Hippies to Holy Rollers: the Cults and Communes of Oregon
Oregon, like several other states, has a long history of communal groups settling here. Land was plentiful and cheap and the state’s isolation meant that those groups could live how they pleased, out of the watchful eyes of the rest of society. This class will investigate several well-known Oregon cults such as the Holy Rollers, the Rajneeshees, and the Aurora Colony. We will also look at some of Oregon communes and worker cooperatives, founded in the 60s, 70s, and 80s and still going strong, such as Alpha farm, Breitenbush, and the Lesbian Lands. As part of our study, we will watch documentaries about the communities, read both autobiographical accounts of members’ lives there as well as historical and sociological scholarly research on these communities, host guest speakers who are experts in communal living, and take two field trip to visit the former Aurora colony as well as the Breitenbush Hot Springs community to learn more about why people join, why they stay, and how they have chosen to live their lives. Some of the questions that will guide us are: What is Utopia and can it be achieved? What is the difference between a commune and a cult? Is brainwashing real? Why would people join these groups and what does the existence of these groups say about the broader society?
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