The exceptional community: On strangers, foreigners, and communication

Garnet C. Butchart, University of South Florida


Community—the concept and the phenomenon—bears within it an inherent weakness. As we know, for there to be community there must be some kind of boundary (symbolic and discursive and always psychic), a boundary that limits or, a limit that delimits—a mark, at any rate, that marks what is inside and outside, within and/or beyond a limit, hence included or excluded by the boundary. Accordingly, we can say that the inside of community—what sustains community as community, functioning partly as its internal coherence—is, precisely, an outside, a zone in its own right without which community could not be discerned, marked, or de-limited, to say nothing of imagined. The outside remains; hence, a weakness persists: What is most at home in community, harbored at its center, is at the same time what is most distant, strange, and perhaps alien, unwelcome to present company. Yet paradoxically, this weakness is, for better or worse, community’s strength: The outside is a constitutive inside, included via its exclusion as that through which community is defined, negotiated, and maintained.