Part 5, 18 January 2021

Exclusivity, Solidarity and the Possibility of Community

Brock Smith, PhD Candidate


In the fifth lecture of this series, I will continue the exploration of identity, difference, and belonging, by looking at different conceptions of, and approaches to, the question of community.

In the past year, at least, we have seen the term ‘community’ used in many different ways and in different cultural narratives, but usually referring to a static, identifiable, grouping of people. It is often invoked in an attempt to inspire people into collective action (such as in the Australian Bushfires last summer, and the advent of COVID-19), as well as for the persecution of select groups, painted as potential threats from outside. Seemingly, community can refer to any grouping of people as small as a couple to as large as humanity itself; it can refer to nations, cities, suburbs, races, sexual orientations, people who share the same interests and past-times, and so on. But how do communities arise, and do they cease to exist? Are communities defined solely on inclusion and exclusion, or is there a way to think of the individual-social dynamic that underlies our condition and connects us beyond boundaries of ‘us and them’? How do narratives of community and belonging influence our everyday lives, political views, and approach to others?

Through an exploration of the relationship between literary, philosophical, and cultural narratives, in this lecture I will examine what ‘community’ can be taken to mean today, and how we may possibly be able to reimagine what it means. I will look at how literary narratives can shape and inform our sense of what it means to belong and live alongside others, and how they can open up spaces for us to rethink and reimagine our shared condition.