Nadezhda S. Vorobyeva

Independent researcher, Moscow, Russia

Articles. Research
This article aims to revise a common interpretation of the V. Turner’s concept of communitas with reference to the dialogical philosophy of М. Buber, whose influence has been mostly overlooked by researchers. Communitas is usually seen from the Durkheimian perspective and his notions of the sacred, solidarity and especially effervescence; it is conventionally defined as a transgressive collective experience when individual identities are supposed to submerge into a collective whole. Turner himself, however, has repeatedly noted that communitas is based on the ideas of the “I-Thou” relationship and the “essential We” from the dialogical philosophy of M. Buber. A reconstruction of the notion in question together with a recap of the dialogical philosophy allow to clarify the key characteristics of communitas which make it distinct from other similar concepts of community. The main feature of communitas is its inherent idea of an individualized community where individuals preserve their independence and relate to each other as “totalities”. The notion of “totality” traces back to the Buber’s concept of “synthesizing apperception” which means the perception of the
Other in the full wholeness of his/her irreducible personal uniqueness. The “synthesizing apperception” as well as the “I-Thou” relationship require “the primal setting at a distance” which allows an individual not to lose his/her “self” and to see the Other as a distinct unique and equal person. Other characteristics of communitas, which are making it similar to the “I-Thou” relationship and “essential We”, include its transience and instability, the dissolution of all inner and outer group boundaries and its ethical component, which was found to be ideologically rooted in Judaism. Spontaneous communitas and the “I-Thou” relationship (“essential We”) turn out to be almost identical in Turner’s descriptions, who incorporated the dialogical vision of relationships between “I” and the Other into the anthropological theory of group interactions in a community.
Keywords: communitas, community, dialogical philosophy, “I-Thou” relation, “essential We”, effervescence, Turner, Buber, Durkheim