Where the conversation continues

Community Voices speaker Beth Obenshain

Welcome to Community Voices’  new online home! Here, you’ll find the latest information on our upcoming speakers, archived video from previous CV events, and blog responses to speakers’ ideas for our community. What do you think? We invite you to keep the conversation going here.

One thought on “Where the conversation continues

  1. Dr. Tal Stanley led us through a thought-provoking and compelling discussion about place, history, responsibility, and the implications for service in local citizenship and cultivating belonging en place. It is this last point that I found myself dwelling upon after the discussion was over. Implicit in the notion of belonging, and woven throughout the Dr. Stanley’s examples, is the required action of defining and redefining the “insider”/“outsider” relationship. Though “balancing” might be a preferred term to “defining,” the line drawn between the two seems clear and bold. One might feel, or even earn, belonging in a community, but this by no means equates to acquiring insider status; this was affirmed by Dr. Stanley in addressing his own community – he is not from there, and therefore, never will be.

    Is this necessarily a bad thing? Indeed, if the best hope for the revival of rural communities lies in Dr. Stanley’s notion of developing communities dedicated to abiding (as defined as “to journey and endure with”), does it not necessitate identifying those who are “with” us, and those who are just visiting? Isn’t a resource-strapped community better served by knowing and then rallying the committed insiders, those who have invested themselves in a place for the long haul, rather than chasing down the other who are just passing time in that place? However, balancing this epistemic question of knowing “who” belongs for the betterment of place runs head long into the challenges of a world infiltrated by globalization and the associated flows of people this brings. Notions of identity are conditioned by how this epistemic question is answered, and as a result, so is the localized understanding of difference.

    This returns me to the “pondering” that provokes this essay. Immigrants, particularly Latino immigrants, are increasingly locating in the rural spaces of the American South. How does the migrant find space in new places when there is a particular epistemology of knowing in that place that is linked to its own survival? It is the incorporation of difference that troubles me, not the notion of identity. There is surely more difference coming to rural communities than there will be sameness. The insider/outsider debate seems equally as important as economic ones for the future of communities. Dr. Stanley eloquently described his view of citizenship responsibility as “to first listen, and then find a way to give consciousness to conflict that already exists.” It occurs to me that many rural communities will be adding some insider/outsider “consciousness-raising” to their abiding.

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