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Date: 2021
Abstract: Taking traditional communities as exemplifiers of 'tradition-in-action', this thesis is based on semi-structured interviews and observations with Amish communities in the United States and a Jewish community in the United Kingdom. This research challenges antithetical notions of inert tradition versus a fluid, dynamic modernity within sociological literature, which has a tendency to posit tradition as temporally and spatially outside of modernity. Drawing on literatures that intersect sociological disciplines, particularly community studies, religion, diasporas, tradition and theories of contemporary (late/liquid) modernity (Giddens, 1991; Bauman, 2000), it explores ways in which these Amish and Jewish communities - described here as religion-oriented diasporic communities - negotiate the fluid conditions of contemporary modernity. It asks questions about what these negotiations reveal about the nature of contemporary modernity and how shedding new light on community boundaries, belonging and practices helps us to rethink and challenge prevailing meanings of community under contemporary conditions. Through the findings, the research asserts that rather than being fixed, these communities exhibit varied communal boundaries, from non-negotiable to fluid, as well as fluctuating and contingent levels of belonging and socially situated practices and narratives that adaptively reproduce community to enable communal thriving. In so doing, it explores themes such as boundary-keeping processes, the appeal of embedding and the social/kinship networks that comprise community and form a basis for 'doing' community together. This research project makes methodological contributions, reflecting on the 'insider/outsider' researcher positionality, as well as cultural and logistical considerations with harder-to-access communities. Though these case studies are not intended to provide direct or simple 'like for like' comparison, themes emerging from both case studies highlight the multi-layered nature of belonging to communities conceptualised as traditional in a fluid, ever-changing modernity, effectively siting such communities and modernity as inseparable and co-constitutive.