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A media anthropologist in a commune

June 24, 2009

By Adam Fish via Savage Minds

My girlfriend lives on a commune, or, to be more PC and less 1960s, an “intentional community” in Southern California. The social glue that links the residents are a non-denominational spirituality, inexpensive/free living, shared work, collective food production and sharing, and “community.” From what I can gather, residents share a desire to link individual with universal consciousness, connect to nature through devotional work, and uphold an emotional honesty. The more humanistic or less numinous amongst the residents say “community” is the reason they live here. For these individuals, this commune’s attractions are the shared responsibilities and personal relationships. I am here now enjoying a kale and fig salad and handpicked/squeezed orange juice from the orchard (she is the reigning queen of the organic farm here) and entertaining research ideas.

Read on…

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One Comment leave one →
  1. June 25, 2009 12:22 pm

    My response (via the Savage Minds site):

    “I think it is imperative that we distinguish between folk notions that refer to empirically researchable social realms (e.g. pubs, committees, schools, peer groups, websites) and folk notions that refer to transempirical realms that exist – in all probability – only in people’s minds (e.g. nirvana, the Afterworld, communities). That doesn’t mean we should ignore the latter, but rather that we should put them in a different category, the category of emic notions that matter to the people we’re working with but are beyond our empirical reach as social realms. We can report that people in village X talk a lot about nirvana and believe in its existence, but we cannot go there to do fieldwork. Where we can go is the local watering holes, schools, houses, temples, etc.

    There are no ‘local communities’ other than in popular rhetoric because ‘community’ could refer to just about anything. It is too imprecise a term to be helpful as a guide to the empirical actualities on the ground. There may be local mosques, rowing clubs, tavernas, gangs, etc, to investigate, but investigating whether or not there is an actual or imagined community is analogous to setting out to determine the sex of angels.”

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