Theorizing the Concept of Community

Theorizing the Concept of Community

Anne Mauritsen

| English | Denmark

Anne Lundahl Mauritsen, Postdoctoral Researcher, Aarhus University

As the spring approaches, we in the Danish team are preparing for our upcoming writing retreat in Barcelona. Each national team in the RECOVIRA project must contribute with at least two articles and it is our ambition to dig deep into the writing of our two articles during our retreat. For now, we have planned that the first article will present analyses of the findings from the Danish fieldwork while the second article will compare results from the Danish fieldwork with the quantitative survey data formerly collected in Denmark as part of the “COVID-19: Religion and Existential Wellbeing” project [1]. While the articles are still being set up, we do have some specific ideas as to their content, especially the first article.

This first article – which will be in Danish – will dig into the theme of community and how it is conceptualized among the informants in the different religious groups. In our last blogpost, we described how the senses came into play, when the informants described how they had missed meeting physically with their group. Touching and hugging each other, having eye contact, smelling each other, and smiling to each other were described as key factors in constituting the feeling of connection and we will examine this more closely in the first article. However, while the article is based on empirical analyses, we have also been working on shaping a theoretical framework which can inform our analyses.

The concept of community is a category of practice used among folks in their everyday conversations, but it is also a category of analysis used among academics. Community has been defined and discussed by several academics, and we have chosen to focus specifically on the way sociologist Zygmunt Bauman and Axel Honneth examined the concept, since they are some of the most distinguished modern sociologists, but also because they approach community in quite different ways. Bauman, on the one hand, is rather pessimistic in how he views communities. While he acknowledges that community to many is a concept of positive connotations that symbolizes security and social coherency, he also argues that being part of a community is always in opposition to being a fully free individual, since being part of a community according to Bauman requires ‘absolute obedience’ and thus forces the individual to give up upon its freedom and trust in individuals outside said community. Honneth, on the other hand, underscores the liberating potential of communities. He argues that when the individual is part of a well-functioning, caring community, it enables the individual to express itself fully and safely, thus experiencing the community as a extending its freedom rather than limiting it.

Thus, there are quite different approaches to community, and we are inspired by this diversity in our empirical analyses. We look forward to engaging further with these perspectives as we continue with our writing and hope it will contribute with fruitful thinking to the overall RECOVIRA project.


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