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Communal Studies Association Annual Conference 2023

50th Communal Studies Association Conference 2023 Program

8:30 a.m.         Tour to St. Meinrad Archabbey

                            Lunch at the Archabbey

8:30 a.m.         Tour to Lyles Station

9:00 a.m.         Communal Studies Association Board Meeting

                        Schnee-Ribeyre-Elliott House (HNH Administrative Office)

603 West Street

New Harmony, IN 47631

6:00 p.m.         Donald E. Pitzer Banquet

                        Carter Hall, University of Southern Indiana

                        Visit – Center for Communal Studies Archives

                        Rice Library, University of Southern Indiana


9:00 p.m.         Hospitality Room, New Harmony Inn

New Harmony, IN      

8:30 a.m.         Session 1A – Plenary Panel – The Development of Developmental Communalism


Moderator: Thomas Guiler

1. Developmental Communalism – Donald Pitzer, University of Southern Indiana

                        2. Transformative Utopianism – Joshua Lockyer, Arkansas Tech University

                        3. Creative Symbiosis – Dan McKanan, Harvard Divinity School

                        4. Developmental Communal Studies – Greg Brown, University of Southern


10:00 a.m.       Break – Atheneum

10:30 a.m.       Session 2A – Panel – Developmental Communalism Reconsidered


                        Moderator: Etta Madden

  1. "The Role of Ideas in Community: Josiah Warren Seen Through the Light of Developmental Communalism, and Vice Versa" – Neil Wright, Quincy University
  2. “Frances Wright, Developmental Communalism and the Evolution of a Social Activist.” – Cheryl Coulthard, Independent Scholar
  3. Anything that helps me say ‘we’ is empowering: A theory on why people join intentional communities.” – Zach Rubin, Lander University

Session 2B – Davis Bend & Shakers

                        Working Men’s Institute

                        Moderator: Jennifer Greene

  1. “The Water is Fierce, But the Ground is Fertile: Ben Montgomery, Davis Bend & Utopian Imaginings” – Darcy Roake, Tulane University
  2. “The Shakers: Surviving the Public’s Suspicions About Their Celibacy” – Richard Marshall, University of Indianapolis
  3. “The Usual Service is Deferred: Changing Practices of Religious Worship at Canterbury” – Becky Soules, Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill

Session 2C – House of David

Murphy Auditorium

Moderator: Stephanie Carpenter

  1. “Christian Israelites Under the Nazi Jackboot: Francis and Mary De Norrisa from Benton Harbor to Biberach Concentration Camp” – Brian Carroll, Israelite House of David
  2. Historical Films from the House of David (Israelite House of David 2021, 50 minutes)

12 noon           Lunch – Thrall’s Opera House

1:30 p.m.         Session 3A – Women in Community


                        Moderator: Heather Van Wormer

  1. “Women Talking About . . . ? Mennonitism in Miriam Toews’s Novel and Sarah Polley’s Film Adaptation”– Stephanie Carpenter, Michigan Tech University
  2. “Confessions from a Hutterite Loose in the World” – Ruth Lambach, CSA
  3. “’Heaven on Earth’ or ‘Harem Heaven?’ Salvation and Scandal at Michigan’s House of David” – Evelyn Sterne, University of Rhode Island

                        Session 3B – Shaker Panel

                        Working Men’s Institute

                        Moderator: Jon Andelson

  1. “Making Use of Ardent Spirits: Alcohol and the Kentucky Shakers” – Tommy Hines, South Union Shaker Village
  2. “Un–Pleasant Hill: Richard McNemar Versus John Whitbey” – Christian Goodwillie, Hamilton College
  3. “‘Stay With Me Thou Lovely Treasure:’ The Musical Contributions of Shaker Apostate John Whitbey” – Carol Medlicott, Northern Kentucky University

                        Session 3C – Workshop Activity

                        Murphy Auditorium

                        Moderator: Zach Rubin

 “Solarpunk Futures: A Workshop for Utopian Remembrance” – Solarpunk Surf Club, Independent Artist Collective


3:00 p.m.         Break – Atheneum

3:30 p.m.         Session 4A – Film


Moderator: Lyda Jackson

“The Immortals of Tasmania” – Ritsert Rinsma, University of Caen, France


Session 4B – Communitarian Experience

                        Working Men’s Institute

                        Moderator: Martha Bradley

  1. “The Other 199: Telling Undertold Stories at the Oneida Community Mansion House” – Thomas Guiler, Oneida Community Mansion House
  2. “Hutterite Religion, Emotion, and Matter: How Hutterites ‘Dress’ and are ‘Dressed’ By Their World” – John Sheridan, University of Iowa
  3. Approaches to the Study of Cooperative Living a Paper from Don Janzen, Retired Anthropologist” – Greg Brown, University of Southern Indiana

Session 4C – More Communities

Murphy Auditorium

Moderator: Jennifer Greene

  1. “Kingdom Center: Christian Cowboys in the South of Sweden” – Sanja Nilsson, Dalarna University, Sweden
  2. “Recent Discoveries in the Koreshan Archive at Florida Gulf Coast University” – Thomas Cimarusti, Florida Gulf Coast University
  3. “Therapeutic Communities and the Success of the Oxford House Model” – Deborah Altus, Washburn University

6:00 p.m.         Dinner and Auction – Thrall’s Opera House

9:00 p.m.         Hospitality Room

New Harmony, IN

8:30 a.m.         Session 5 – Plenary Panel– 50 Years of Communal Studies Association                                            Atheneum

                        Moderator: Joshua Lockyer

  1. Sites Visited – Kathy Fernandez, Zoar, Ohio
  2. Membership – Jon Andelson, Grinnell College
  3. Book Reviews – Cheryl Coulthard, Independent Scholar
  4. Journal Articles – Heather Van Wormer, Grand Valley State

10:00 a.m.       Break – Atheneum

10:30 a.m.       Session 6A – Application & Practice


                        Moderator: Silvia Rode

  1. “What is Happening in Your Community? Why Community Development Matters” – Matthew Hanka, University of Southern Indiana
  2. “Where Heaven Meets Earth: Planning and Implementing Historic New Harmony’s Religion and Cultural Institutions Initiative” – Diane Sanders & Leslie Townsend, Historic New Harmony
  3. “Human-Centered Design as a Means to Restoring Neighborhoods” – Chuck Armstrong, University of Southern Indiana


Session 6B – New Harmony

Workingmen’s Institute

Moderator: Peter Hoehnle

  1. “Daily Life in the Harmony Society: The Barchet Cabin Site, 1814–1824” – Michael Strezewski, University of Southern Indiana
  2. “Cornelius Tiebout: His Life and Engravings” – Clark Kimberling, University of


  1. “New Harmony Schools of the Owen–Maclure Era: Building Community

Through Education” – William Elliott, University of Southern Indiana

                        Session 6C – Mormons

                        Murphy Auditorium

                        Moderator: Matthew Grow

  1. “The Remaking of a Prophet: Joseph Smith in Liberty (MO) Jail, 1838–39” – Steven Olsen, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter–day Saints
  2. “The Joseph Smith Papers: What Have We Learned About Early Latter–day Saint Communalism?” – Matthew Grow, Church History Department, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter–day Saints

12:00 noon      Lunch – Thrall’s Opera House

1:30 p.m.         Session 7A – Variety of Experience


                        Moderator: Deborah Altus

  1. “A recently discovered letter by William Maclure sheds new light on his School of Industry” – Ritsert Rinsma, University of Caen, France
  2. “Ten Intentional Communities You've Never Heard of: An Illustrated Journey” – Tim Miller, University of Kansas
  3. “Communal Housing for the Future” – Silvia Rode, University of Southern


                        Session 7B – New Harmony

                        Workingmen’s Institute

                        Moderator: Marc Rohrer

  1. “New Harmony’s Utopian Socialist Experiment: Lessons for the Twenty–First Century” – Andy Buck, University of Southern Indiana
  2. On the Edges of Bondage and Freedom: Forging the New Harmony Community in the Early Nineteenth–Century Slavery Borderland Region” – Caroline Kisiel, DePaul University
  3. History as Prose Poem: Marguerite Young’s Angel in the Forest” – John

Kimsey, DePaul University

                        Session 7C – Mormon and Amana

                        Murphy Auditorium

                        Moderator: Kathy Fernandez

  1. “Reconsidering the ‘Twin Relics of Barbarism:’ The Extraordinary Similarities Between the Historical Memory of American Slavery and Mormon Polygamy Over the Past Two Centuries” – Larry Foster, Georgia Tech University
  2. “What Happened in Schwarzenau? Johann Adam Gruber's Decision to Leave the German Community of True Inspiration” – Emilie Hoppe, Amana Church Society
  3. “Book Production in the Community of True Inspiration” – Lanny Haldy, Amana Heritage Society

3:00 p.m.         Break – Atheneum     

3:30 p.m.         Session 8A – Film


Moderator: Diane Sanders  

 “State of the Unity”   The Bergamot

                        Session 8B – New Harmony

                        Working Men’s Institute

                        Moderator: Etta Madden

  1. “What We Have to Offer Him: Robert Owen and Ancestral Healing” – Dan McKanan, Harvard Divinity School
  2. “Curatorial Outreach at the Working Men’s Institute: Dusting Off an Old Collection” – Peggy Fisherkeller, Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites
  3. “Joseph Neef, New Harmony, and Communal Studies: A Memoir of

Becoming an Educational Biographer” – Gerald Gutek, Loyola University Chicago

                        Session 8C – Amana & Harmony

                        Murphy Auditorium

                        Moderator: Emilie Hoppe

  1. “Eben–Ezer's Transnational Inspiration” – Mitchell Jones, University of Buffalo
  2. “Amana: Land, Community and Sense of Place” – Peter Hoehnle, CSA
  3. “The World Looks at Harmony's Last Decades” – Joe White, Historic Harmony, Inc.

6:00 p.m.         Awards Banquet – Thrall’s Opera House

9:00 p.m.         Hospitality Room       

CSA Speakers & Abstracts

Deborah Altus
Washburn University

Therapeutic Communities and the Success of the Oxford House Model

Therapeutic intentional communities have a long history, with groups typically working to create home-like non-institutional environments to promote a sense of belonging, purpose, and healthy living for people with issues ranging from mental health problems and intellectual disabilities to homelessness and drug addiction. Many if not most of these communities include paid staff who manage a therapeutic program for the residents. The Oxford House model, however, takes a different approach. Oxford Houses are democratically operated by the residents, themselves, who contribute the money and labor necessary to run the homes. Oxford Houses provide a sober living environment and sense of social support to the residents, all recovering addicts, but do not include formal therapy. Starting with one house in 1975, Oxford Houses have expanded to a network of around 3,000 homes across the United States and abroad. This paper will provide an overview of the Oxford House model, considering reasons behind its remarkable growth and examining how its path might inform the intentional communities movement.

