How many people are you? By this, I mean, if you had to map out all your different personalities and ways of speaking, how many different “people” would you come up with? I’ve learned that asking “Which communities do you belong to?” is similar to asking “How many people are you?” This isn’t to say that you can’t be one person in many different communities, but it does mean that there’s a certain amount of personal ‘dissection’ that we all experience. I think it’s safe to say that we all belong to different groups of people depending on where we are and who we’re talking to; and all of us belong to many groups at the same time.
Recently, I asked Brandon Bailey and Sarah Pips which communities they felt they belong to. Both responses gave light to this idea of ‘multi-communality’. “I’ve never thought of myself as being a ‘hybrid’ that is part of many different communities. And yet, it would certainly be difficult to define all of my relationships as part of one community since many of them do not even know each other,” says Brandon. He adds, “Like most people, I suppose I participate in many different micro communities made up of different groups of people in my life (friends, co-workers, sports teams, church, etc.). Some of those groups connect, and some do not.” I found the term ‘micro communities’ to be extremely insightful, and it raised a question for me about how big a group of people needs to be in order to be a ‘community’. Sarah’s response raised this question, too, but in a different way. She replied, “When I think about it, each and every one of us could assign ourselves to multiple communities based on multiple factors – ethnicity, location, age, sex, occupation…the list goes on. I’ll limit myself to 3 – English, student, female.” These three communities — that of English people, that of students, and that of females — are really big! And yet, it makes sense to call these communities because they consist of members that share common traits. In the same way that members of the global community share humanity, members of the student community, for example, share their student status. They might even share certain interests that we could imply (rightly or wrongly), like an interest in learning or an interest in thinking critically. These aren’t traits that are limited to the student community, but maybe (or maybe not) they are common to all people who call themselves ‘students’.
Two nights ago, I was talking with a friend about The Community Talks, and about organizing a community event at the college. (More about this soon!) After a while, she asked me, “So what communities do you belong to?” I was speechless! I felt like I couldn’t even begin to answer the question; but I took a moment to think about it. (And really, it’s like she had asked, “Who are you?”) I told her that I belonged to a community of immigrants in the United States, to a community at my school, and reflecting over it now, I also belong to a community of people who love jazz! I think Sarah was definitely right to say that the list goes on and on —