The flip side of dystopia is...

...of course, utopia. And, like most things life - you can't appreciate one without the other.  So, here's a bit of a history lesson on utopian societies in - of all places - Indiana.

I was born and raised in Indiana. A rather unlikely spot for a Utopia, you might think. However, not just one, but two of America's great utopian communities were resident in a town a mere 150 miles from where I grew up and also from where I currently live.

In 1814, Johann Georg Rapp and his followers, known as the Harmony Society - Separatists from the German Lutheran Church - purchased land in southwestern Indiana on the Wabash River. For ten years they lived and worked in what was considered to be one of the most prosperous and beautiful towns in the area. Then, they decided to move back to Pennsylvania, so they sold the town to Robert Owen.

The Rapp version of utopia was founded on the ethic of work & save (from the Swabian area of Germany) and work & pray (from the Benedictine's rule.) Owen, however, had a different utopian dream. His was based on complete equality (there aren't even markers on their graves), free education, the abolition of social classes and no personal wealth.

Although Owen's "utopia" lasted only for two years, many scientists and educators came to New Harmony during that time and following the end of the communal era (1827) Owen turned to geology. The area became one of the most important geological training centers in the United States.

I can personally say, that visiting New Harmony is a fabulous adventure - especially when one keeps in mind what was going on there at one time. There are a couple of labyrinths to walk and a very cool river to watch and Indian mounds and all kinds of "feelings" to absorb and have come out at some later date in a novel.

I find places like New Harmony fascinating. And, I love going back in history to see what people were thinking and doing - especially in relationship to future things. I plan on doing some reading of "old" science/dystopian/speculative fiction & will report back here on what I discover!

22 comments:

J. L. Jackson said...

I have been to New Harmony. I lived in Indiana for six years and I really enjoyed the state parks there. New Harmony is a very beautiful area and I was fascinated by the way they lived and worked there.

Creepy Query Girl said...

Sounds like a really interesting place and very rich historically.

MeganRebekah said...

I think Utopian experiments are fascinating. I'd love to research them further one day.

(and they always remind me of the movie The Village, which portrayed how quickly utopia can turn)

Stina Lindenblatt said...

Oh wow! I've just learned something new. This genre is new fairly new to me, so I enjoyed the post.

beth said...

So cool! I didn't know you lived near a utopia! I'd love to come visit.

And, funnily enough, the science angle you mentioned made me think immediately of Octavian Nothing and the "utopia" they tried to create there...

Kay said...

From another Hoosier, I may have to take a trip to New Harmony with the family this summer. We're just a few hours away. I've heard of it, but have never been.

May favorite uoopian novel is Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman.

Christine Fonseca said...

Cool! I love reading up on stuff like this!

Corey Schwartz said...

Clicked through from Elana's blog. Hi and congrats to everyone here!

Elana Johnson said...

What a great post, Julia. And I just watched The Village MeganRebekah -- and you're so right about how fast things can change.

Tere Kirkland said...

Never been, but I have been to some Shaker villages, does that count? ;)

I love learning about stuff like this, you never know when you might be inspired!

Janet Johnson said...

Very interesting. A utopian society does sound like a great idea . . . you just have to get that utopian spirit into all the participants.

Angie said...

Fascinating post, Julia.

C. Michael Fontes said...

I wish I ha more time to travel... I would love to see places like this.

Jeff Hirsch said...

Good stuff Julia! I wonder if anyone's out there building utopias these days...?

Palindrome said...

I've never walked a labyrinth before! I will definitely put that on my places to visit! Great post!

Donna Hole said...

What a cool introduction. I love reading how towns came into existence.

.......dhole

nomadshan said...

Fun post, Julia! I grew up in Bloomington and remember reading about the New Harmony societies in 4th grade (Indiana history year, right?). I wonder if, at the end of each of those experiments, the participants would've thought their utopia had become a dystopia (if they had that term).

Jemi Fraser said...

Sounds like an interesting place to visit - and to use for some research :)

Julia Karr said...

Thanks for all the comments!!! And look at all those Hoosiers! (O-O) YAY!

J L Jackson - Indiana does have some beautiful state parks! I've stayed at the New Harmony one, too.

I have not seen The Village - I might have to...

Beth - you can come visit me any time & we'll go down there! (Puts Octavian Nothing on my list.)

Kay - you should definitely go! (I seem to be telling you all kinds of places you should go! lol! Also, puts Herland on reading list.)

Ha! Tere! I bet the Shakers thought they were in Utopia - but I don't think they were going for the utopian vibe.

Jeff - I wonder... I bet there are.

Nomadshan - Good question!

Palindrome - I have not walked a labyrinth either & doing to do this in New Harmony is on my list for this summer.

misskallie2000 said...

Wow, I will have to go to New Harmony and ck this out. I have not been in Indiana but hope to go soon. I want to visit as many states as I can because there is so much history to be seen and beautiful parks.

This genre is new to me but I am enjoying learning about it.

I came over from Elana's newsletter/blog.

misskallie2000 at yahoo dot com

Julia Karr said...

What a cool goal, MissKallie2000 - visiting states & their parks! If you go to New Harmony, let me know what you think!

Glad you are dipping into the dystopian novels - you will not be disappointed!

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