The nature of the relationship between the individual and the community remains a perennial question, at the heart of technological, political, religious and ecological thought. One cannot understand prominent human trends — like the tendency, both in history and in the present day, to cluster populations in urban environments — without attending to the longings of the individual for community and the reliance of the community on the individual. Yet the relationship between these two is fraught with ambiguity and tension. On the one hand, communities have amplified humanity’s potential to overcome injustice, suffering and human limitations. Communities have enabled individuals to mobilize, innovate and act collectively for the common good. On the other hand, communities have also identified, stigmatized and exterminated outsiders. By utilizing tools of oppression, such as prejudice and discrimination, communities have also stifled progress and catered to fears, bigotry and hatred.
To explore these ideas, courses in this theme might focus on specific communities, such as the Marquette University community; they might examine individual cities, like Milwaukee, as geographically defined communities that have shaped — and been shaped by — the individuals who live there; or they might refer to community as a unit of analysis more generally to examine “community-level” processes such as racial segregation, civic engagement, public education, small business development, health care and civil engineering. Courses congruent with this theme are not restricted to any single understanding or definition of “community” and instead will consider communities of many kinds and scales, and with many purposes: religious, political, intellectual, geographical, ecological or virtual, to name only few.