Deborah Altus is Professor of Family & Human Services at Washburn University. Her research interests range from the study of Walden Two-inspired communities to shared housing for the elderly. She is a former president of the Communal Studies Association and a board member of the International Communal Studies Association. She is also a Fellow of the Gerontological Society of America and a Licensed Clinical Addiction Counselor.

Chuck Armstrong

University of Southern Indiana

Human-Centered Design as a Means to Restoring Neighborhoods


In the fall of 2022, I taught a special topics course in human-centered design at the University of Southern Indiana. The premise of the class was to use design thinking to explore ways to reduce gun violence in Evansville, IN. For the first half of the semester, 10 graphic design students immersed themselves in the unfamiliar problems of economically disadvantaged urban neighborhoods. They used what they learned for the second half of the semester to dream up and propose a solution. By the end of the semester, they created an explainer video of their concept as an initial prototype. Human-centered design proponents have identified 3 parts to the process: Inspiration, Ideation, and Implementation. The students worked through the inspiration phase and began the ideation phase with the initial prototype. By studying a single neighborhood, they identified root causes and proposed a start to what could become a long-term and lasting solution for one community, but the work is just beginning. My presentation will start with the research and prototype from the Special Topics course and continue with ongoing research and prototype iterations. Efforts since the course include forging relationships with organizations already engaged in the economic and social revitalization of the neighborhood. Lastly, I will discuss how design thinking and human-centered design processes are crucial to creating ownership from the neighborhood itself, and how these efforts can spark a renewed sense of hope that will eventually lead to a prosperous, vibrant, and most importantly, safe community.


I am an associate professor of Graphic Design at the University of Southern Indiana, teaching courses in Illustration, Graphic Design, Interactive Media Design, and, occasionally, Human-Centered Design. Past lives include Advertising Agency Art Director and Design Studio Owner. I continue to work as a freelance designer and consultant between teaching and am currently serving my second stint as President of the Evansville Design Group.

The Bergamot

Independent Artists

State of the Unity: Documentary Film


Is unity possible? That is the question that launched the Brooklyn-based husband-wife duo The Bergamot on a quest that would take them to all 50 States to unite people through the power of music, community, and collaboration. What began as a simple idea in the band's station wagon, brought about a profound revelation. What is unity and how can we as individuals on this planet reframe the way we perceive and understand it?

On The Bergamot’s 50 state tour they learned from people of all walks of life and from professors like David Anderson Hooker Ph.D. who shared with them this important ideas that, “unity is not a shared narrative of a future, but rather a narrative of a shared future.” it is this type of thinking that can ultimately unite us together. How the duo connected people with their music, touring vehicle and collaborative works started a conversation around unity that continues to this day. Join them in this timely 50,000-mile unity tour in learning about human empathy, perseverance, and love that changed their lives forever.


The Bergamot is an American indie folk/rock duo based in Brooklyn, New York. The group formed in 2010 in South Bend, Indiana and consists of Jillian Speece (vocals/cajón) and Nathaniel Paul Hoff (vocals/guitar/keyboard). The duo is known for their songwriting, uplifting music and entertaining shows.

Greg Brown

University of Southern Indiana

Developmental Communal Studies


Understanding healthy communities as dynamic entities that adapt and change over time in response to internal and external factors invites us to look at the ways in which our study of them does the same. I will briefly outline changes in CSA emphasis over the years as well as the addition of applied communal studies and its capacity for impact across disciplines and settings.


Doctorate in Education from Indiana University with an emphasis on organizational theory, retired teacher, administrator, and professor. I teach Communal History at USI as an adjunct, as well as serving on the boards of CSA, the Center for Communal Studies, and Historic New Harmony. I am a charter member of both CSA and the Center.

Andy Buck

University of Southern Indiana


New Harmony’s Utopian Socialist Experiment: Lessons for the Twenty-First Century


Social changes have distanced interpretations of the Owenite community in New Harmony, Indiana from its distinction as one of the earliest socialist experiments. But, recent efforts to imagine ‘real utopias’ and the popularity of democratic socialism among a younger generation provide an opportunity to draw lessons from the experience of utopian socialism in New Harmony. I draw three lessons from the community’s mistakes and successes that have relevance for today. Two lessons are related to Owen’s critique of private property and marriage and the third concerns the Owenite strategy for social change. In the process of drawing these lessons, I will make comparisons with other types of communities that have taken different routes to addressing the ills of capitalism.


Andrew Buck is Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Southern Indiana. He has conducted research on the corporate networks of contemporary British elites, the political networks of Russian elites during the Yeltsin years, privatization in post-socialist Russia and the Soviet practice of letter writing to authority during late state socialism.

Stephanie Carpenter

Michigan Tech University

Women Talking about . . . ? Mennonitism in Miriam Toews’s Novel and Sarah Polley’s film Adaptation


My paper considers representations of conservative Mennonitism, critical thinking, and intentional communities in Miriam Toews’s 2018 novel Women Talking and Sarah Polley’s 2022 film adaptation. Toews’s novel is a response to the rapes of over 130 Mennonite women and girls in Manitoba Colony, Bolivia from 2005-2009. Prefaced by an author’s note about the real-life events, the novel is presented as the minutes of the women of the fictional Molotschna Colony debating whether to remain at their colony and forgive the men who assaulted them or +leave en masse. In her Oscar-winning adapted screenplay, Polley retains most of Toews’s plot and characters, but omits all reference to Mennonitism, Bolivia, or Plautdietsch, the language spoken by the women in the novel. Polley’s film focuses tightly on a group of English-speaking women in unnamed luddite community; absent context, the film’s depiction of their experience feels allegorical rather than realistic. Journalists who covered the Manitoba story have expressed concerns about the erasure of the real women’s experiences from Polley’s film. Along with this, Polley’s narrative choices result in a less complex understanding of the characters’ predicament and of the story’s (fictional) ending, in which most of the women do leave. My paper examines these choices and their effects.


Stephanie Carpenter is a fiction-writer and Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at Michigan Tech University. Her collection of short stories, Missing Persons, won the Press 53 Award for Short Fiction and was published in 2017. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Copper Nickel, Ecotone, Witness, The Missouri Review, Big Fiction, and other literary journals. She recently completed a pair of short novels about women artists, in which Shaker Gift Drawing features importantly, and she is currently at work on a collection of geographically-linked short stories set in Michigan’s remote Keweenaw Peninsula, where she lives.

Brian Carroll

Israelite House of David

Christian Israelites Under the Nazi Jackboot: Francis and Mary De Norrisa from Benton Harbor to Biberach Concentration Camp

A founding member of the Israelite House of David in Michigan in 1903, Francis De Norrisa (1880-1953) left the commune just six years after its formation and eventually settled on Guernsey, one of Britain’s Channel Islands, where he married Mary Ann Edmonds (1890-1963), had a daughter Margaret (1913-2002), and worked as a house painter. There he maintained his staunch Israelite faith and kept up a lively correspondence with Mary Purnell, the leader of Mary’s City of David commune. The City of David published many excerpts from De Norrisa’s letters in The New Shiloh Messenger, the sect’s newsletter. Nazi forces occupied the Channel Islands from 1940 to 1945 and, with one thousand other islanders, De Norrisa and his family were deported to Biberac prison, a concentration camp in Germany, where they endured deplorable conditions until their liberation at the war’s end. Upon release, De Norrisa recommenced corresponding with Purnell and other members of the City of David and authored a memoir about his time in the camps, which the City of David published as Out of the Shadows (ca. 1946). This study seeks to frame De Norrisa’s memoir and lengthy correspondence with Mary and other members of the commune with writings, diaries and memoirs from other Channel Islanders as well as other Christian Israelites to see how World War II was framed in Christian Israelite perspective and how members of the sect experienced the conflict.

Historical Films from the House of David (Israelite House of David 2021, 50 minutes)

Commentary by Brian Ziebart, Trustee, & Brian D. Carroll, Historian and Archivist, Israelite House of David


In recent years, the Israelite House of David in Benton Harbor, Michigan has digitized more than forty reels of historical film footage found at the colony. Dating from 1931 to 1975, these home movies capture almost fifty years of history at the religious commune as well as life in Southwestern Michigan. Mostly taken by members themselves, a surprising amount of this early footage is in full color. Especially well documented is Eden Springs Amusement Park, a major tourist attraction operated by the House of David. The footage captures a bygone era, allowing viewers to see for themselves this important chapter in religious history.

Brian D. Carroll, PhD. is currently Historian-Archivist for the Israelite House of David in Benton Harbor, Michigan. Brian has worked in higher education and public history for more than twenty-five years and written and published on diverse topics, including religious history and Native American history. He has received twenty prestigious fellowships and awards for his work, taught at five colleges and universities, been a tenured professor of history, a museum director, and a curator. Most recently, he curated the traveling exhibition The Melodious Faithful: Music at the House of David (2022) and is working on an upcoming exhibition about Michigan’s Christian Israelite communities during World War II. His most recent publications include an article on the House of David’s barnstorming baseball team (Michigan History, May 2023), and an article on the history of Canterbury Shaker village forthcoming in the American Communal Societies Quarterly.

Thomas Cimarusti
Florida Gulf Coast University

Recent Discoveries in the Koreshan Archive at Florida Gulf Coast University

Following Florida Gulf Coast University's acquisition of Koreshan related artifacts from the College of Life Foundation in Estero, Florida, an ongoing exploration of the archive has revealed numerous items that have yet to be made available to the public or studied. The purpose of this paper then is to offer a glimpse into recently discovered Koreshan artifacts in the FGCU Archive, including 21 hymn texts, biographical information concerning the Koreshan Unity’s founder Dr. Cyrus Teed, and an impressive collection of musical instruments. Conclusions will be drawn regarding the significance of music among the Koreshans, not only as a form of entertainment, but also as a means of reinforcing Koreshan ideologies.

A native of Los Angeles, Dr. Tom Cimarusti received his Ph.D. at Florida State University and is currently a Professor of Music History at Florida Gulf Coast University. His research interests have included 18th- and 19th-century Italian chamber music and the music of communal utopias. He has presented his research at conferences in Europe, Asia, and the United States and is currently working on an edition of songs associated with the late 19th-century religious cult, the Koreshan Unity. Recent publications have included an article in "Boccherini Studies" and an edition of Dohnányi's "Piano Quintet in F# minor" with Doblinger Press. Tom is also an avid accordion player, having studied with legendary accordionist Dick Contino. He currently acts as Program Coordinator for the B.A. Music program at FGCU where he also directs the FGCU World Music Ensemble. In 2018 he founded the Center for Public Musicology (CPM), an institution that promotes community engagement through private and public lectures.

