We are accustomed to speak of Community, as of a thing which has already an existence—a location. Is this a true position? Have we as yet a collective being? When we speak of Community, do we not speak of a something, which we have in anticipation—a bright spot in the future?

M.B. Randall, Skaneateles Community, 1844.

Throughout the nineteenth century, social and religious reformers launched hundreds of communal settlements in the United States. The decade of the 1840s alone saw the emergence of Oneida, Hopedale, Fruitlands, Icarian communities, Brook Farm, and numerous other Fourierist Phalanxes, among many others. These groups were tied to popular religious and reform movements and expounded a wide variety of ideologies and ideal practices, including movements for abolition, temperance, and women’s rights, transcendentalism, spiritualism, vegetarianism, and perfectionism.

Communal Currents is a data visualization project that explores relationships between nineteenth-century communal settlements. Using the interactive mapping platform Carto, this project seeks to illustrate the culture of connectivity of nineteenth-century communal networks, explore spatial patterns of community formation, and engage with communities as porous and flexible sites of comings and goings, rather than isolated settlements. As we explore human and intellectual connections between communities of the nineteenth century, this project is guided by several intersecting research questions: In what ways did communal settlements facilitate new forms of interaction and mobility? How did contemporaneous communities influence one another in terms of ideology, social organization, and subsistence practices? How did members define community borders and understand processes of cohesion? I hope that this project will speak to these questions, invite new questions, and serve as an entry point to the culture of nineteenth-century communal settlements for a range of users.

This project emerged from a summer fellowship program in Digital Humanities at Cornell University in 2015. Many thanks to the following supporters and collaborators: Eliza Bettinger, Mickey Casad, Virginia Cole, Susette Newberry, Otohiko Okugawa, Brendan Reed, Aaron Sachs, Devin Sanera.

Molly Reed
PhD Candidate in History at Cornell University

Any Questions? Email me at: m a r 4 5 3 at c o r n e l l dot e d u