Researching community and its moral projects

Article English OPEN
Back, Les (2009)
  • Publisher: Routledge

The study of community is a key area of concern in sociology and anthropology. In this paper it is argued that community should be understood as a moral project as well as a state of affairs or a set of social relationships. Through reviewing the current debate on the ‘death of multiculturalism’ the political and ethical dimensions of research practice are explored. The article argues for the development of a cosmopolitan method that reworks the relationship between technology, art and critical social science. Accounting for the complexities of community require a research imagination that is supple enough to attend to the interplay between local and global levels in order to find new ways of describing how people live in and across social divisions. Drawing on twenty years of research on the meanings of community in south London the paper explores the limits of interviewing and quantitative measures as they applied to social cohesion or social capital. It argues for a sensuous mode of scholarship in which the social relations of sound, smell, touch and taste can alert us to the ways in which community is inhabited and lived. The aspiration of this sensuous and multimodal agenda for researching community is to create vital forms of research that capture the conflicts as well as the opportunities that arise in city life.
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