On community — as construct, metaphor, claim, sense of belonging, organisational form, and technology of government.

#observingcommunity #quotes

Does the constant discovery of ‘community’ by social scientists reveal a political imperative or impulse in our lives towards the social, an idiom in which to locate, imagine and present oneself collectively as connected within an enduring social group or relations? Today community is being invoked at all social levels in the context of profound social change and rupture, and in the general insecurity of life and instability of social relations in many settings. … As a cultural construct, community has become a social metaphor to give shape to experience of greater social complexity and to articulate the local in relation to larger social imaginaries including the ‘nation’ and the ‘global’. The idiom of community is being used as a way to re-anchor social experience in a familiar localized narrative in the context of large-scale social dislocation and change.

— Michael Humphrey

[a] focus on technology may remind us that ‘community’ as both a claim, a feeling of belonging and a form of organisation is also a technology of government, and that communities can also be oppressive and coercive

— Maja Hojer Bruun and Cathrine Hasse


Bruun, M.H., Hasse, C. (2022). ‘Communities, collectives, and categories’, in Bruun, M.H., Wahlberg, A., Douglas-Jones, R., Hasse, C., Hoeyer, K., Kristensen, D.B., Winthereik, B.R. (eds.) The Palgrave Handbook of the Anthropology of Technology, Palgrave Macmillan, Singapore: pp. 381–398.

Humphrey, M. (2012). ‘Community as social metaphor: The need for a genealogy of social collectivities’, in Kalekin-Fishman, D., Denis, A. (eds.) The Shape of Sociology for the 21st Century: Tradition and Renewal, Sage, Los Angeles and London: pp. 154–170.