This post marks the start of a project I have been working on for almost a year. The project, Heartland Utopias: Intentional Communities in Iowa, is a deep dive into the range of utopian, communal, intentional, and otherwise unique communities in my home state. It also happens to be my honors project, as I prepare to graduate from Iowa State University.
Since the earliest days of Iowa’s statehood, the state has been home to a wide range of intentional communities. Groups of all types have come to the state to build unique towns and villages defined by their beliefs. Over the next week, I will be releasing five blog posts: three in-depth case studies of notable groups and two surveys of other communities. The three core case studies examine the secular utopia of Icaria in Adams County, the religious Amana Colonies in Iowa County, and the modern-day community of Maharishi Vedic City in Jefferson County. The two survey articles touch on a variety of secular and religious communities in the state.
Overall, I hope this series reveals the broad trends that helped shape these intentional communities, as well as the specific forces that brought them to Iowa and defined their existence in the state. That being said, I cannot hope to cover all of these communities. Peter Hoehnle, former President of the Communal Studies Association, has identified at least 21 intentional communities in that state in 19th century alone.
I will also be focused mainly on communities founded by Europeans in this series, since these are the stories that have been recorded, repeated, and survived most visibly today. It is important to say, however, that indigenous communities have existed in Iowa longer than any of the groups I will be covering. Some native communities have lived communally or in other ways that might be deemed “utopian” by Western standards. Some, if not all, of the communities I cover were built on land once occupied by Native Americans. The Amana people occupied land once reserved for native tribes in New York and came to own former Meskwaki hunting grounds in Iowa. For more information on the relationship between the Amanas and the Meskwaki, see Hoehnle’s article “Die Colonisten Und Die Indianer.”
All of the posts in this series will be available here as they release.