reflection 6:community concept

Using the Hunter and Suttles conceptualization of community, describe how your “issue” might manifest at the levels of face block, defended neighborhood, and the community of limited liability.

As America becomes ethnically diverse, there is a need to understand diversity from a demographic as well as a geographic perspective.  Of particular interest for community psychology is to the behavior of individuals who are new to this country, the immigrants.  Being embedded in a community that maintains close ties with others who possess the same or similar sociocultural and economical backgrounds, immigrants struggle to maintain their own cultural or ethnic identity.  On the other hand, they also face the demands of becoming accustomed to the societal/cultural norms of America.  The process of acquiring or learning another culture (i.e., American culture) is called acculturation.  Acculturation may become a significant “issue” in understanding the characteristics of communities where immigrants live.  The purpose of this paper is to describe how the acculturative processes of immigrants may manifest at the levels of face block, defended neighborhood, and community of limited liability.

Face block, the first tenet of Hunter and Suttle’s conceptualization, can play the most significant role among the lives of immigrants.  Although face block is regarded as a loose network among Americans where individuals or families happen to live close by, it may play an especially important role for immigrants as a socio-psychological resource.  This is because immigrants tend to settle down in neighborhoods, where residents are similar in terms of cultural or demographic characteristics.  Moreover, because of the lack of English ability or cultural knowledge, the immigrants often have limitations in their social relations with mainstream American culture, and thus their daily living may be largely dependent on the neighborhood in which they share similar socio-cultural characteristics – that is, language and lifestyles.  Unlike ordinary face block, neighborhood bonding in the immigrants’ face block can be very strong.  This can also be speculated from the fact that many immigrants come from countries where family relationships are valued highly (e.g., Africans, Asians, and Latinos), and they tend to live very close together, possibly within the face block.  As such, their cultural or ethnic identities are likely to be maintained in the form of neighborhood identification, and this identification, in turn, encourages individuals to be congruent with neighborhood values and norms, making their sense of community synonymous with cultural and ethnic identity.

In the circumstance of immigrant neighborhoods, the face block is likely to become a defended neighborhood.  Surrounded by a culturally similar neighborhood, the members try to maintain their cohesiveness or identity not be disturbed by the interruptions of others.  On the other hand, as Hunter and Suttle insisted, this defended neighborhood may simply be too small to support their own institutions or organizations (e.g., church, grocery stores, and community mental health centers).  Moreover, the defended neighborhood cannot “defend” itself completely because the individuals need to have access to organizations or institutions outside of their neighborhood (e.g., schools, business industries, etc.) which exist in the realm of mainstream American culture.  As such, the immigrants need to acquire and adapt mainstream cultural skills (e.g., English acquisition) in order for them to behave according to the norms of American culture.  It is this acquisition and adaptation of cultural skills that plays a salient role in their lives of outside of their neighborhood (i.e., American society) and that constitutes the core of acculturation.  For example, in a neighborhood where several first-generation immigrants live, acculturation usually occurs among children who go to school or people who work outside the neighborhood, because these individuals have contact with mainstream American culture.  On the other hand, individuals who constantly stay in the neighborhood (e.g., older people) remain “traditional” because of their lack of interaction with American culture.

Immigrant communities can be recognized by outside institutions, including those at the city or governmental levels, and such a community recognized officially is called a community of limited liability.  Thus, a community of limited liability can obtain autonomy by which its collective identity is established officially.  By the time an immigrant community becomes a community of limited liability, it may have become a community of one or more ethnic groups, with first, second, or third generations residing within it.  The community may possess resources that the community members need to live in a similar manner, as they would do in their traditional culture (e.g., grocery stores, bookstores, recreation centers).  In order for the community to achieve this highest-level autonomy, the members of the community need to obtain the cultural skills needed to negotiate with both the mainstream American society and the community of their own culture.  The individuals who attain the mastery of these two skills satisfactorily are called bicultural individuals, and they often functioned as mediators between their own traditional community and the higher-order American institutions or organizations in order for the community to be able to access or obtain the resources that are available at these institutions or organizations.  On the other hand, the possibility of partial involvement as well as the fragmentation of the role of the community organization also exists.  In addition to the ordinal concerns of partial involvement or fragmentation, as noted by Hunter and Suttle, ethnic communities may also experience competition over resources among groups, leading to a desire for complete homogeneity within the community.  More specifically, as an immigrant community becomes diverse, there exists the possibility of maintaining the community as the residence of members with the same national origin (i.e., Asians as a whole vs. Vietnamese, Chinese, Indians, etc).  This can be unrealistic in some ways, yet without appreciation for multicultural or diverse communities, we cannot completely ignore this possible pattern of community development.

T. Y.