Cheryl Coulthard
Independent Scholar

Frances Wright, Developmental Communalism and the Evolution of a Social Activist

Over 35 years after Donald Pitzer proposed the idea of Developmental Communalism, it has become the defining theory for scholars in the field to define and explain the impact of communal groups and movements. Popularity also brings scrutiny. On the fiftieth anniversary of the Communal Studies Association, this panel takes a multidisciplinary approach to re-examining this key concept of CSA founder Donald Pitzer. Historian Cheryl Coulthard will illustrate how developmental communalism and transformative utopianism played out in the activism of Owenite Frances Wright.


Cheryl Coulthard received her PhD in History from Texas A & M University in College Station in May 2019. After graduating Cheryl and her family left Texas for Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley where she is enjoying small town living and working on two projects related to her dissertation.

William S. Elliott, Jr.

University of Southern Indiana

New Harmony Schools of the Owen–Maclure Era: Building Community Through Education


New Harmony, founded in 1814 by the Harmonist Society led by George Rapp (1757–1847), is situated along the banks of the Wabash River in Posey County, Indiana. As the Harmonists initiated their move back to Pennsylvania in 1824, Robert Owen (1771–1858), a Welsh social reformer, was searching for a location in the United States to establish an experimental community focusing on social equality and education. After learning about New Harmony, Owen purchased the town from the Harmonist Society in 1825 and collaborated with William Maclure (1763–1840), Father of North American Geology, to recruit artists, educators, and scientists to join the community. Maclure became the custodian of the New Harmony Schools, implementing “learning by doing” following the Pestalozzian method, relying on Marie Duclos Fretageot (1783–1833), Joseph Neef (1770–1854), and William Phiquepal (1779–1855) to deliver curriculum. Although Owen’s social experiment dissolved by the end of 1827, New Harmony continued to be an important educational and scientific community. With Maclure’s financial support, Charles Alexandre Lesueur (1778–1846) and Thomas Say (1787–1834) continued their scientific investigations and taught in the New Harmony Schools from 1826 to 1834. Maclure also championed the School of Industry, an adult learner program for vocational training, and sponsored the School Press to publish books and journals, such as the Disseminator of Useful Knowledge (1828 to 1841). In 1838, Maclure expanded his vocational training efforts by endowing the Working Men’s Institute in New Harmony, the longest continually operating public library in Indiana. David Dale Owen (1807–1860), third eldest son of Robert Owen, became one of the most prominent American geologists in the mid-nineteenth century. From 1835 to 1860, David Dale Owen trained numerous geologists in New Harmony, Indiana, refined methods for conducting geological surveys, and standardized the format of geologic reports.


Dr. William Elliott earned a B.S. degree in Geology (1995) from the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown, and a M.S. (1998) and Ph.D. (2002) in Geology from Indiana University. He started his career at Southern Oregon University in 2002 and joined the Geology, Physics, and Environmental Science Department at the University of Southern Indiana in August 2009 as Chairperson. In Fall 2022, he was promoted to Associate Dean of the Pott College of Science, Engineering, and Education. Since 2009, Dr. Elliott has developed a passion for the history and philosophy of geology, and in particular, the historical significance of New Harmony to scientific investigations conducted in the mid-nineteenth century. He has also published research exploring the intersection of art, education, and science to the success of the New Harmony Schools established by Maclure. University of Southern Indiana, Historic New Harmony, and the Bingham Award of Historic Southern Indiana fund his work.

Kathy Fernandez

Communal Studies Association

Oh, The Places We've Been!


In celebration of the Communal Studies Association's 50th anniversary, this paper will provide an overview of the various historic sites that hosted the CSA's Annual Conferences, giving some personal reflections from the presenter's attendance at 47 of them.


Kathleen M. Fernandez, a graduate of Otterbein College with a B. A. in History, is the former site manager at Zoar Village and Fort Laurens State Memorials for the Ohio Historical Society (now the Ohio History Connection), retiring in 2004. She worked as the Executive Director of the North Canton Heritage Society from 2006-2016. She has been the Executive Director of the Communal Studies Association since 2004. She is the author of A Singular People: Images of Zoar (Kent State University Press, 2003) and a general history of Zoar called Zoar: The Story of an Intentional Community, (Kent State University Press, 2019, winner of the 2019 Distinguished Book Award from the Communal Studies Association), and has written numerous papers and articles about the Zoar Separatists for journals and conferences. She was awarded the Communal Studies Association’s Distinguished Scholar Award in 2020.

Peggy Fisherkeller

Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites

Curatorial Outreach at the Working Men’s Institute: Dusting Off an Old Collection


New Harmony, Indiana, was envisioned as a scientific and educational utopia by its co-founders, Robert Owen and William Maclure. Though the original utopian concept failed, the community still retained its dedication to learning. The Working Men’s Institute (WMI) was established there in 1838 by Maclure, intended as a library, a meeting place, and a museum.

Still operating today, the WMI houses an extensive natural history and archaeology collection that until recently has been largely undocumented. A 1976 effort by Indiana University and Indiana Geological Survey geologists resulted in an unpublished partial accounting of the collection and acknowledgement that some important type and figured specimens were at the WMI. That document was the seed of the project initiated in 1990 by Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites staff and associates to fully catalog the collection.  

Steps toward fully cataloging the collection included removing all specimens from the attic and cleaning them, while preserving associated context and data with the end goal of creating a digital database and expert-provided taxonomic assessments. Throughout the process, the WMI provided increasingly secure and environmentally controlled collection storage.

As data are cross-checked with historic and recent published and unpublished documents, the character and provenance of the WMI collection becomes ever clearer. Most specimens are from one of three New Harmony collectors: Edward Travers Cox, James Sampson, or James G. Caldwell. The WMI collection also preserves collections secured from commercial dealers Lorenzo Gordin Yates, and Adam August Krantz, respectively.

Now, more than 40 years after that 1976 visit, much of the WMI collection has been surveyed and cataloged, with continuing work on the unfinished portion. The progressive documentation shows that throughout its long history, the WMI preserved an important 19th century regional natural history collection from now lost or changed populations and localities.


Peggy Fisherkeller is the Curator of Geology at the Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites and is responsible for the development and care of the Paleozoic paleontology, geology and mineralogy collections. Originally from Wisconsin, Peggy received her MS in geology from Indiana University – Purdue University in Indianapolis. She’s been involved in all aspects of exhibit development and collection management and enjoys bringing Indiana’s geologic and paleontological story to life, through collection development, research, preservation and interpretation. Peggy has been conducting curatorial outreach with the ongoing assessment and cataloguing of natural history collections at the Working Men’s Institute in New Harmony, Indiana for over 20 years.

Larry Foster

Georgia Tech University

Reconsidering the "Twin Relics of Barbarism": Comparing the Historical Memory of American Slavery and Mormon Polygamy Across Two Centuries


The Republican Party’s national platform in 1856 attacked American slavery and Mormon polygamy as “twin relics of barbarism” that must be eliminated. This paper will explore the strikingly similar ways in which attitudes toward these two controversial social practices changed during nearly two centuries--as well as why the public memory of both practices has followed such similar trajectories over time.

            The first phase in the historical memory of American slavery and Mormon polygamy began during the antebellum period when the two controversial social systems were actively expanding, leading to militant attacks and equally militant defenses. A second phase in the historical memory of the practices began in the South in 1865 after the Confederacy’s total defeat in the Civil War led to the end of slavery, as well as in Mormon Utah in 1890 after the Latter-day Saints were forced to give polygamy practice due to the most intense federal pressure any major religious group has ever suffered in America. A third phase in the historical understanding of slavery and polygamy began after World War II when direct memories of the practices had receded and a remarkable proliferation of more objective scholarly studies began to explore the extraordinary range of ways in which the social systems had functioned within their respective societies. 

            My paper will highlight the many remarkable similarities—as well as some significant differences--between public attitudes toward both practices during these three periods in American history, but this abstract will now turn to the why question:

What accounts for the striking similarities in the historical memories of both American slavery and Mormon polygamy during different periods of American history over almost two centuries?  The core point that must be emphasized is that structurally the two practices were very similar and thus elicited similar reactions. For example, both practices were (or became) deeply embedded in the most intimate aspects of the social fabric of their respective societies. More than one-quarter of all Southerners before the Civil War were either slaves or slave owners, while about one-quarter of all Mormons in Utah at the peak of plural marriage practice were living in polygamous households. Both systems also were seen by the larger society as sexually reprehensible and incompatible with mainstream American monogamous family values. Slavery seemed outside the pale of acceptable American society because of its potential for sexual exploitation of female slaves by their masters (among other things), while  polygamy was viewed as heinously sinful because polygamous husbands were seen as lasciviously exploiting their plural wives.

The issue that both Southerners and Mormons sought to address during the late 19th century was how to come to terms with such a catastrophic defeat that destroyed one of their key social practices. After the experience of total defeat, Southerners and Mormons tried to find some way to maintain their sense of integrity and justify the tremendous sacrifices they had made to support a cause that, despite their best efforts, had failed. Both groups thus developed similar “lost cause” narratives that began by denying that their controversial social practices (now eliminated or in the process of being eliminated) had been the primary reason for the external hostility they had faced; instead, they developed “persecution narratives” that highlighted the “unjustified” treatment they had suffered--and nobly resisted—due to hostile outsider and federal government attacks.  In the South, it was  disagreements over “high constitutional principles” (not slavery) had caused the war and, in Utah, it was the hostility toward Mormonism as a religion (not polygamy) that was really responsible for the attacks.

            I believe that the major reason why scholarly studies of American slavery and Mormon polygamy have proliferated so dramatically since World War II is that both topics provide an indirect way to seek to address pressing and unresolved social issues in their respective societies today. Since World War II, many Americans have become concerned about how to correct racial inequities and deal with their far-reaching negative consequences, while many thoughtful Mormons have similarly sought to reduce the inequities Mormon women have faced, and continue to face, in their still highly patriarchal society. 


