ECOLOGY OF UTOPIA: ENVIRONMENTAL DISCOURSE AND PRACTICE IN COMMUNAL SETTLEMENTS IN THE ANTEBELLUM UNITED STATES
This dissertation reveals connections between social reform and environmental thought and practice and considers the meaning of “getting back to nature” to radical reformers in the antebellum United States. It examines the circulation of environmental ideas and practices through a broad network of communities that connected political, social, and religious reform movements during the communitarian moment of the 1840s. I argue that members of communal settlements, many inspired by French social thinker Charles Fourier, others known as Universal Reformers, contributed in nuanced and under-examined ways to nineteenth-century environmental and agricultural discourse in the United States. Antebellum communitarians became investigators, experimenters, and scientists engaged in a project of articulating and adhering to natural laws. As they pursued authentic, transformative means of social and personal reform, members of intentional communities across New England and the Old Northwest produced new forms of social and scientific authority as they grappled with the meaning of “natural.” Through novel beliefs and practices of labor, diet, hygiene, agriculture, marriage, and religion, their experiments in community were experiments in living with a new orientation to the natural world. This work engages both environmental scholars and historians of the nineteenth-century United States to tell a new story of antebellum reform and to explore new dimensions of nineteenth-century environmental thought and practice. It builds upon recent scholarship that unsettles core assumptions about nineteenth-century attitudes toward and treatment of the environment and reconsiders the possible futures that were available to Americans before the Civil War.
Pritchard, Sara B.; Bassi Arevalo, Ernesto E.
Ph. D., History
Doctor of Philosophy
dissertation or thesis