Presenting an Existential Foundation for Community-Based Research Using Richard Brautigan’s In Watermelon Sugar

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We utilize the novella In Watermelon Sugar by Richard Brautigan as an expressive medium for understanding existential and community-based research. We analyze the story to reveal a phenomenological description of community as a lived experience and then demonstrate how the existentially shared experiences of finitude, alterity, and supplementarity can help inform the work community researchers do. We note the maintaining of community through the processes of mimesis, victimization, and scapegoating, and ask: How do we extricate ourselves from this cycle of violence? As community researchers, where can we ethically stand when intervening with and on behalf of others? In answer to these questions, we relate the moment of augenblick and the ethics of the Levinasian face-to-face encounter to a distinctly communal experience called communitas. Communitas is envisioned as a methodology supporting community based, participatory research and aligned with contemporary humanistic, feminist, critical, and intersectional theories.

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