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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. Community studies is sometimes combined with other fields, i.e., "Urban and Community Studies," "Health and Community Studies," or "Family and Community studies."
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.
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.
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 so-called "Neolithic revolution" is one example of a deep study into how, where and why, hunter-gatherer communities formed.