The variety of Iowa’s intentional communities on display throughout this series is stunning. From Icaria to Vedic City, each had their own philosophy and reasons to come to Iowa, but some definite themes emerge. The key similarity between most of these communities is simple: timing. Utopianism in Europe peaked during the 1830s and 1840s – the same time that settlement in Iowa was hitting its stride. These communities, secular or religious, sought out cheap land free from outside influence, and Iowa was the place to be.Read more
Heartland Utopias Part 6: Maharishi Vedic City
In the southeast corner of Iowa, near the small town of Fairfield, lies the state’s newest utopian community. Here, followers of an Indian guru have built their own city, following ancient traditions with modern twists. 3,000-year-old Sanskrit texts guide everything from meditation to architecture, but solar panels are visible around almost every corner and an accredited university runs its film school out of the city. And all of this has developed in the last 70 years.Read more
Heartland Utopias Part 5: Is This Heaven?
As the Amana Colonies demonstrate, religious intentional communities tend to outlast their secular counterparts, but not all are so successful. Over the decades, a number of religious groups have built communities in with varying degrees of longevity. Many dissolved or integrated into the general population but others survive in some form to this day.Read more
Heartland Utopias Part 4: The Amana Colonies
Perhaps the most famous communal experiment in Iowa, the Amana Colonies are seven villages in eastern Iowa. Today, they are a National Historic Landmark and the Amana name is attached to home appliances, but for decades they were home to a religious community that explored a pragmatic and successful approach to communal life.Read more
Heartland Utopias Part 3: Lost Utopias
The Icarians may have been the most successful secular utopians to settle in Iowa in the mid-1800s, but they were far from the only ones. Many groups saw the newly opened state as a prime chance to test their particular political theories on the frontier. For most, that test proved too much, and their utopias collapsed within a few years. Today, little remains of these communities but their stories.Read more
Heartland Utopias Part 2: Icaria
Adams, in southwest Iowa, is the state’s least populous county. It’s also home to an exceptional piece of history: Iowa’s Icarian Colony, the longest-lived non-religious communal experiment in American history. The community, near Corning, was perhaps the most successful piece of a complex effort to build a society of “one for all and all for one.”
Icaria’s 50-year journey began in France and made stops in five states before its slow dissolution in the 1890s. Although there are few physical reminders of the movement, its impact is still felt in Adams County and every other place it touched.Read more
Heartland Utopias Part 1: Introduction
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.Read more
Hiatus: The 99% Invisible City by Roman Mars and Kurt Kohlstedt
When I started reading this book, I didn’t intend to review it. It was a birthday gift, and it didn’t seem like it fell in with the other books I’ve reviewed here, which were perhaps weightier or more profound. The 99% Invisible City isn’t that, and that’s precisely why I felt I needed to review it once I was done.Read more
Hiatus Podcast: Beyond Participation: Insurgent Planning and Justice
While this blog is still on hiatus for a few months as I work on a big project related to it, here’s a podcast I produced for my planning theory course. I discuss a big idea in planning theory: where does justice come from when formal participation doesn’t cut it?
By the way, this was a class project – don’t expect any recurring podcasts in this space, unless this becomes wildly popular. Thanks to Jay Diederich for their help voicing the experts.
It uses the following music:
BLADE INTRO c# by mikepro
Terminal by Kevin MacLeod
Visible Yet Unverifiable: The Panopticon
Surveillance pervades modern society. From CCTV cameras to cellphones to digital tracking, it can be impossible to tell whether someone is watching. This monitoring almost certainly affects our behavior, and theories about exactly how it does have a long history, tracing back to a model of the ideal prison: the Panopticon. Read more