In this introduction, we bring together diverse anthropological considerations of community, belonging, and belief to argue for a reconsideration of the notion of ‘sharedness’ that often underlies these concepts. Scholars have long critiqued the use of ‘community’ for its broad application and vagueness, and most now recognize communities to be newly emerging rather than pre-existing. Despite this critical approach to scholarly uses of ‘community’, forms of unity often continue to be viewed as undergirded by a seemingly more self-evident idea of sharedness, in practice, belief or purpose. In this special section, we question this self-evidency to focus on how sharedness itself needs to be discursively and semiotically co-constructed and fostered by people who imagine themselves as belonging to communities of apparent mixed beliefs and practices. We propose that a focus on discourse and semiosis can provide insights into the innovative ways in which individuals negotiate, co-construct, and enact sharedness.