Against the Romance of Community
Community is almost always invoked as an unequivocal good, an indicator of a high quality of life, caring, selflessness, belonging. Into this common portrayal, Against the Romance of Community introduces an uncommon note of caution, a penetrating, sorely needed sense of what, precisely, we are doing when we call upon this ideal.
Miranda Joseph explores sites where the ideal of community relentlessly recurs, from debates over art and culture in the popular media, to the discourses and practices of nonprofit and nongovernmental organizations, to contemporary narratives of economic transformation or "globalization." She shows how community legitimates the social hierarchies of gender, race, nation, and sexuality that capitalism implicitly requires.
Joseph argues that social formations, including community, are constituted through the performativity of production. This strategy makes it possible to understand connections between identities and communities that would otherwise seem to be disconnected: gay consumers in the U.S. and Mexican maquiladora workers; Christian right "family values" and Asian "crony capitalism." Exposing the complicity of social practices, identities, and communities with capitalism, this truly constructive critique opens the possibility of genuine alliances across such differences.
Miranda Joseph is associate professor of women's studies at the University of Arizona.
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