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Abstract

Unusual subjects:

Finding model communities among marginalized populations

This paper is inspired by the questions that we have asked ourselves since we first met at Schenectady County Community College. What is it, we wondered, that keeps so many of our fellow Americans seemingly wedded to a political economy that is sustainable only at great cost? Could we use our academic work to help spread awareness about people who dared to demand different lives? And might our studies suggest strategies to work for change?

We currently all pursue different projects, but we share a belief that one obstacle to progressive change in the U.S. is our investment into an ideology that posits individualism and consumer capitalism as the only real pathway to success and happiness. Visions of a society based on solidarity, community, and a more sustainable economy, by contrast, are cast as naïve and unachievable pipe dreams.

In this paper we argue that one does not have to search for long to find examples of communities that have rejected the status quo, embraced counter-hegemonic values, and thrived in spite of scarce resources and adversity. By drawing on our research on an urban squat, African-American beauty culture, and polyamorous families, we hope to contribute to a dialogue about how we today can work constructively for progressive social change.