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Curriculum as Community Building

The Poetics of Difference, Emergence, and Relationality


Liesa Griffin Smith

Our contemporary historical moment is often characterized by social, political, economic, technological, and educational complexities, as well as lived experiences of estrangement, isolation, insecurity, loss, threat, and trauma. Within this difficult context, conventional understandings of community which often rely upon assimilation or exclusion are devoid of hope, and new imaginations of community and community building are needed to cultivate generative, nurturing, sustaining experiences of life together. Through a multi-threaded exploration of the curriculum as embodied and emerging in a living ecosystem, new conceptualizations of community building may emerge. Drawing upon poststructural feminism, poetics, autobiography, and metaphors of the maternal body, this book explores the complicated intersections of difference, embodiment, emergence, and relationality within the curriculum, to reimagine the possibilities of building the other community, one inclusive of difference. Facing the challenges of our time with hope, grace, and creativity, this book is uniquely positioned in a middle space between the theoretical concerns of the academic community and the needs for accessibility by the practitioner within an instructional context.
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2. Stories of Community


“Home is the expectancy of familiar things, the places, people, and the movement oftime that in their way are ours.” (Brownell, 1953, p. 77).

“The human heart is the first home of democracy.” (Williams, 2004, p. 83)

“There is something profoundly misleading if the account of modernity is givenas a progress of inclusion without paying attention to the shadow narrative ofexclusion.” (Volf, 1996, p. 60)

To begin the examination of the many threads that weave through the story of community, I return to John Winthrop’s 1633 sermon, which I mentioned briefly in Chapter 1, in order to draw attention to the vividly poetic and romanticized language of “a city on a hill,” which he uses to describe his imagination of what might one day in the future become the United States, the imagined communal life and the collective work that he believes will stand as a symbolic light in the darkness. The poetic language and symbolism Winthrop employs is meant to stir the imagination of his audience and draws upon foundational Judeo-Christian language, light emerging from darkness, ←25 | 26→found in both the book of Isaiah and the gospel of John, and it is Winthrop’s carefully crafted language that gives shape to the founding ideology of what would become the United States. I acknowledge that there are earlier examples of these community ideals, as well as other examples that frame community in other “American” terms. However, rather than seeking the origin of these ideals,...

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