Larry Foster taught American social and religious history, modern European history, and comparative world history at Georgia Tech in Atlanta from 1977 through 2019. His major scholarship compares and contrasts attempts to introduce new patterns of  family life, marriage, and sex roles in three pre-Civil War American religious/communal groups--the celibate Shakers, "free love" Oneida Community, and polygamous Mormons. Larry has published three books--RELIGION AND SEXUALITY (1981), WOMEN, FAMILY, AND UTOPIA (1991), and FREE LOVE IN UTOPIA (2001), all still in print--as well as dozens of scholarly articles and chapters in edited books. Larry was the first non-Mormon to gain full access to the central Latter-day Saint Church archival holdings in Salt Lake City on polygamy. Based on that research, he  reconstructed for the first time the 21-year period from 1831 to 1852 when Mormon polygamy was secretly conceived, introduced, and institutionalized while the practice was being publicly denied. 

Christian Goodwillie
Hamilton College

Un-Pleasant Hill: Richard McNemar versus John Whitbey

Christian Goodwillie will discuss Richard McNemar's pivotal role in managing the turmoil caused by the influence of Robert Owen's New Harmony, Indiana, community on Pleasant Hill in the mid-1820s. Shaker John Whitbey, who eventually apostatized and joined New Harmony, was central to the tumult. After New Harmony's short existence Whitbey returned to spearhead the passage of legislation that undermined the very existence of the Kentucky Shaker communities. A lawsuit and pamphlet war ensued, with McNemar battling it out with Whitbey in the press and before the Kentucky legislature.

Christian Goodwilie is director and curator of special collections and archives at Hamilton College in Clinton, NY. He served as curator of collections at Hancock Shaker Village from 2001-2009. He has been president of the Communal Studies Association and was given the Distinguished Scholar Award in 2021. He has authored, co-authored, and edited twelve books and numerous articles on the Shakers, Freemasonry, and other topics.

Matthew Grow
Church History Department, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

The Joseph Smith Papers: What Have We Learned About Early Latter-day Saint and Communalism?

In June 2023, the Joseph Smith Papers will publish its 27th and final volume. In this presentation, I will discuss what we have learned about Joseph Smith himself, the early Latter-day Saint movement, and the place of Latter-day Saints in the broader communal landscape.

Matthew J. Grow is the managing director of the Church History Department of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and a general editor of the Joseph Smith Papers. He has also served as the director of the Center for Communal Studies at the University of Southern Indiana as well as on the board and as president of the Communal Studies Association.

Thomas Guiler

Oneida Community Mansion House

The Other 199: Telling Undertold Stories at the Oneida Community Mansion House

Each of the 200 people that lived in the utopian Oneida Community between 1848 and 1881 had their own unique experiences living in this Perfectionist commune, but our narrative and much of the scholarship often centers on founder John Humphrey Noyes and a handful of other prominent members. What about the lives and experiences of those other 199 people that called the Mansion House home? What were their experiences? What were their lives like, their contributions to the Community, and how did they perceived their place in this experiment? This presentation, based on a soon to be mounted exhibit at the Mansion House in collaboration with Colgate University and the Oneida Indian Nation, will highlight a handful of individuals who have been overlooked by traditional Oneida Community Scholarship. These individuals will include folks such as Frances Hillerman, Edward Inslee, Maud Barron, and others to tell a more complete and complex history of the Mansion House and the people that called it home. Focusing on these individuals will further complicate what we know about the Oneida Community and the ways in which their unique ideology was actually implemented on the ground with rank-and-file members. This work is part of a new interpretive initiative at the Mansion House that seeks to expand the narrative of the community to highlight more diverse stories including discussing the Community’s relationship to free and enslaved Africans, the Haudenosaunee peoples, people with disabilities, women, and other historically marginalized groups. In addition, this presentation will give a brief update on the multi-year, 10-million-dollar historic preservation project at the Mansion House that will be entering Phase 2 this Fall.

Thomas A. Guiler is Director of Museum Affairs at the Oneida Community Mansion House. A scholar of intentional and utopian communities, Tom received his Ph.D. from Syracuse University in 2016 and taught for 5 years at the University of Delaware and Winterthur Program in American Material Culture. He researches and teaches 19th and 20th century American social and cultural history and has particular interests in social protest, material culture, and the digital and public humanities. He has published and presented on a wide variety of intentional communities including Byrdcliffe, Roycroft, and Rose Valley in addition to extensive work on the Oneida Community. He is currently working on a book, The Handcrafted Utopia: Arts and Crafts Communities in America’s Progressive Era.

Gerald Gutek
Loyola University Chicago emeritus education

Joseph Neef, New Harmony, and Communal Studies: A Memoir of becoming an Educational Biographer

Oh, my paper is a Memoir of how my research on Joseph Neef, 1772- 1854, and at the Working man’s institute in New, Harmony and my participation in the communal studies Association contributed to my career as an educational Biographer. I did my research on Joseph Neef as a participant in the Owenite community. My book Joseph Neef and the Americanization of Pestalozzianism was published in 1978 by the University of Alabama Press. In this work, I used parallel biographies of William Maclure, Robert Owen, Marie Duclos Fretageot, and others at the Owen community in New Harmony. This research and publication, led to my method of doing educational biography: one, establishing the historical context, two, discussing the subject’s , childhood, schooling, and career as an educator, three, analyzing the subject’s, educational method, theory and philosophy and concluding with the subject’s’. significance. This work led to many other publications on leading educators, my paper recounts how this process occurred.

Gerald, Gerald, Gutek‘s, professor emeritus of educational foundations, Loyola, University of Chicago, . Professor of History of Education, philosophy of education, 1963 to 1998, dean school of education 1979 to 1985. Author of the following books: Pestalozzi and Education 1968; The Educational Theory of George S. Counts 1970 historical introduction to American education 1991, 2013. a history of the western educational experience, 1995, 2022. Joseph Neef, the Americanization of Pestalozzianism 1978 ;education in the United States an historical perspective 1986; American education in a global society 2000; the Montessori method 2005; co-authored with Patricia Gutek Visiting utopian communities a guide to the shakers Moravians and others 1998.

Lanny Haldy
Amana Heritage Society

Book Production in the Community of True Inspiration

Throughout its 300 year history the Community of True Inspiration has used print media to connect its members and communicate with non-members. The Community provided for the publication of 130 books while still in Germany. Once established as a communal organization with its own printing press and bookbindery in Ebenezer, New York and then Amana, Iowa, the Community accelerated its book publishing efforts: from 1849 to the end of the communal system in 1932 the Community produced some 170 titles totaling over 70,000 pages. With an average print run of 600 copies, at least 102,000 books and 42 million pages were printed and bound in the community shops, a tremendous investment of resources without expectation of any financial return. Despite this impressive output, the historiography of communal Ebenezer and Amana is virtually silent on the subject. And surprisingly, internal community records themselves give little insight into the why and how of the publication effort. However, we have the products: this presentation will draw on Amana book collections to illuminate the extent and breadth of book production in communal Ebenezer, NY and Amana, IA.

Lanny Haldy is past Executive Director of the Amana Heritage Society and currently serves as volunteer Archivist for the Amana Church.

Matthew Hanka
University of Southern Indiana

What is Happening in Your Community? Why Community Development Matters

Communities are not static or stationary organisms. They are fluid and dynamic and change over time. The role of community development in the change and transformation of a community is critical to improving and enhancing the quality of life of the community and its residents. This presentation examines how community development changes a community and why that change matters, while also examining the relationship between community development and social capital. When a community improves its social capital, change can happen because people can leverage their networks to produce better results for themselves. This presentation will look at comprehensive community development and collective impact models and several case studies that utilize these models. It also looks at how the transformation and revitalization of a neighborhood through new housing creates opportunities for people everywhere, and how effective placemaking strategies empower diverse groups of people in a community to reimagine their public spaces and the built environment to be more livable, walkable, creative, and sustainable while fostering greater connections with people in their community.

Dr. Matt Hanka is associate professor of political science at USI. Hanka earned a B.A. in History and Politics from The Catholic University of America in Washington, DC, and an M.A. in Political Science in 2004 and a Ph.D. in Urban and Public Affairs, both from the University of Louisville. Dr. Hanka is finishing his 13th year at USI. He served as Director of the Master of Public Administration (MPA) program at USI from 2010 to 2018. His research interests include housing policy, community development, urban policy and governance, strategic planning, and social capital. His academic work has been published in 11 different peer-reviewed journals. He has also given over 40 academic conference presentations, and numerous symposia, colloquia, and panel presentations, and a presentation at TEDx Evansville in 2018 on permanent supportive housing using the Housing First model to house the chronically homeless. He is the author of the book What is Happening in Your Community? Why Community Development Matters published by Lexington Books (2021) and writing a book on the Louisville-Jefferson County, Kentucky merger titled Merger Dreams, which will be published in 2024 by University Press of Kentucky.  Dr. Hanka served as Director of the Commission on Homelessness for Evansville and Vanderburgh County, former co-chair of Housing Organizations United Serving Evansville (HOUSE) from 2019-2022, and a member of the Evansville Affordable Housing Trust Fund Advisory Committee. He also is the former President of the Indiana Political Science Association (IPSA) and the Indiana Chapter for the American Society for Public Administration (INASPA). He also provides commentary on Indiana and Kentucky politics during the election seasons on local media around Evansville.

Tommy Hines
South Union Shaker Village

Making Use of Ardent Spirits: Alcohol and the Kentucky Shakers

The Kentucky Shakers advocated a God-centered existence, seeking perfection in every aspect of their daily lives. While their communal experiment was built on the spiritual, the Shakers also delved into the temporal when it came to the production of alcohol. From whiskey-making to wine production, the Kentucky Shakers pushed the boundaries set by the sect’s leadership in New York. And the “ardent spirits” they manufactured weren’t just for customers.

Tommy Hines is a graduate of Western Kentucky University with an undergraduate degree in Music Theory and Folk Studies, and a MA in Historic Preservation and has spent his career as Executive Director of South Union Shaker Village. He has presented on topics related to Southern decorative arts at venues that include Frist Center for the Arts, Colonial Williamsburg, the Decorative Arts Trust, and for the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts. Hines has also authored three award-winning exhibit catalogs, published articles in Antique Review and The Magazine Antiques, and contributed to "Kentucky by Design: The Decorative Arts and American Culture" (2015) and "Making Time: The Art of the Kentucky Tall Case Clock, 1790-1850" (2019). Hines received the Ida Lee Willis Service to Preservation Award from Kentucky Heritage Council (2001), Edith Bingham Excellence in Preservation Education Award from Preservation Kentucky (2018), and the Frank R. Levstik Award for Professional Service from the Kentucky Historical Society (2020).

