Communities are something we are all a part of. They are a foundation in which we learn our values and shared beliefs. There are communities that we choose to be a part of and there are those we are simply born into. The students enrolled in this university are in a community. In a way, we are bound by the same goal of furthering our education. Yet, each and every one of us is also a member of several other communities. The way that we interact within these communities allows understand each other, while also building connections to outside communities.
The definition of community lies in the similarities and differences among everyone in the group and those outside of the group. The article “What is community” provides examples of these similarities, one of them being location. People in these communities are bound geographically and may also share a common language. The boundaries of these communities might include physical landmarks such as a river. Another similarity would be people having a common interest. They are associated by a common characteristic such as religion, sexual orientation, or ethnic origin. This differs from the previous idea of geography, because the boundaries of these communities are not based on location. People from all around the world may be a part of these communities. The boundaries of these communities are seen as more symbolic and are a critical part in understanding how people experience these communities.
As mentioned before, communities are also defined by differences. These differences are what differentiates them from other communities, but there are risks to singling out other groups. The article “The Vicious Cycle of Nationalist Violence” by Ivor Blazevic, discusses the causes of ethnic cleansing. Ethnic cleansing is the forced, violent removal of a minority ethnic or religious group by a more powerful, majority group. The debate that is brought up is that people have an instinctual need to be part of an ‘exclusive, extended family’. The author argues that it is not natural, but rather ‘rationally organized’. Our history shows a grueling past in which genocide has occurred. Examples such as North American native tribes and Jews in Nazi-Germany show how communities were unfairly pitted against each other. This is the risk of what happens when communities limit membership.
Transnational Advocacy Networks are examples of communities that intend to fight against social inequalities. In the article “Activists beyond borders” by Keck and Sikkink, the authors describe TANs as international groups that work to influence public policies at home and abroad. These are individual groups that are essentially looking out for the greater good of others, as well as themselves. TANs work with different issues such as environmental protection, human rights, gender equality, and social justice. These are all things that affect those in groups of all kinds. In comparison to the communities previously described, TANs work to improve the quality of life for others. This is a benefit of having limited membership in a community.
Communities can be defined by the similarities and differences among those in and out of the group. The differences among communities can cause rivalries and the end results can be catastrophic. There are also communities that work in order to improve the quality of life for other groups.