Journal Article

Boundary Work in Inclusive Religious Groups: Constructing Identity at the New York Catholic Worker<sup>*1</sup>

Grace Yukich

in Sociology of Religion

Published on behalf of Association for the Sociology of Religion

Volume 71, issue 2, pages 172-196
Published in print January 2010 | ISSN: 1069-4404
Published online April 2010 | e-ISSN: 1759-8818 | DOI:
Boundary Work in Inclusive Religious Groups: Constructing Identity at the New York Catholic Worker*1

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Many religious groups use symbolic boundary work to construct distinctive collective identity. While boundary drawing may be unproblematic for some, it can create conflict for “inclusive” groups. How do inclusive groups construct and solidify identity and commitment? If they use boundary work, how do they manage the conflict between exclusive "othering" and inclusiveness? I show that while members of the inclusive New York Catholic Worker use boundary work to construct distinctive identity, their boundary work takes place largely on an abstract level while they practice inclusion of the “other” in their concrete interactions. Building on Martin Buber's insights regarding the transformative power of “I–Thou” encounters, I argue that concrete practices of inclusion outweigh boundary drawing in inclusive groups like the Catholic Worker. Group ideologies that encourage practices that cultivate openness to I–Thou relations, such as Catholic Worker personalism, therefore provide an advantage in balancing inclusive identity with boundary work.

Keywords: identity; boundaries; inclusion; community; Catholic Worker

Journal Article.  11540 words. 

Subjects: Religion ; Sociology of Religion

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