More seats at “The Philosopher’s Table”: The reinvigoration of a multicultural community association in southern Italy during and post-pandemic
How voluntary associations promote social interaction across difference and contribute to building diverse communities are questions of relevance in Italy and beyond. To be successful, associations must earn and maintain reputations as groups worth joining. To do so can be challenging, given that they bring together people with different life experiences and languages. To thrive, groups must remain flexible and adaptive. This article addresses an under-considered type of voluntary association that contributes to building relationships and shared sense of community across cultural boundaries: the multicultural social club. The report is based upon early findings from an on-going ethnographic study in Puglia concerning the aspirations, activities, and life-cycles of multicultural clubs. It describes how members of one organization – The Philosopher’s Table – launched themselves on a path of reflection and reinvigoration during the COVID-19 pandemic. Their objectives were to discover ways better to serve existing members, assist the community, and increase membership. Among the club’s noteworthy characteristics is that it includes locally-born Italians and expatriates in nearly equal number. Expatriates rarely receive attention in discussions of diverse communities in Italy. Findings from this project help address that knowledge gap, contribute to current interest in conviviality in multicultural settings, and extend understandings of the dynamics and life-cycles of social leisure groups that are diverse by design.
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