Dr. David Knox, East Carolina University, Department of Sociology
In our presentations, we explore how Twin Oaks is intentionally creating a different culture, and we reflect on the struggles we encounter in doing so. We identify economic models, governance systems, and social norms that we've established since we began in 1967, and we examine how these influence our culture. Depending on the nature of the class, we can also focus on different areas of interest:
How does gender fit into our egalitarian ideals? What mainstream enculturation must we work actively against? We can look at this in terms of labor, language, fashion, and more. We explore the idea of women’s groups, women-only space, new relationship models, and why women here feel comfortable walking alone on dark paths in the middle of the night.
Our process of making decisions is complicated and sometimes frustrating, and yet we’ve kept at it for 37 years. How does a group of 75 adults make day-to-day decisions
together without political parties or threats of violence? How do we find the balance between efficiency and flexibility, the line between responsible oversight and restrictive bureaucracy?
Instead of earning individual wages, we work together to meet the needs of the community as a whole. We can describe the details of our worker-owned businesses and look at systems of resource distribution. How do we share without resentment or hoarding? How do different systems operate to distribute scarce items fairly?
Hear from real deviants about why we've chosen to deviate from the cultural scripts of mainstream society, and how we experience the effects of it in our interactions with others. We suggest the idea of “healthy deviance” – the possibility that it’s sometimes desirable to challenge the norms of society.
Twin Oaks wasn’t founded as an ecovillage, it began as a social experiment. Over the past 37 years, we've developed more of an environmental awareness, and continue to strive to exhibit it in our daily lives. In what ways is our collective lifestyle inherently economically efficient? Is this model scalable to larger culture so that everyone can have a high level of access to resources with less environmental impact?
Peace & Justice
Twin Oaks supports activists both culturally and structurally. The community provides resources for members working in women’s shelters and child literacy programs, protests, letter writing campaigns and more. Beyond these specifics, how does life in community contribute to broader social change? What is the nature of "lifestyle activism"?
Relationships and Family
Relationships in community are complicated and intriguing! We all work together, live together, eat meals together – and when we sleep together it adds a whole new dynamic. This class is always lively and vigorously interactive. We talk about different styles of intimate relationships at Twin Oaks, from celibacy to monogamy to polyamory (open relationships), as well as discuss the nature of family and children in community.