Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Communication Studies

First Advisor

Gray, Jonny


This dissertation considers the subject of ecovillages, intentional ecologically-oriented sustainable communities developed in the U.S., and the different understandings of community involvement, structure, and challenges that members of these communities confront in their efforts at managing these time and labor-intensive settlements. Informed by the work of performance ethnographers and critical phenomenologists, I consider twelve interviews I conducted on-site and electronically with people living in ecovillage settlements. Taking these interviews and my own observations from on-site visits to two ecovillages as entry points, I conducted a phenomenological analysis informed by a critical phenomenological ethos of these accounts, highlighting five motifs that recurred across their recollections of their lived experiences: (1) intentional design; (2) happenings; (3) community; (4) motivations; and (5) political and environmental ethos. I then considered how these motifs suggested several contingent foundations that underwrite the experience of ecovillage community formation more generally. I identified three such contingent foundations: (1) intention; (2) boundaries; and (3) becoming. From these foundations, I propose a phenomenological rendering of community in ecovillages as a purposive act of ongoing relating between the human and more-than-human world that is cultivated through an attention to articulated principles, enacted through actions and behaviors that follow from these principles, and reaffirmed through mutual witnessing and commitment to the aforesaid principles. Such an understanding of community poses interesting implications for communication studies and related sub-disciplines. I consider some of these implications in the conclusion to my dissertation, before outlining some of the future work I hope to pursue relating to ecovillages and intentional communities more generally.




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