Peter Hoehnle

Communal Studies Association

Amana: Land, Community and Sense of Place


The Amana Society, one of the longest-lived and largest communal societies in the United States occupied a 26,000 acre tract of forest and farm land. Over the century and a half since it was first settled, in 1855, the residents of the communal Amana Society and its descendants have developed a strong bond with the land and its resources. This study will examine the ways in which that connection has been represented in artwork, maps, and community folklore and traditions. The study will also explore the creation of a distinctive Amana landscape in the way that the Amana people constructed and organized their villages and agricultural operations to facilitate communal living.


Peter Hoehnle is a former president of the CSA and former editor of Communal Societies.

Emilie Hoppe
Amana Church Society

What Happened in Schwarzenau? Johann Adam Gruber's Decision to Leave the German Community of True Inspiration

In the 1700s the tiny village of Schwarzenau attracted pietist sectarians from across Europe. including founding members of the Community of True Inspiration (later the Amana Society) Eberhard L. Gruber, his son, Johann Adam and Werkzeuge J.F. Rock and Ursula Meyer who engaged with Conrad Beissel, Christoph Sauer, Dr. Hochmann von Hochenau, Alexander Mack and others. What happened in Schwarzenau led Johann Adam to emigrate to Pennsylvania against the wishes of his father. We'll also examine the question – did Johann Adam's sister become a devoted follower of Conrad Beissell?

Emilie Hoppe is a longtime Elder in the Amana Church. Collaborating with church members including her mom, Janet Zuber, Emilie has co-edited several books published by the Amana Church including "A Heavenly Twilight: Testimonies Proclaimed by the Holy Spirt through Ursula Meyer" and "Inspired by God's Word." For the past 42 years she has written and published "Willkommen" a seasonal guide to the Amana Colonies. She's currently on the Amana Church Board of Trustees and is a past Amana Society Inc. board member. She lives in West Amana.

Don Janzen (in absentia)
Retired Anthropologist

Approaches to the Study of Cooperative Living

Four ways to approach the study of cooperative living are proposed. Since the Fellowship for Intentional Community introduced the concept of an intentional community in their 1990/91 community directory, attempts have been made to define what it means. It is suggested that approaches to classification that have proved successful in the past be considered when classifying cooperative living. The half society model proposed by cultural anthropologist Robert Redfield, and the concept of a shadow culture introduced by psychologist Eugene Taylor are discussed and how they can be applied to communal studies. Finally, the early history of optics led to perceiving light of either composed ot particles, or as a continuous wave. Communal studies can be approached as either a particle or a wave and this duality will be examined.

Don Janzen has a varied academic background with degrees in physics and a doctorate in anthropology, with a focus on archaeology, from the University of Michigan. He has worked as an experimental physicist and taught anthropology at two liberal arts colleges. The numerous archaeological investigations he has conducted includes work at three Shaker villages. He is a charter member of the National Historic Communal Societies Association and served as Executive Secretary. He has visited the sites of over 250 historic and contemporary intentional communities and documented these visits with over 15,000 photographs that are archived at the Center for Communal Studies

Mitchell Jones
University at Buffalo

Eben-Ezer's Transnational Inspiration

The Community of True Inspiration was a radical Pietist religion that began in 1714 in what is today Germany. Facing persecution in Europe, the group migrated to the United States beginning in 1842 and founded Eben-Ezer, a religious communist settlement on Seneca Indian land. The Ogden Company made the land available for sale due to what is sometimes called the Third Treaty of Buffalo Creek or the Compromise Treaty of 1842, which ceded Allegany and Cattaraugus Indian Reservations to the Seneca Nation, but compelled them to sell off the Buffalo Creek Reservation. This paper will focus on the Community of True Inspiration’s journey from Hessen to Buffalo Creek, today West Seneca, New York as a liminal period in the Inspirationists’ history. Looking at information, goods, money and individuals moving from Hessen to the United States and back, this paper argues that Inspirationist history was affected by the transatlantic outside world in which they migrated, but they still retained their own distinct identity as separatists, outside the world of conventional authority.

Mitchell K. Jones is a PhD student at the University at Buffalo who specializes in early American radical religion. Jones has a BS in anthropology and an MA in history from the College at Brockport. Jones has written on the American movement based on French socialist Charles Fourier and the intersection of modern spiritualism and communalism in the antebellum era. He is a member of Christ Church Unity in Rochester, New York.

Clark Kimberling
University of 'Evansville

Cornelius Tiebout: His Life and Engravings

Cornelius Tiebout was one of America's foremost engravers when, in 1826, he moved from Philadelphia to New Harmony, Indiana. His work and that of other engravers was important to the history of American culture, especially as influenced by publications in London, New York, and Philadelphia during the years 1788 (his earliest known engraving) to 1832 (his death in New Harmony).

Clark Kimberling is a professor of mathematics at the University of Evansville. Born in Hinsdale, Illinois, he graduated from high school in Bryan, Texas and has degrees from North Texas State University and Louisiana State University. He received his Ph.D. from the Illinois Institute of Technology in 1970. The subjects of his publications pertaining to New Harmony include Margaret and John Chappellsmith, David Dale Owen, and the "Evansville dire wolf". He manages the websites "New Harmony Scientists, Educators, Writers & Artists"
( and "Encyclopedia of Triangle Centers" (

John Kimsey

DePaul University

History as Prose Poem: Marguerite Young’s Angel in the Forest


Marguerite Young’s much-lauded 1945 prose volume, Angel in the Forest: A Fairy Tale of Two Utopias, provides an extraordinary treatment of the communal living experiments of the Rappites and Owenites at New Harmony. There is certainly history in Young’s “fairy tale,” as well as sociology (small “s”), and a sweeping, engaged social consciousness. But there is poetry too, in the sense of aesthetically refined, belletristic writing. With Angel in the Forest, Young has written, in prose widely hailed as “poetic,” an account that is both meticulously detailed and, at key junctures, profoundly visionary. I argue that such an approach to limning these “two utopias” is uniquely fitting. I trace out the contrast between Owen and Rapp, their projects, and those projects’ wider implications, as framed by Young’s amateur historicism and “pluralist” literary imagination. I go on to address Young’s writing style, arguing that her privileging of certain rhetorical tropes provides an allegory for the content she is treating. I further propose that a literary approach is particularly apropos to the figure of Robert Owen who – though characterized by Frederick Engels as the father of the British labor movement – was also the philosophical sparring partner of S. T. Coleridge, and the “bosom friend” of P. B. Shelley, whose revolutionary fairy tale in verse, Queen Mab, Owen was once accused of composing. The science of society was, Young implies, just one remove from Promethean Romanticism. Finally, I will situate Young herself within the continuum of 20th century literary Modernism, while also marking the ways she departs from the high Modernist profile, particularly around the twin Modernist bugbears of history and politics.


John Kimsey is an Associate Professor in DePaul’s School for Continuing & Professional Studies (SCPS), where he teaches and writes about modern literature, popular culture, and intersections between the two. His critical essays have appeared in scholarly journals such as The Space Between: Literature & Culture, 1914-1945; Interdisciplinary Literary Studies; Popular Music & Society; and The Journal of Popular Music Studies. He has also written numerous chapters for peer-reviewed scholarly anthologies in the field of Popular Music Studies, including the closing chapter for The Cambridge Companion to the Beatles (Cambridge UP, 2009). His song cycle, Twisted Roots: Music, Politics & the American Dream Blues, was awarded a DePaul Humanities Center grant in 2003. Jazz composer/historian Ben Sidran called it “an ingenious way to integrate political and social commentary into a musical architecture.” In 2014 -- and again in 2020 -- he received DePaul's Excellence in Teaching Award. 

Caroline M. Kisiel

DePaul University

On the Edges of Bondage and Freedom: Forging the New Harmony Community in the Early Nineteenth-Century Slavery Borderland Region


Though the Owenite settlement of New Harmony, Indiana was in a constitutionally designated free state in the young republic, aspects of slavery from nearby slave states intruded across the border, threatening the free statuses of both Indiana and Illinois in this period. When the sale of Harmony to Robert Owen was negotiated and brokered by Richard Flower of Albion, Illinois in 1825, it is unclear whether Flower gave Owen any advance warning that southern Indiana and southeastern Illinois bordered the slave state of Kentucky, were near the slave state of Tennessee, and that dynamics of slave and free were fluid in the region in the early 1800s. Flower’s son, George Flower, the co-founder of Albion (less than 30 miles from New Harmony), relied on Rapp’s Harmony community for goods and support. Recollecting his early years in the region, the younger Flower wrote: “For all practical purposes, this part of the Territory was as much a slave-state as any of the states south of the Ohio River” (Flower, 1882).

While Indiana passed a free constitution in 1816 that banned slavery, Indiana as a territory had a long history of Black Laws that severely restricted the lives of African Americans. These laws had been followed in the Illinois Territory and were codified in early statehood Illinois laws. Kidnapping of free Blacks was common in this region, while freedom seekers (runaway enslaved) passed through northward-bound. Despite these hostilities, free Black communities formed in both states. Hostility toward African Americans and an antiblack mindset was common among white settlers, and peaked in the 1851 Indiana Constitution, when emigration of free Blacks and “mulattoes” into Indiana was banned, and when Illinois revised its Black Laws in 1853, also banning such emigration.

It is unclear whether New Harmony settlers were fully aware of these dynamics. We do know key community members responded in different ways to this reality: Robert Dale Owen joined with Scottish visionary, Frances Wright, and Albion co-founder, George Flower, to engage in antislavery activism; yet Robert Owen’s constitution for New Harmony expressly excluded free people of color in his utopian communal vision.

This presentation will take a critical look at the New Harmony community within this context of slavery, abolition, free and enslaved African Americans in this period. The discussion will consider the choices and actions of key New Harmony members and will offer interpretations about the early New Harmonists’ ideas about utopia while forging a community in this slavery borderland region in the 1820s United States.


Dr. Caroline M. Kisiel is an Associate Professor in DePaul University’s School of Continuing and Professional Studies. She holds an M.A. in Interdisciplinary Arts (Columbia College Chicago, 1997), an M.Res. in Humanities and Cultural Studies (Birkbeck College, University of London, 2004), and a Ph.D. in Literature (University of Essex, UK, 2011). With a background in immigration law, literature, travel writing, history and storytelling, Dr. Kisiel has taught in higher education for 26 years. She currently writes, presents, and teaches about slavery and free Blacks in early Illinois history and is writing a book on the role of Albion, Illinois in the struggle to keep Illinois slavery-free in the early years of statehood. Dr. Kisiel first began researching New Harmony, Indiana as part of her Ph.D. work, and her ongoing projects explore the activities and perceptions of early nineteenth-century British travelers and settlers about slavery in the United States. Dr. Kisiel is also an Illinois Humanities Road Scholar who presents about slavery and abolition in early Illinois to civic and community groups across the state.

