Maypole Festivities in Llano del Rio, Socialist Commune in LA County.

An FYS course that examines how religious communities have imagined a hopeful future.

4 units

Students enrolled in this course will earn credit for the Fall first year seminar requirement.

Taught by Prof. Amoruso 

Given the desperate situation of our world—environmental crises, racial injustice, reactionary politics, out of control AI—it can be hard not to devolve into dystopianism and despair. Yet, in this course, we will focus on religious communities who, faced with similar societal challenges, imagined a hopeful future: utopia. We will see that utopian thinking tends to flourish during times of precarity and unrest, when the fracturing of the old social order opens up new spaces of possibility. The course starts with a brief genealogy of utopian socialism-inspired intentional communities and political reform across the Atlantic world, with special attention on its religious and philosophical roots. From there, we will study the utopian visions of a range of communities from the late-nineteenth century to the present, including the Oneidan community’s vision of sexual liberation, the early Rastafari commune at Pinnacle, and the communist community at Marinaleda in Spain. We’ll explore how their utopian visions inspired political change and consider what lessons these communities might offer us today. Students will get firsthand experience with both the promise and challenges of living in alternative societies through site visits to historic and contemporary intentional communities in Los Angeles.

Students will also engage in a social justice project so they can themselves envision and work toward a more utopian future.  


Image: Maypole Festivities in Llano del Rio, Socialist Commune in LA County. Source: Paul Kagan Utopian Communities Collection/Yale Beinecke Library.   

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