2011 Colloquium Series

On Friday, October 1, Marcus Andreas (Ph.D. Candidate, Ludwig-Maximilians University, Munich, Associate Researcher at the Rachel Carson Center for Environmental Studies, LMU), will present a talk titled "Ecovillage Endeavors: For a Culture of Sustainability." Location: Gifford Room, 221 Kroeber Hall (on the UC Berkeley campus). Time: 4pm.

Synopsis: From a New Age colony in northern Scotland to a neighborhood in
the city of angels…from a thousand-member-strong network in Sri Lanka to the small
village in Saxony-Anhalt: the ecovillage is a worldwide phenomenon. Ecovillages
display all the effort, creativity and diversity of intentional communities which (cl)aim to
live sustainably. As yet as good as untouched by academia, I will examine this field
from the discipline of cultural and social anthropology.

The first projects labeled as ecovillages entered the ‘market’ of possibilities in the early
1970s, in both the U.S. and West Germany simultaneously. The emerging ecovillage
movement gained momentum in the 1990s, with the Global Ecovillage Network (GEN)
evolving into a key institution. Their vision was for their movement to become less and
less a niche idea, eventually attaining critical mass and leading the course of events
towards grassroots societies mostly made up of ecovillages.

But first things first. At the beginning, enormous efforts were needed in order to set up
ecovillage-projects and keep them running. Secondly, urban metropolitan regions in
particular were considered unlikely to ever transform into small-scale settlements.
Thirdly, new variations on the theme and new players entered the field, such as
CoHousing-modules, urban ecovillages and Transition Towns. These were often
regarded as more progressive and more easily attainable for mainstream society,
which, as a fourth point, is displaying increasing interest in issues such as sustainability,
Peak Oil etc. So, it seems that the time is ripe for ecovillages to re-evaluate their
visions, missions, strategies and actions.

My research starts with an analysis of the experiences of the pioneering ecovillages and
goes on to explore the processes of self-awareness and self-positioning of eco-villages,
and finally their interactions with mainstream society. How do ecovillage projects try to
‘sell’ their approach to society? On what analytical levels may these endeavors best be
understood? And finally, what about their historical and contemporary significance?

I concentrate on one specific locality, the German ‘Ökodorf Sieben Linden’, which is
also a major actor in GEN, using its integration in the global network to approach the
ecovillage in its wider geographical context. The analysis of sources and interviews form
the basis for the historical investigation. For the contemporary part, the range of
methods goes from workshops and group discussions to participatory observation
during field visits. The research done so far narrows the ethnographic focus on three
main areas of study: knowledge transfer, strategic cooperation and regional outreach.
Speaker Bio:
Marcus Andreas studied educational sciences and social and cultural anthropology at Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich (LMU). He received his M.A. in 2007 for his thesis on the visualization of complex systems: knowledge representation and communication. During the period 2008 - 2009 Marcus Andreas helped to set up and manage an interdisciplinary working group for research into ecovillages, for which the team was acknowledged as an official project of the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development 2005-2014. He has been working as a lecturer at LMU since Fall 2009.

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