Ruth Lambach

Community Member

Confessions from a Hutterite Loose in the World 


I am asking for a slot under the category IMPACT to introduce my topic: CONFESSIONS. (of a former Mennonite, Hutterite, Koinonia Farm, Bruderhof Novice and Hippie Commune.) It is more complicated than this, but this will suffice as a request to have a space to speak so I can explain why I have felt like a hypocrite in a way by attending the conferences, since the 70's. My Confessions will include the fact that not one of my family would ever consider living in a commune of any kind. I have had 11 younger brothers and three younger sisters.

( I told my story (Colony Girl - a chapter in WOMEN IN SPIRITUAL AND COMMUNITARIAN SOCIETIES IN THE U.S., Syracuse University, 1993 at the International CSA conference in Elizabeth, PA.) This talk at the 50th Anniversary, I would want to demonstrate how communal life that I experienced for the first 16 years of my life has both directed and inhibited my success in the world. For the last half century, I have used my communal experience to create community wherever I've worked with great success in Chicago.


Ruth Lambach is a former Mennonite, Hutterite, Koinonia Farm, Bruderhof Novice and Hippie Commune member.

Joshua Lockyer

Arkansas Tech University

From Developmental Communalism to Transformative Utopianism and Beyond: Reflections from a mid-Career Anthropologist on the Past and Future of Communal Studies 


Don Pitzer’s theory of developmental communalism encouraged us all to rethink and re-evaluate the nature and significance of the intentional communities we study. This brief talk will review the author’s engagement with developmental communalism as an early to mid-career anthropologist and reflect on the possibilities for expanding the CSA’s own developmental and transformative trajectory into the future.  


Joshua Lockyer is Professor of Anthropology at Arkansas Tech University. He has been working with and studying contemporary intentional communities - Celo Community, Earthaven Ecovillage, and Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage most prominently - for almost 25 years. He was lead editor of the volume Environmental Anthropology Engaging Ecotopia: Bioregionalism, Permaculture, & Ecovillages (Berghahn Books) and author of Seeing Like a Commons: 80 Years of Intentional Community Building and Commons Stewardship in Celo, North Carolina (Lexington Books). The latter was the recipient of the CSA Outstanding Book Award in 2021.

Douglas Major

Independent Historian

Owenite Influence on Mormon Communal Consecration Theology, Isaac Morley’s Pursuit of the Perfect Community from the “family” to the United Order.

The connections between David Dale, Robert Owens, Thomas and Alexander Campbell, the Owenites, and Campbellites and how they influenced the success of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, the Mormonites with an intermediary, an Ohio communalist Issac Morley.


Doctor of Optometry Southern California College of Optometry 1985. Private Practice in Paso Robles and Los Osos, California, since 1985 Service: Coordinator for the SLO County Lions School Vision Screening 1986-present Chairman of the Board, Food Bank Coalition of San Luis Obispo 2007-2008 Research: Numerous poster presentations at the American Academy of Optometry “The Blindness of Saint Paul, Insights in his Loss and Recovery of Vision” Presented at the Sperry Symposium, BYU 1995 “Prophetic Voices; the Causes and Consequences of Plagues and Pestilence in the Old Testament” Sperry Symposium, BYU 1997 Presented at JWHA/Communal Studies conference, Kirtland 2007 “Isaac Morley’s pursuit of a Zion Community, from his Kirtland “Family” to the United Order” Presented at MHA conference, Springfield 2009 The Rise and Fall of Yelrome, Hancock County, Illinois. Isaac Morley’s Pursuit of the Perfect Community. Presented at the CSA conference, New Harmony 2010 Robert Owen’s Influence on Mormon Communal Consecration Theology, Isaac Morley’s Pursuit of the Perfect Community from the “family” to the United Order. Presented at the New Larak Conference 2022 Owenite Influence on Mormon Communal Consecration Theology, Isaac Morley’s Pursuit of the Perfect Community from the “family” to the United Order.

Richard Marshall

University of Indianapolis (Retired)

The Shakers: Surviving the Public’s Suspicions About Their Celibacy

Throughout Shaker history, many in the general public doubted that a truly celibate society could survive and even thrive. The Shakers must be hiding something. A poem by Shaker poetess, Hortency Hooser, “Love is God, God is Love” extols the “pure love” among the brothers and sisters, but many writers of Shaker novels and short stories encouraged public suspicions by drawing a very physical interpretation of the love described in countless Shaker poems and songs.
This presentation examines how these fictional authors insinuate that such phrases as “pure love” could refer to a heightened sexual tension that pervades Shaker communities, a condition ironically engendered, so the stories suggest, by the sect’s tenets of celibacy. Such adverse publicity certainly fueled rumors that a rampant sexuality lurked beneath a deceptive façade of celibacy. Fiction written in the nineteenth century, throughout the twentieth, and into the twenty-first century has sustained such suspicions.

Rick Marshall taught American literature and utopian studies, among other courses, from 1983 to 2021 at the University of Indianapolis.

Dan McKanan
Harvard Divinity School

What We Have to Offer Him: Robert Owen and Ancestral Healing

For more than two hundred years, Robert Owen has inspired other people to form intentional communities. Even the Camphill movement, inspired by a spiritual tradition in some ways antithetical to Owen’s worldview, claimed Owen as one of its three guiding “stars.” When a young Camphiller questioned whether Owen still had anything to teach, Camphill founder Karl König roared back that “it is not a question of what he has to offer us but of what we have to offer him!” As we look back on back at fifty years of communal studies scholarship, I propose that we take König’s admonition literally. Guided by Donald Pitzer’s theory of developmental communalism, we have learned to trace the evolution of communal ideals across time and from one movement to another. But we should also trace the developmental arc in reverse. This happens when communitarians engage spiritually with their ancestors, when historians tell old stories in new ways, and when all of us strive together to undo ancestral legacies of colonialism and violence.

Creative Symbiosis


By introducing the concept of developmental communalism, Don Pitzer has challenged all of us to consider not only how intentional communities change over time, but also how they fit into larger currents of societal change. My own contribution to this conversation has been to distinguish three major trajectories of communal change. While some intentional communities evolve into self-contained societies and others evolve beyond community, still others achieve a creative symbiosis in which non-communal neighbors join in the work of sustain communal values and traditions. I have written extensively about the ways Camphill communities have achieved creative symbiosis. In this panel, though, I will seek to build a bridge between communal and monastic studies by retelling the history of Roman Catholic monasticism as an extended story of creative symbiosis.

Dan McKanan is the Emerson Senior Lecturer at Harvard Divinity School, where he has taught since 2008. He is the author, most recently, of Camphill and the Future: Spirituality and Disability in an Evolving Communal Movement, and of several other books on intentional community, environmentalism, and the religious left. Dan is a co-chair of the International Communal Studies Association.

Carol Medlicott

Northern Kentucky University

‘Stay with me thou lovely treasure’: The Musical Contributions of Shaker Apostate John Whitbey 


As one of the more notorious Shaker apostates, John Whitbey is among the most perplexing. Whitbey’s exit from Pleasant Hill in November 1825 was the stimulus for a subsequent stream of defections, inflicting profound damage from which the community arguably never recovered.  Shaker leaders detested Whitbey, and over subsequent years they universally condemned the harmful influence of his ideas and actions. Nonetheless, a positive legacy from Whitbey persisted in musical form:  at least eight of his songs and hymns were carefully preserved in Pleasant Hill manuscripts. This paper will present Whitbey’s songs and examine how they came to be circulated and popularized among the Shakers, despite his dishonor and infamy.


Carol Medlicott is Professor of Geography in the Department of History and Geography at Northern Kentucky University. Her research considers a range of topics in historical and cultural geography, including religious geographies, memory, sacred spaces, and musical geographies. Since 2005 her research has focused on Shakers, including the western Shaker communities of Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana.  Her most recent book, co-authored with Christian Goodwillie, is This Chosen Pleasant Hill: Shakers of the Kentucky Bluegrass. 

Tim Miller

University of Kansas

Ten Intentional Communities You've Never Heard of: An Illustrated Journey

In the course of compiling The Encyclopedic Guide to American Intentional Communities I identified some 4,000 communities, the vast majority of which I had never known before. I suspect many of my colleagues share my lack of knowledge of that hidden communal world, and with this presentation I want to spotlight a few of those quiet enclaves. Most of them are American, although one is French. I will illustrate the presentation with pictures, most of which I have gathered in my travels.

The tentative list of communities is the American Woman’s Republic, the Ark of the New Covenant, Celestia, Christ of the Hills monastery, the Holy City of the Mandarom, the Lyman Family, the Red Rockers, Tama Re, Trabuco College, and the Thelemic Community.


I am a retired Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Kansas and a longtime member of the CSA. I am the author of many books and articles on intentional communities.

Sanja Nilsson
School of Culture and Society, Dalarna University, Sweden

Kingdom Center: Christian Cowboys in the South of Sweden

Kingdom Center Sweden is a charismatic evangelical Christian congregation based in the countryside outside of the town of Höör in the south of Sweden. The congregation has approximately 40-50 members and is headed by Pastor Christer Segerliv. In the late 1980s Pastor Christer Segerliv founded the charismatic congregation Sion, which was shortly merged with the similar congregation Glädjehuset. In 1992, the newly founded congregation, Kristet Center Syd (Christian Center South, as of 2008 known as Kingdom Center), bought an old dance palace, located close to the village of Höör where they later built a wilderness center which was to become the central feature of the congregation’s activities. Kristet Center Syd was originally affiliated with The Faith Movement in Sweden, but has since from charismatic congregation to Texas-inspired Cowboy church. This paper is the first academic attempt at presenting the life and faith of the community’s members, including the establishment of the wilderness center and a school for the members’ children, as well as positioning its current theological foundation within the study of intentional communities.


