The American Community: Ghettos, Enclaves or Cosmopolitan
Through a variety of inputs: readings, speakers, excursions and class discussion we will explore the role communities have played in our life and the changing community in our society today. We will be particularly concerned with the American “experiment” in creating a multi-cultural democratic society. This society envisions itself as a society that celebrates freedom of movement and openness to diversity, but also builds ghettos, enclaves and gated communities.
We will explore this contradiction with an understanding that communities are built. We don’t simply adapt to our environment as humans, we produce our environment. Thus the communities we live in are our products.
Our units of study will be communities we visit together in West Michigan and Chicago. The units will also include communities we research academically as well as the communities of our youth and the communities of our future. Community life has changed very much in the United States, yet we still require it as humans. Community life can and does restrict individuals from self-fulfillment, such as class or gendered expectations. At times we may want to transcend the limitations of community. Yet, this causes a loss of the ties of the community.
We will explore these questions in a seminar and experience based course relying on the development of sociological method and theory to broaden the notion of community and to challenge the individual’s responsibility within the community.
This course has a unique design, due to its emphasis on providing the opportunity for field experiences. To achieve the objectives of this course we will delve into various communities as deeply as is possible given the parameters of a classroom based course. We will place ourselves into the experience of others’ communities as observers for the purpose of discussion and analysis. The field experiences in Grand Rapids, Big Rapids and Chicago will provide you with a deep connection to many ways of imagining community. Reflection on the community experiences (through journaling), a group community research project and examinations will represent the bulk of the evaluation process.