Dissensus is the opposite of consensus. Consensus means that a group of people has agreed on something. Dissensus means that a group has differing views on something and agreed that each member can move forward in their own viewpoint. Many people see the opposite of consensus as conflict. With dissensus, people can “agree to disagree” and each explore their own path. It’s not commonly used, but I love using it in relation to family history.
When reaching out to 2nd or 3rd cousins through Ancestry family trees or DNA matches at a testing company, I experience disagreements about our shared common ancestor. Consistently we have very different interpretations of those ancestors while looking at the same set of records,. There is little consensus. Each cousin has their own view based on the stories passed to them.
If my goal was consensus with my cousins, I could try to persuade them that my interpretation is the correct one. Alternatively, I could accept their view and just forget what I know. In doing either one, something is lost. By using the concept of dissensus, I capture all the different viewpoints of the past. One view doesn’t have to win and be the best view right away. We can each keep gathering more records about our ancestors and see what turns up. Dissensus about the past helps us unite with those in the present.