Why (and how) do the arts occasionally allow us to feel that we belong to a community of beings?

What is it that brings us together and allows to feel a sense of shared experience and existence with people whom we don’t even know? Why is it that the question of community remains highly important, despite an increasing majority of individuals who are less and less in contact with actual forms of living in common? Why (and how) is it that art – in the first place, narrative arts (telling tales, novels, films) but also dancing or poetry – occasionally allow us to feel that we belong to a community of beings?

Rémi Astruc is a philosopher and professor of francophone and comparative literature currently in residence at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.  I read about him in an email from NYU’s Institute for Public Knowledge (http://ipk@nyu.edu), which consistently hosts really interesting speakers.

Astruc argues it is because, through the arts (and beyond one’s conscious will), community not only unveils itself, but also, if we are in a position to be affected by it, ‘speaks’ itself to us and acquires a form in doing so. He’s had two new books published in 2016: a book-length essay entitled Nous? l’aspiration à la communauté et les arts and La Communauté revisitée/Community Redux (neither of which seem to be in English yet). Both books explore the actuality of the notion of Community in contemporary thinking as it relates to the issues that define our present, ultimately seeking to understand what can still bring us together in societies where the answer to this question remains largely unclear.

Just something else to think about as the 100th anniversary of the birth of Jane Jacobs approaches, and as we prepare for our annual efforts to enhance a sense of belonging to a community of beings here in Chicago!

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