Communities and Tribes in Residential Living
by Peter Magolda & Kathleen Knight Abowitz — 1997
In this article, we weave the analysis of community within political philosophy with the stories of undergraduates who experience the daily struggles of pluralistic community construction as they implement community-building strategies in a residential college. Using a qualitative research methodology cumulating in two narratives about Resident Assistants?quest for community, we clarify the key constructs of two opposing visions of community—liberal and tribal communities. Liberal community is set in a pluralistic context and depends on individualistic reason to function. Communities shaped by communitarian philosophies are more family-like or tribal in nature, more dependent on nonrational bonds of kinship, tradition, ideological unity, or shared philosophical belief systems. Both liberal and communitarian ideologies shape our cultural and campus discourses on community, but neither one singularly represents an appropriate guiding ideal for higher education. In an era in which administration, staff, faculty, and students all seem to be seeking “community?in the educational realm, where are there suitable models? We argue that political community is an ideal that avoids the dichotomous conceptions of liberal and communitarian conceptions, and serves as a guiding framework and discourse for higher education.
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