Although there is no one common experience of diversity in Knox County, there are some themes which reoccurred in our conversations with the communities we interviewed. This is by no means an exhaustive list but it should serve to clarify these terms and create conceptual links between the essays.

Assimilation refers to the process of a smaller group or individual becoming a part of the larger community. People may feel assimilated when they do not see a distinction between themselves and the larger community. Factors such as intermarriage (which plays a part in the experience of the Black, Irish, and Latino communities) and community involvement may influence assimilation. The essay on the Jewish community also discusses assimilation.

Churches provide the institutional bases for interaction among members of a given community. The presence and importance of institutional structures, such as the church, may determine the cohesiveness of the group--as is illustrated in the essays about the Amish, Black, and Irish populations. As the essay about the Latter-Day Saints population shows, community involvement is often perceived as, or closely connected to, church involvement. The physical presence of a church marks the existence of a community within the larger Knox County community--the lack of a local church can affect the visibility of a group, i.e. the Jewish community.


As the page about how the community perceives diversity illustrates, some groups in Knox County are overlooked by the larger population. Invisibility may be due to lack of institutional structures, small numbers, or a desire among community members not to call attention to themselves or publicize their "difference." Thorough assimilation may also lead to a group's invisibility. Long-established communities (such as the Belgian and Irish communities) may not be regarded as distinct groups.

Isolation denotes a feeling of separation between an individual or a smaller community and the community at large. Isolation can be caused by a number of factors, such as the lack of institutional bases, language barriers, and the existence of stereotypes and misconceptions--as shown in the essays about the black, gay, Latino, and Latter-Day Saints communities. Although isolation is generally believed to be a negative result of being a member of a small community of "difference" in Knox County, some communities, like the Amish and Jewish communities, believe that isolation has helped strengthen their community.

A shared language can unite members of a community but can also separate them from other English-speaking groups. Groups (such as the Amish, Latino, and Native American communities) may speak language other than English out of convenience or as a method of distinguishing themselves from the larger population. The adoption of English as a primary language is often connected to assimilation.

All communities in Knox County can be said to have migrated from somewhere else. The history of Knox County reveals the vast number of places from which people moved from to settle in Knox County. The distance of the migration, the historical moment at which a group settled in the area, and the traditions brought by these groups may have an effect on the group's relation to the larger community. Migration has played a crucial part in the experiences of the local Amish, Belgian, Irish, and Latino communities.

Relationship to larger community
There are many factors which determine the individual's and group's relationship to the larger community. Participation in insitutional structures, shared values and language are just some of the factors which affect the relationship to the community. The essays about the Amish, Latino and Latter-Day Saints communities address this issue in more depth.

Stereotypes and Misconceptions
Some groups in Knox County--including the
gay population and women on public assistance--feel that the larger community has unfair or untrue ideas about them. Stereotypes and misconceptions are often due to lack of familiarity with the traditions, beliefs, and values of these groups. The Amish, Latter-Day Saints, and Native American communities believe that the larger community's negative perceptions about them are due to this lack of familiarity rather than malice.

Shared values play an important part in connecting individuals in a community. All communities define themselves by certain religious, moral, and practical convictions but certain groups, especially the Amish, Belgian, Jewish, and Latter-Day Saints communities, refer to the term "values" frequently to differentiate themselves from other groups.

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