theater with no money
Banding together to resist outside pressure?
Pulling itself apart because with enough people involved, too many ideas of what it should be…

2am theater – blog
Huge conversation about how to make work and what it’s about

Ongoing conversations in different parts of the world – projects come out of online conversation. About how to create meaningful dialogue, based on how the dialogue is begun.
Local and global simultaneously

Constant mutating and changing = constantly running after groups that dissolve or change; or find group but can’t find a way in.
Timing as an important factor.
“Fringe” as more populous than those considered “successful” (innovative vs commercial theater)

The mainstream change starts in theater – get it on stage and people start to notice? Ways to tell stories about people like us.
An attraction of theater – a chance to put all that in front of others (what is our mythology – who are our heroes, villains, gods?)
I do this to show how we’re all the same
If we can get to know each other, all our differences become commonalities, and that’s how communities start – demystifying the “other”
Creating safe spaces is creating communities.


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