Reconcilable Differences? Human Diversity, Cultural Relativity, and Sense of Community
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- Townley, G., Kloos, B., Green, E.P. et al. Am J Community Psychol (2011) 47: 69. doi:10.1007/s10464-010-9379-9
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Sense of community (SOC) is one of the most widely used and studied constructs in community psychology. As proposed by Sarason in (The Psychological sense of community: prospects for a community psychology, Jossey-Bass, San Francisco, 1974), SOC represents the strength of bonding among community members. It is a valuable component of community life, and it has been linked to positive mental health outcomes, citizen participation, and community connectedness. However, promotion of SOC can become problematic in community psychology praxis when it conflicts with other core values proposed to define the field, namely values of human diversity, cultural relativity, and heterogeneity of experience and perspective. Several commentators have noted that promotion of SOC can conflict with multicultural diversity because it tends to emphasize group member similarity and appears to be higher in homogeneous communities. In this paper, we introduce the idea of a community-diversity dialectic as part of praxis and research in community psychology. We argue that systematic consideration of cultural psychology perspectives can guide efforts to address a community-diversity dialectic and revise SOC formulations that ultimately will invigorate community research and action. We provide a working agenda for addressing this dialectic, proposing that systematic consideration of the creative tension between SOC and diversity can be beneficial to community psychology.