Religious Studies | Escape to Utopia? Communal Societies in America
R202 | 0561 | Folk, H.


America has long been the host for an exceptional number of
intentional religious communities:  groups which alternately have
been called religious utopias, sects, communes, and cults.  These
different names reflect the controversial status of such groups.  The
goal of this course is to understand the phenomenon of religious
movements which seek to create alternatives to their surrounding
culture, whose norms they tend to reject emphatically.  We will use
both historical and contemporary case studies as well as several
different theoretical approaches to take up questions such as
communities’ separation from dominant society, regimentation of daily
life, and the means used to ensure group cohesion (including the
issue of “brainwashing”).  We also will consider three cases where
religious visions ended in collective violence:  Jonestown, Heaven’s
Gate and Waco.  Course requirements will include class preparation
and participation, in addition to three take-home, open-book exams.