Community studies is an academic field drawing on both sociology and anthropology and the social research methods of ethnography and participant observation in the study of community. In academic settings around the world, community studies is variously a sub-discipline of anthropology or sociology, or an independent discipline. It is often interdisciplinary and geared toward practical applications rather than purely theoretical perspectives.[1] Community studies is sometimes combined with other fields, i.e., "Urban and Community Studies," "Health and Community Studies," or "Family and Community studies."[2]


In North America, community studies drew inspiration from the classic urban sociology texts produced by the Chicago School, such as the works of Louis Wirth and William Foote Whyte. In Britain, community studies was developed for colonial administrators working in East Africa, particularly Kenya. It was further developed in the post-war period with the Institute of Community Studies founded by Michael Young in east London, and with the studies published from the institute, such as Family and Kinship in East London.

Community studies, like colonial anthropology, have often assumed the existence of discrete, relatively homogeneous, almost tribe-like communities, which can be studied as organic wholes. In this, it has been a key influence on communitarianism and communalism, from the local context to the global and everywhere in between.[citation needed]


Community studies curricula are often centered on the "concerns" of communities. These include mental and physical health, stress, addiction, AIDS, racism, immigration, ethnicity, gender, identity, sexuality, the environment, crime, deviance, delinquency, family problems, social competence, poverty, homelessness and other psycho-social aspects. Understanding the socio-cultural completeness and the anthropological ramifications of the accurate analysis of community health is key to the sphere of these studies.[3]

Another focus of curricula in community studies is upon anthropology, cultural anthropology in particular. Some programs set as prerequisite knowledge, the background and historical contexts for community, drawing upon archeological findings and the theoretical underpinnings for social organization in ancient and prehistorical community settings. The theories connected with the Neolithic Revolution is one example of a deep study into how, where and why, hunter-gatherer communities formed.[4]

Community studies have been linked to the causes of social justice, promoting peace and nonviolence and working towards social change, often within an activist framework.[5]

Schools with Community studies concentrations

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  1. ^ The University of California at Santa Cruz has an interdisciplinary Community Studies Department Archived 2006-09-04 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ Examples of Community Studies programs with a particular focus: Urban and Community Studies Archived 2012-08-31 at the Wayback Machine at the University of Toronto; The Institute of Health and Community Studies Archived 2006-07-13 at the Wayback Machine at Bournemouth University, UK, and The Faculty of Child, Family and Community Studies Archived 2012-07-30 at at Douglas College, New Westminster BC, Canada.
  3. ^ Journal of Community and Applied Social Psychology, Aims and Scope
  4. ^ Bellwood, Peter. (2004). First Farmers: The Origins of Agricultural Societies. Blackwell Publishers. ISBN 0-631-20566-7
  5. ^ See, for example: Community Studies 2005 Archived 2006-08-23 at the Wayback Machine, U.C. Santa Cruz; The College of Public and Community Service Archived 2006-08-28 at the Wayback Machine, UMass, Boston, and The Institute for Community Peace Archived 2006-06-22 at the Wayback Machine, an NGO in Washington, D.C.

Further reading