This summer KT Glusac ’17, working with Professor of Philosophy Marianne Janack, will travel throughout New York State, living with and researching a variety of communal societies. Her research is funded through a Levitt Center grant.
A mode of living that was culturally popularized in the United States in the 1960s and 70s, communal societies, also known as intentional communities, have existed in many forms in the U.S. for the last 400 years. These communities’ members share responsibilities such as childcare and food production, and resources such as land and lodging. Communal societies serve to unite individuals and families through common social, political, religious or spiritual beliefs, dependent on the nature of the society. Many modern societies also often follow ‘alternative lifestyles’ with the intent of supporting both physical and emotional well-being through practices of sustainability and through divergence from capitalistic and individualistic culture.
“I hope to gain a better understanding about what it means to be a community, why people gravitate towards them, and how communal living can change lives for the better,” said Glusac.
Glusac will visit 11 different communities this summer including a Quaker village, a Summer Socialist colony, an artist’s colony, an intergenerational eldercare community, chapters of the Twelve Tribes spiritual community, a student Co-Op and a farm cooperative. She’ll stay with each for between four and 10 days. By her project’s end Glusac will be personally familiar with each of these communities, have a broad perspective on the different forms intentional communities can take, and an idea of the effect communal lifestyle can have on these community members.
“Through studying a wide range of communities I hope to make connections between them to better understand what they have in common in terms of how they contribute beneficially to peoples' lives by offering an alternative way of living," Glusac explained.
Supplementing her field work will be Hamilton’s Special Collection archive under director and curator Christian Goodwillie. The Special Collection includes the Communal Societies Collection, which Goodwillie says is comprised of “more than 14,000 printed items, and many thousands more manuscripts, photographs, ephemera, and audio/visual materials. It is the broadest collection of its kind in the United States,” he said.
Before this year Glusac was wholly unfamiliar with study of communal societies. Only after working on an organic farm last summer did her interest percolate. It then quickly developed throughout the academic year, culminating with the idea for her project and her Levitt Grant proposal.
Glusac and Goodwillie’s connection is a testament to both the unprecedentedly rich resources Hamilton can provide to its students, and to the different interests students can cultivate and explore during their time on the Hill.
Glusac will continue her research in the field until mid-August, and then will return to Hamilton to write a research paper and prepare a poster presentation on her summer’s work and findings. A rising senior, she may choose to continue her research and follow it all the way into her thesis work.