I hold a doctoral degree in religious studies from Dalarna University in Sweden and a MA in sociology from Lund University in Sweden. I primarily research children in new religious movements and intentional communities and have written a book on the subject together with my colleagues professor Liselotte Frisk and Peter Åkerbäck:

Steven Olsen

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

The Remaking of a Prophet: Joseph Smith in Liberty (MO) Jail, 1838-39


The first major spiritual crisis for the Latter-day Saints was being exiled from their “land of promise” in western Missouri. Its coup de gras was fleeing the state under threat of “extermination” during the brutal winter 1838-1839, when their prophet was incarcerated in the county jail at Liberty. At the darkest moment of his life, Joseph Smith’s millennial vision was in shambles; his family and followers were scattered across the plains of northern Missouri; and his standing as God’s prophet lay in serious doubt. Though totally bleak, this existential crisis became a dramatic turning point in Smith’s ministry, motivating a new spiritual consciousness that found fulfillment in Nauvoo, Illinois, 1839-44, and setting the faith on a radical course that remains a principal spiritual focus to the present. This paper reviews the Mormon crisis of 1838-39 and proposes ways that it transformed the faith and its founder.


Steven L. Olsen (BA, Brigham Young University, 1975; AM, Ph.D., University of Chicago, 1978, 1985) is Senior Curator of the Church History Department, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, where he has worked his entire career (4+ decades), creating museum exhibits, restoring historic sites, and leading organizational change. He has also been president and/or board member of a variety of state, regional, and national professional service organizations. He publishes widely in the fields of Latter-day Saint studies and museums studies and frequently presents at academic and professional conferences. Please check this box if you are: A graduate student interested in being considered for financial assistance (up to $250 and free registration). [checkbox financial_assistance use_label_element] -- This e-mail was sent from a contact form on Communal Studies Association (

Donald E. Pitzer

University of Southern Indiana

The Development of Developmental Communalism


Donald Pitzer’s theory of “developmental communalism” has been a guiding star for communal studies scholars ever since Pitzer introduced the concept at the tenth annual meeting of the Historic Communal Societies Conference in 1983. Now, as the Communal Studies Association celebrates its fiftieth anniversary, it is fitting to look both back and forward at the ways this theory has influenced both scholars and practitioners of intentional community, helping us recognize ongoing processes of change and the ways in which communal practices fit into the larger histories of social, political, and religious movements. Don Pitzer will give a brief overview of Developmental Communalism followed by scholars who have used Pitzer’s theory as a springboard for the development of additional frameworks for understanding change, continuity, and transformation in community. 


Don Pitzer is Distinguished Professor Emeritus of History and Founder and Director Emeritus of the Center for Communal Studies at the University of Southern Indiana. He is a founding member and first president of the Communal Studies Association and International Communal Studies Association. He edited a book titled "America's Communal Utopias" with his own and sixteen other communal scholars' essays on historic communal groups that has been used as a textbook. His research on the Harmonist and Owenite movements is summarized in his book New Harmony Then & Now which includes the color photographs of Darryl Jones.

Ritsert Rinsma
University of Caen

A Recently Discovered Letter by William Maclure Sheds New Light on His School of Industry

William Maclure's School of Industry moved from Philadelphia to New Harmony in 1825-1826 in order to become an integral part of Robert Owen's utopian commune on the Wabash. In spite of the many difficulties encountered by the leaders, teachers, pupils and parents alike, the school outlived Owen and Maclure's partnership and functioned for more than a decade. A recently discovered letter, written by William Maclure to his friend John Bowring, the British political economist and fourth governor of Hong Kong, draws a vivid picture of the town and its educational activities. It also provides many new insights about the way the School of Industry functioned and how it was perceived by its contemporaries. Maclure's philosophical mind and the details he shares are astounding to say the least. When placed in their historical context, we fully grasp the uniqueness of Maclure's project and its amazing consequences.

The Immortals of Tasmania - Film


I would like to propose a special event. Last October, with the director of the film, I presented my documentary at the International Film Festival of Saint-Tropez. 220 years after the events we decided to follow Charles-Alexandre Lesueur's footsteps by going to Tasmania where Lesueur, who later lived in New Harmony, studied the aboriginal communities of the island. It was almost the last encounter, because one generation later the Tasmanians had all disappeared. The film touches upon their lives and that of Lesueur and the crew of the Baudin expedition. These are of course different kinds of communities than the communes we are used to presenting, but most certainly worthwhile. Duration 80 minutes. English and English subtitles.

Born in the Netherlands in 1969, Bauke Ritsert Rinsma moved to France in 1990, and obtained two bachelor’s degrees, in Law and Business Administration, as well as two master’s degrees, in History and Anglo-American Literature (from the Universities of Le Havre and Rouen), before starting his career as a dedicated teacher and researcher, working part-time in the Universities of Caen and Le Havre, and several other institutions. His innovative research on Charles-Alexandre Lesueur began with the preparations for a Ph.D. Fluent in French, English, Dutch and German, he investigated archives and libraries across Europe and the U.S.A. to define C.-A. Lesueur’s impact on American science, and his role in William Maclure and Robert Owen’s utopian community in New Harmony, Indiana. B. R. Rinsma has written many articles and a book in French, as well as his major work in English: Eyewitness to Utopia.

Darcy Roake

Tulane University

The Water is Fierce, but the Ground is Fertile: Ben Montgomery, Davis Bend & Utopian Imaginings


Davis Bend, now Davis Island, a fertile tract of land 20 miles south of Vicksburg, MS, has been the site of mass enslavement of African-Americans, a free black colony, a Freedmen’s Bureau community, and a private (and disputed) residence of both confederate president Jefferson Davis and the first formerly enslaved black man in Mississippi to own land, Benjamin T. Montgomery. The land has also been a site of aspirations and imaginings – from the Owenite utopian socialist beliefs of the slaveowner Joseph E. Davis, and to some degree Montgomery - the man he once enslaved, to the “black” paradise General Ulysses S. Grant once envisioned. This paper will explore the link between this land, disappearing due to climate change, and the aspirations of those who have lived and toiled on it, primarily through the legacy of Benjamin Montgomery and his family. In so doing, I hope to better consider what different utopian imaginings mean in times of tremendous social and ecological transformation - a topic as prescient in the early twenty-first century as it was in the mid-to-late nineteenth-century.


Darcy Roake is a Unitarian Universalist Minister who is currently pursuing a PhD in History at Tulane University with a focus on the reproductive health and justice movements. Darcy has a wide background in social justice and pastoral care in settings as varied as Oxfam America, Amnesty International, the United Nations, the Navajo Nation Public Defender's Office, Massachusetts General Hospital, Planned Parenthood’s National Clergy Advocacy Board, and the Unitarian Universalist Association. Darcy received a B.A. in Religious Studies from Brown University and graduated with a Master of Divinity from Harvard Divinity School. She has published essays in Guernica, and The New Orleans Advocate, among other venues; was named a "Faith Leader to Watch in 2016" by the Center for American Progress and is a Mellon Fellow. Darcy enjoys good fiction, bad action movies and being with her community in New Orleans - a complicated City that she loves deeply.

Silvia Rode

University of Southern Indiana

Communal Housing for the Future


For decades, housing has been designed with the single family in mind.  But ongoing affordability challenges, concerns to the environment, service access and the absence of care-partnering, the single family home could become a model of the past. With current realities calling for alternatives, why not reimagine living practices that combine communal traits from the past with new technologies? Indeed, alternative living projects in rural or urban landscapes are offering new solutions. This presentation focuses on a variety of communal projects that provide viable solutions to affordable housing, a healthier environment, care-partnering and a positive inter-dependency.


Silvia Rode received her Ph.D. from UCLA in Germanic Studies. She joined USI in 2007 where she serves as assistant dean of the College of Liberal Arts and director of the Center for Communal Studies. She is also director the Board of Advisors for Historic New Harmony. Her research interests include utopian concepts between WWI and WWII and utopian communal models. She is the author of Franz Werfels Stern der Ungeborenen. Die Utopie als fiktionaler Genrediskurs and George Rapp’s Thoughts on the Destiny of Man. A Critical Study.

Zach Rubin

Lander University

‘Anything that Helps me Say we is Empowering:’ A Theory of why People Join Intentional Communities


Over 35 years after Donald Pitzer proposed the idea of Developmental Communalism, it has become the defining theory for scholars in the field to define and explain the impact of communal groups and movements. Popularity also brings scrutiny. On the fiftieth anniversary of the Communal Studies Association, this panel takes a multidisciplinary approach to re-examining this key concept of CSA founder Donald Pitzer. Zach Rubin will present a theory on why people join intentional communities.


Zach Rubin is an assistant professor of Sociology at Lander University in Greenwood, South Carolina. It's a state largely devoid of communal activity, and for engagement on the topic he attends CSA conferences and sits on the organization's board of directors. He is the winner of the CSA’s Outstanding Article award in 2020 and 2021, and in 2022 won his University’s Junior Faculty Scholar award.

Diane Sanders
Historic New Harmony

Where Heaven Meets Earth: Planning and Implementing Historic New Harmony’s Religion and Cultural Institutions Initiative

Historic New Harmony (HNH) works to preserve the utopian legacy of New Harmony, Indiana, inspired by its founder’s ideals. The community of New Harmony was founded more than 200 years ago as a spiritual sanctuary that later became a haven for international scientists, scholars, and educators seeking equality in communal living.

Historic New Harmony Director Leslie Townsend and Assistant Director Diane Sanders will discuss their experience with a planning grant and an implementation grant from Lilly Endowment’s Religion and Cultural Institutions Initiative. HNH was awarded a planning grant in 2021 to explore how it could strengthen its efforts to depict religion in its exhibitions, educational outreach, and other programs. In 2023, Lilly Endowment Inc. awarded more than $2 million to fund a project that includes the restoration and renovation of two historic buildings to be used as exhibition and programming space, development of a new permanent exhibit detailing the religious history of New Harmony, and creation of community engagement programming, including a multi-day interfaith festival. The five-year grant also funds the development of a Collections and Exhibition Curator and student fellowship to work with exhibition design and educational programming.


Diane Sanders is the Assistant Director of HNH. Prior to joining HNH in January, she spent ten years at the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center as an Exhibits Specialist. Sanders has a master’s degree in exhibition design from the University of the Arts and a bachelor’s degree in historic preservation and interior design from Southeast Missouri State University. She will provide project management support and oversee exhibition development and design on this initiative.

John Sheridan

University of Iowa

Hutterite Religion, Emotion, and Matter: How Hutterites “Dress” and are “Dressed” By Their World


In Hutterite colonies across the United States and Canada bodies “dress” and are “dressed” by their social, emotional, and material world. From sow birthing barns to communal kitchens, Hutterite religion is dynamically and diversely lived in seemingly mundane spaces. Yet the complexity of Hutterite life has rarely been captured by previous scholarship, which has tended to focus on presenting Hutterites as a mostly homogenous and static communal religious group that has succeeded by constructing a monolithic religious identity and creating a division between them and the outside world. My work, based on ten years of ethnographic fieldnotes, hundreds of interviews, and immersive visits to and overnight stays at forty colonies in the U.S. and Canada, argues for a more nuanced approach to Hutterite identity—one where Hutterites construct identity by defining themselves against what they are not and in turn creating both internal and external divisions between “us” and “them,” “I” and “we,” and “that” and “this.” Ultimately, I seek to show how Hutterite religion is a dynamic blend of rural American and Canadian blue-collar values and practices that are shaped by emotion and material as much as “traditional” Anabaptism. Thus, I demonstrate that Hutterites are not some insignificant obscure “other,” but instead are a microcosm of white conservative rural Christians.


