Thursday, August 24, 2017

Chelsea Schelly's "Dwelling in Resistance"

Chelsea Schelly is an associate professor of sociology at Michigan Technological University in Houghton. She is the author of Crafting Collectivity: American Rainbow Gatherings and Alternative Forms of Community.

Schelly applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Dwelling in Resistance: Living with Alternative Technologies in America, and reported the following:
From Page 99 of Dwelling in Resistance:
Evan has been a DR member for four years. His small cob home, which he built himself, is beautiful, with rounded corners and embellishment of colored class, and chaotic, with a disheveled feel you might expect in a home built by a young man who lives alone. He spent several summer breaks from college working on a cob home on family land, a project later abandoned to join DR because the life in the community provides “more freedom to do what I wanted to do anyway, like build a weird house. This is something you can’t really do in other places, because of money, like my own lack of money, and because of codes and what not that limit the kinds of things you can build. Here, I have liberty in pursuing a life I want to live.”
This glimpse into Evan’s life at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage (DR) contains snippets of insights encapsulating many of the themes addressed throughout the book. The themes cover a range of issues and scales, starting from personal, corporeal experience. Evan had practice with other “alternative” ways of living before coming to DR, including the very different and very physical experience of building your own home. This is a trait shared by many of the people I’ve met while exploring alternative communities: it seems that the very experience of doing something different (like building your own home, or using a composting toilet, or washing dishes without running water) can open up the possibility for accepting other forms of alternative technology and alternative living, which is why I suggest that such opportunities should be more widely available for people to experience the range of possibilities for residential life. Another theme relates to the structural limitations placed on the possibilities for alternative technology, as people face individual economic limits as well as limits imposed by building codes, zoning regulations, and other invisible systems of provision that shape the possibilities for organizing residential life. Finally, Evan invokes the ideas of “freedom” and “liberty” in explaining his choice to be a member of DR. This use of words helps to elucidate one of the central arguments of the book: people who are living with alternative technologies in alternative communities do not see their lives as involving sacrifice or limitations for the sake of environmental protection. Instead, they describe their lives as freer and more fulfilling because they choose to share resources and live with more decentralized technological systems, and they describe their motivations as related to pursuing freedom and liberty. An outsider might think that living in a community where you cannot own a personal vehicle (like DR) seems like an unacceptable limit to freedom. Yet people living with alternative technologies in alternative communities see the unending economic dependency associated with modern technologies (like paying for car insurance, maintenance, and fuel, as well as monthly bills for water, heating, cooling, and light) and the structural dependency of modern technologies (like how cities are built for cars rather than people and how we no longer have the knowledge or tools to meet our very subsistence needs) as fundamental sources of dependency and a lack of freedom. For them, the choice to dwell in resistance is fundamentally about pursuing a vision of freedom by fundamentally changing how technologies and communities are organized materially, economically, and socially.
Learn more about Dwelling in Resistance at the Rutgers University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue