Mari Hanssen Korsbrekke

How is egalitarianism negotiated in self-proclaimed egalitarian intentional communities?

This project is an exploration of inner dynamics of intentional communities in the US, and the history and meaning of utopian egalitarian social experimentation in relation to historical contexts in modern times. Intentional communities are groups of people coming together in most often residential spaces to achieve a high degree of social and communal cohesion. Through the tensions between the individual and the communal I explore the micro-negotiations of egalitarian communards and their understanding of egalitarian and in-egalitarian dialectics.

Community visions poster.


I am currently conducting fieldwork in several egalitarian income-sharing communities in the US, based as a member in the longest standing secular community in North America. Negotiating egalitarian visions, meanings, ideals and formations in communal utopia presents us with a very complex set of relationships and mediations of emotions and values. Interest in intentional communities also rise exponentially during periods of greater national and financial insecurity, and often this is linked to the many communard’s apocalyptic imaginaries of the future, which is counter-acted with communal sharing of resources, focus on more egalitarian gender relations, and through implementation “greener” technologies. This movement is the result of centuries of tensions between the renunciating individual’s place in society at large; through negotiations of power, space, intentions and meaning.

Produce from the community garden.


Can we have leadership without hierarchies? How does income sharing create anti-hierarchical relationships? Does polyamori create egalitarian possibilities? What does egalitarian spirituality look like? How do communards approach biological differences in egalitarian utopian experiments? What does egalitarianism defined as equal access look like when implemented in all social realms, like potentials of physical affection or in our relationships with nature and animals? Who gets accepted as an equal member in these communities, and who does not, and why? How can we avoid in-egalitarian structures when facing differences in social and cultural capital when accessing resources, decision-making processes and power? What are the egalitarian qualities in individuals that the intentional community’s membership search for and intentionally develop? Issues like these are continuously explored communally through verbal, but more often written discussions, and results of these are implemented through norms, policies and bylaws.

Intentional communities may very well be described as utopian social experiments, where rapid changes are consistently being driven forward by a huge flow in and out of members, new visions and experimentation. The changes in membership, as well as changes in socio-political contexts, present us with a constant and fierce exploration of egalitarian practices and ideologies.


Erotic clay figures made by members of the community.