004 Crisis and Community in Historical Perspective

Tuesday, June 25, 2013: 9:00 AM-10:45 AM
C3.23 (Oudemanhuispoort)
Session Abstract:

Times of great hardship and crisis force communities and the individuals within them to reevaluate the bonds that hold them together, and the characteristics that separate those who belong from those who do not. In recent years, responses to the Eurozone debt crisis, terrorist attacks, and epidemics of SARS and “Swine Flu” have potently illustrated how quickly traumatic events can change the social and political status of those who are deemed to be “outsiders” because of their birthplace, race, political/religious views, or sexual preference. The panelists in this session will offer a broad historical context for understanding how crises reshape the ways that “outsiders” are defined, perceived, and treated by authorities, media outlets, and their own neighbors. Several central issues and questions will guide this discussion. First, we will consider how communities establish their boundaries and determine the standing of those who fall outside them. How do different forms of crisis impact the processes that determine belonging and difference? Why do times of hardship so often lead political and religious groups to turn towards more ardent and narrowly defined identities? We will also discuss whether crises act as a true catalyst for xenophobia or whether they instead serve mainly as a pretext for the violent eruption of tensions simmering beneath a veneer of tolerance. Finally, we will examine how communities in crisis attempt to balance the need to defend against external threats with the need to maintain the commercial connections and cultural diversity that make them vibrant and successful.

Claire Weeda
Claire Weeda
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