Accepted Paper:

"Getting out the rat race": migration to utopia  


Teruko Mitsuhara (University of California, Los Angeles)

Paper short abstract:

This paper focuses on a utopia project comprised of international and Indian religious migrants to rural India. It explores how the commune has become a 21st century critique of today's "societies of control" as people attempt to disentangle from capitalism and create their own world.

Paper long abstract:

The communitarian ideal defined as "an ideological template emphasizing sharing and community" (Bennett1975) holds a longstanding place in the Western tradition. From the early and medieval Christian sects rebelling against the Church to the 19th century socialist utopias of French theorists like Fourier and Saint Simon critiquing emergent bourgeois capitalism, the "commune" has become an expression of true modern self-fashioning for social reform on the community-wide level. The last two decades have seen a proliferation of "intentional communities" and utopia projects, and this paper explores how the commune has become a 21st century critique of today's "societies of control" (Deleuze1992). Drawing from eighteen months of fieldwork, this paper focuses on a religious utopia project where international and Indian families are moving to Mayapur, a rural village in West Bengal, India to create a homeland for devotees of Krishna and model a "spiritual UN" for the world. In the last decade, rapid urban-to-rural migration to Mayapur has transformed the Bengali village into a 5,000 member international town. This paper focuses on what the search for utopia means for people opting out of mainstream society. Specifically, I focus on interviews from and other ethnographic data on parents who have migrated to Mayapur to leave the "rat race of the material world" to create a better life for their children. This paper addresses how these utopians create boundaries for their community, situate themselves in opposition to the world, and (dis)entangle their lives in pursuit of the "good" life.

Panel Pol02
Imagining and creating walls, utopias, and co-fragile formations