Sociology | The Community
S309 | 3620 | Gieryn

S309 The Community  Gieryn    9:30-10:45 TR  3620

We shall explore the meaning of community through a study of
"utopian communitarian experiments."  These are attempts by small
groups of people to create perfect societies, usually separate
from the ordinary society-at-large in which most of us live.
Some familiar examples of utopian communities are the Shakers,
the Amish, the Harmonists (of New Harmony, Indiana), the
Hutterites and (more recently) Jonestown, the Moonies and late
1960s counter-cultural "communes."  As we look at these and other
"heavens on earth", we shall identify distinctive features of
living in a genuine community--the feeling of togetherness and
interindependence, the sense of commitment to a common purpose--
that are increasingly rare in American society today.  We'll also
find that these communal groups are fragile experiments, and must
solve many problems if they are to survive--who to admit as
members? how to reach group decisions? how to support the
community economically? how to organize "personal" issues such as
love, sex and childrearing?  These communities must choose
answers to difficult questions asked in all human societies.  In
studying utopian communities, we learn something about which
arrangements might work to solve problems in our own everyday

1.  Attendance at all lectures, class discussions and
films/videos is required.
2.  Readings
Alison Lurie, Imaginary Friends
Donald B. Kraybill, The Riddle of Amish Culture
Kat Kinkade, Is It Utopia Yet?
Bennett Berger, The Survival of a Counterculture
A packet of shorter papers.
3.   The class will collectively build a "virtual utopian
community" on the World Wide Web.  Students will participate
in making major decisions about the structure of the
community for example, its goals, political structure,
policies on sexuality, etc.
4.  On-Going Term Paper
You are asked to create and describe a fictional utopian
community that would best satisfy your own idea of a perfect
group living-and-working arrangement.