What groups do I belong to?

Groups come in many forms, from tightly organized associations that have membership lists to ascribed categories such as racial or ethnic groups. We may belong to a group without wanting to or even recognizing that we belong. We may wish that we belonged to a specific group but be excluded. Groups may deserve loyalty because they enable effective action and give individuals opportunities to learn. On the other hand, belonging to a group that does wrong may make people complicit.


  • Equity analysis
    Tufts’ Equity in America website allows you to choose demographic characteristics and social outcomes and see how they relate. By comparing such results, you can detect differences among groups and ask whether they manifest injustices. Choose several topics, run comparisons, and discuss.
  • Story of Self
    The experienced community organizer Marshall Ganz advocates a process called Public Narrative that involves for thinking about one’s “story of self,” “story of us,” and “story of now.” The “story of self” portion is especially relevant to questions of identity and the issue “Who am I?” You can create a story of self using these instructions by Marshall Ganz and share it with a partner. See also: One-to-One Interviews and see Lesson 7 … Continue reading


  • Boundaries
    Examples of boundaries that are relevant to civic life include national borders, electoral districts, the membership lists of organizations and associations, and the limits of watersheds and forests. All of these mark distinctions between inside and outside. Boundaries that exclude should be critically evaluated; the exclusion may be unjust. At the same time, research on cooperation strongly suggests that “clear boundaries” help people to work together and avoid problems of collective action. It may be important to have a discussion about changing or abolishing a boundary, yet effective discussions usually occur within bounded groups, such … Continue reading
  • Exit, Voice and Loyalty
    In Exit, Voice and Loyalty (1970), Albert O. Hirschman argues that people who are dissatisfied with groups of all kinds have two basic choices: Exit: Leaving the group. Then they do not have to put up with it or continue to be complicit in its actions. Exit is a human right. It can also improve a group by sending a signal of dissatisfaction that can cause the group to change its practices or culture. This is sometimes called “voting with one’s feet.” Voice: Expressing their opinions about what should change and trying to persuade the … Continue reading

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