Presentation Details

The Second International Conference on New Directions in the Humanities

Seeking Community, Seeking Self: Freedom, Belonging, and the Negotiation of Identity in Community

Jessica M. Ainscow.

The concepts of freedom and belonging are of central importance in understanding the relationship between an individual's sense of identity and community in contemporary society (Bauman 2000, 2001). The desire for individuality and freedom, as well as belonging and security, reflects a turbulent age in which community is seen as a refuge from uncertainty resulting from a perceived lack of personal constraints (Bauman 2000, 2001; Sennett, 1998). At the same time, individuals perceive community as the social space in which they may freely express their individuality (Bauman 2000, 2001). However, it is suggested that while individuals seek community as an ideal space in which the self would be untroubled by both the limitations and potentialities of freedom and security, the two cannot be reconciled. Freedom, it is claimed, is inevitably attained at the expense of security, and vice versa.
Drawing on research conducted with members of the Australian True Love Waits community, an international organisation for young men and women who seek to make a formal public commitment to sexual abstinence until marriage, this paper examines the relationship between personal freedom and security in a community which promotes norms and values that are contrary to dominant western mores regarding the sexual behaviour of young adults. This paper proposes that the members of this community experience a sense of freedom through strict adherence to limitations placed on their sexual conduct. One of the most significant aspects of this community is making a commitment in the form of the True Love Waits pledge, in which a promise is made to self, family and an as yet unknown future spouse to remain 'chaste' until marriage. 'Living' the pledge, which involves the explicit rejection of dominant cultural norms regarding the sexual behaviour of young adults, constitutes both a personal space and social dynamic within which members experience a sense of both freedom and individuality, and security and belonging, in community


Jessica M. Ainscow  (Australia)

Department of Sociology and Social Policy
University of Sydney

Jessica M. Ainscow is a postgraduate student in the Department of Sociology and Social Policy at the University of Sydney. Her doctoral thesis examines the themes of self and community.

  • Community
  • Identity
  • Belonging
  • Security
  • Freedom

(30 min. Conference Paper, English)