John Sheridan is a religious studies doctoral candidate at the University of Iowa. His areas of interest are religion in North America, ethnographic approaches to the study of religion, Hutterites, and Anabaptist studies. As an ethnographer of religion, he looks at the intersection of work, religion, and gender. His fieldwork with the Hutterites focuses on the lived experiences of Hutterites and how these intersections contribute to their identity formations. His research centers around questions about the relationships between affect, matter, individuals, and agency.

Solarpunk Surf Club 

Independent Artist Collective

Solarpunk Futures: A Workshop for Utopian Remembrance

This 90-minute participatory session engages participants in a process of visionary social storytelling around the collective struggle required to win our utopia — utilizing the artist's tabletop game, Solarpunk Futures. The game employs backcasting in a “Festival of Remembrance”, whereby Assemblies for the Future (groups of 1-8 players) play for 40 minutes from the perspective of a future utopia in which they collectively “remember” how their Ancestors utilized Tools and Values to overcome a real-world Challenge. Assemblies will report back on the form of their utopian scenarios, insights gained along the way, and how their experiences might inform their present-day actions.

            Through the game, players engage in the serious yet joyful play of dialogue on the nature of the Challenges we face (e.g. Hunger, Water Crisis, Police Violence), the role of individual Ancestors, the constraints and opportunities presented by different Tools, the forces of opposition the Ancestors had to face, the ways different Ancestor roles, Values, and Tools emergently interweave, and more. Players embody positions of historical consequence while — via Tool cards featuring quotes from figures such as Rosa Luxembourg, Fred Hampton, Murray Bookchin, and Ursula K. LeGuin among many others — engaging with contemporary and historical revolutionary concepts from our global legacy of freedom.

Solarpunk Surf Club is an artist collective that creates and curates egalitarian platforms for surfing the waves of still-possible worlds. We elaborate on social ecological aesthetics AKA Solarpunk in order to politicize, historicize, and demystify our collective utopian future. Solarpunk Surf Club has presented projects internationally in galleries, museums, festivals, conferences, libraries, activist gatherings, and forest occupations. In 2022, the collective received the Future Art Award: ECOSYSTEM X from MOZAIK Philanthropy (Los Angeles) for their artist’s game, Solarpunk Futures. 

Becky Soules

Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill

The Usual Service is Deferred: Changing Practices of Religious Worship at Canterbury


During the first three decades of the twentieth century, religious practices among the Canterbury Shakers underwent a dramatic shift. Financial stresses prompted a prioritizing of the community’s industries, often resulting in the cancellation of communal worship in favor of work, even on the Sabbath. Influenced by a generation of progressive leaders and inspired by members’ experiences out in the World, the Canterbury Shakers also embraced mainstream ecumenical Protestant Christianity: attending local churches, performing religious theatricals, and adding secular celebrations to religious holidays. Although many twentieth-century Canterbury sisters were deeply religious and committed to Shakerism, their evolving approach to religious worship – and the lack of instruction that children raised in the Canterbury received during this era – would have serious repercussions for the future of the community.


Becky Soules is currently the Curator of Collections at Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill in Kentucky. Prior to that, she worked as Canterbury Shaker Village’s Interpretation Manager. She holds degrees in American Civilization and Public Humanities from Brown University.

Evelyn Sterne

University of Rhode Island

‘Heaven on Earth’ or ‘Harem Heaven’? Salvation and Scandal at Michigan’s House of David

The Israelite House of David, founded in 1903, attracted believers from across the world in search of community, economic security and the promise of immortality. The commune thrived well into the 1960s – and lingers on as a tiny remnant today — despite a steady stream of scandals, a torrent of litigation and obsessive coverage in the press. Critics sought to dismiss a community described by supporters as “heaven on earth” as a false religion and a “harem heaven.” This paper analyzes why the colony was dogged by controversy and asks what that reveals about why critics have sought to delegitimize communal experiments and new religious movements as scandalous or by claiming they are not real religions. Concerns about the House of David reflected the cultural anxieties of the early twentieth century, as well as the fact that it did not fit a Protestant or Catholic model of what a religion should look like.

Evelyn Sterne is an Associate Professor of History and Director of the Center for the Humanities at the University of Rhode Island. Her research focuses on the varieties of religious expression in early twentieth-century America, and she is writing a book about the House of David, a religious commune that drew believers from around the world to a tiny town in Michigan. Approaching the study of religion as a social historian rather than a theologian, she is intrigued by why individuals join faith communities and the ways in which religion and society are mutually constitutive.

Michael Strezewski   

University of Southern Indiana

Daily Life in the Harmony Society: The Barchet Cabin Site, 1814-1824


New Harmony, Indiana was the site of two of the most notable utopian experiments of the Early Republic era. The first was that of the Harmony Society, a millennial and utopian religious group founded in Iptingen, Germany in the late eighteenth century, and headed by George Rapp. New Harmony was home to the Harmony Society from 1814 to 1824 and consisted of 180 log, frame, and brick buildings with a maximum population of about 750 residents. With the exception of a few prominent individuals, the vast majority of the Society’s members are, to us, quite anonymous. These ordinary Harmonists were the backbone of the Society, bringing both financial stability and prosperity to the community. Unfortunately, however, there is precious little information on the day-to-day lives of the members, which were said to be simple and spartan. Archaeological investigation is one of the best means to gain insight into questions of daily life. In 2016 and 2023, the author directed excavations at the site of the Barchet sisters cabin site, home to Catharine Christina (1770-1844), Anna Maria (1773-1846), Regina (1776-1828), and Regina’s son Melchior Barchet (b. 1807). The Barchet household was only one of ten headed by a woman and is one of only a few spots in New Harmony where intact Harmonist-era deposits have been found. The excavations revealed a great deal of new information on daily life within the community. Ceramics were dominated by simple Harmonist-made redware, including vessels used on the table and those for food storage and preparation. Refined earthenware made in Staffordshire, England was also found, albeit in small numbers, indicating a limited degree of elaboration in their household possessions. Animal remains were dominated by cow, pig, and chicken, with minimal evidence for consumption of fish and little to no evidence for the presence of wild species. This is somewhat surprising, given the likely ubiquity of such animals in the vicinity of the pioneer-era town.


Michael Strezewski is an Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Southern Indiana. He has been conducting archaeological excavations and historical research on the Harmony Society since 2008 and has published numerous reports and articles on the Harmonist town at New Harmony (1814-1824).  He is author of Christoph Weber: Redware Potter of the Harmony Society, 1808-1853, which focuses on the ceramic industry of the Harmony Society.

Leslie Townsend

Historic New Harmony

Where Heaven Meets Earth: Planning and Implementing Historic New Harmony’s Religion and Cultural Institutions Initiative

Historic New Harmony (HNH) works to preserve the utopian legacy of New Harmony, Indiana, inspired by its founder’s ideals. The community of New Harmony was founded more than 200 years ago as a spiritual sanctuary that later became a haven for international scientists, scholars, and educators seeking equality in communal living.

Historic New Harmony Director Leslie Townsend and Assistant Director Diane Sanders will discuss their experience with a planning grant and an implementation grant from Lilly Endowment’s Religion and Cultural Institutions Initiative. HNH was awarded a planning grant in 2021 to explore how it could strengthen its efforts to depict religion in its exhibitions, educational outreach, and other programs. In 2023, Lilly Endowment Inc. awarded more than $2 million to fund a project that includes the restoration and renovation of two historic buildings to be used as exhibition and programming space, development of a new permanent exhibit detailing the religious history of New Harmony, and creation of community engagement programming, including a multi-day interfaith festival. The five-year grant also funds the development of a Collections and Exhibition Curator and student fellowship to work with exhibition design and educational programming.

Leslie Townsend is the Director of Community Engagement and Historic New Harmony (HNH). Townsend brings 25 years of experience working with a heritage-based outreach program focusing on cultural tourism, historic preservation, history education and community engagement. She is a graduate of USI with a bachelor’s degree in history and sociology, and a master’s degree in liberal studies. Townsend will serve as project director for HNH’s Religion and Cultural Institutions Initiative.

Joe White

Historic Harmony, Inc.

The World Looks at Harmony's Last Decades

For the past l00 years the Shakers have become indelibly printed in the minds of many Americans, amounting to a "rebirth of Shakerism" in Stephen J. Stein's words. The renewed interest of academics is more a consequence than a cause of this renaissance. But there has been nothing that even remotely resembles a "rebirth" of the Harmony Society, which had once been the world's most famous communal society, celebrated and attacked in prose and rhyme. Their last decades saw seemingly endless media coverage of litigation that boiled down to who would inherit the Harmony Society. But a recessive strain has received scant attention. Major journals continued to portray the Harmonists in glowing terms. Hilda Kling fondly remembered her childhood spent among Harmonists. I intend to look at these portrayals to create a more balanced understanding of the Harmony Society's final chapter.

Joe White moved to Harmony, PA, in l992 and is a board member of the Harmony Museum. He has been participating in CSA since 2000 as a presenter at conferences and as a contributor to "Communal Societies." He is currently hard at work on a book-length new history of the Harmony Society.

Neil Wright

Quincy University

The Role of Ideas in Community: Josiah Warren Seen Through the Light of Developmental Communalism, and Vice Versa


Over 35 years after Donald Pitzer proposed the idea of Developmental Communalism, it has become the defining theory for scholars in the field to define and explain the impact of communal groups and movements. Popularity also brings scrutiny. On the fiftieth anniversary of the Communal Studies Association, this panel takes a multidisciplinary approach to re-examining this key concept of CSA founder Donald Pitzer. Political scientist Neil Wright will use Donald Pitzer’s concept of developmental communalism to shed light on the trajectory of New Harmony member Josiah Warren’s thought and on his attempts to realize anarchist community.


Neil Wright is an associate professor of political science and the director of the Great Books program at Quincy University, where he teaches courses in political theory and American government. His scholarly work highlights the central place of property in political thought and explores alternative visions of the just property regime found in the history of political thought.