Returning (To) Communities: Theory, Culture and Political Practice of the Communal

Returning (To) Communities: Theory, Culture and Political Practice of the Communal

Returning (To) Communities: Theory, Culture and Political Practice of the Communal

Returning (To) Communities: Theory, Culture and Political Practice of the Communal

Excerpt

Qui peut jamais oser un "nous" sans trembler? (Derrida, 2001: 169)

There is a price to be paid for the privilege of "being in a community"
– and it is inoffensive or even invisible only as long as the community
stays in the dream. The price is paid in the currency of freedom,
variously called "autonomy," "right to self-assertion," "right to be
yourself." (Bauman, 2001: 4)

In the precarious equilibrium between particularism and universalism, (individual) freedom and (collective) security, it seems inevitable that in our "age of uncertainty," the desire for community "returns." The return to community in its many guises – in its irreducibly plural or singular manifestations (always as "communities") – consists both of a recalling the communal as a site of resistance and critique, and of a re-membering, reassembling a quite different sense of community (turning community insideout, a community of singularities). In the face of such a return, the challenge for thinking the communal is not to relinquish the achievements of more than thirty years' of scepticism about everything "common" (common sense, being and having in common, commonwealth, etc.).

This volume assumes the ambiguity Zygmunt Bauman finds in community, as something that is always already lost, and sees it as an opportunity for a critical return to and of community. Together, these essays might be seen as an instance of what Bill Readings called "community of dissensus" (1996) – an intellectual community that "dwells in the ruins" of the "post-historical university" or "global(ised) culture" – a thinking community that does not already presuppose that one speak the same language or that agreement lies at some kind of "origin" of a community. The essays constitute "singularities;" they are speaking and listening to each other, are "indebted" to each other without being aimed at a consensus – a community that does not presuppose anything that may be in common. Rather than "being together" these essays are merely "thinking together. . . ."

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