Vision and practice: Resistance and dissent in Shaker communities
This dissertation presents a study of the United Society of Believers in Christ's Second Appearing, popularly known as the Shakers. It offers an interdisciplinary analysis that integrates anthropology, social and religious history, and biography in an exploration of the dynamics of material culture in the maintenance of, and challenges to, relations of gender and social power in a sectarian communal society. This dissertation explores how the United Society manipulated spaces, symbols and rituals during three crisis periods in order to reproduce their communities and specific social relations through time, as well as the various roles members played in supporting or resisting such efforts.
This dissertation also explores how the Shakers represented their distinctive landscapes to each other through their art work, prayers, and poetry. These "imagined landscapes" reflect the circumscribed worlds determined by gender, celibacy and spiritual hierarchy. Such alternative media identify domains within the Shaker material and spiritual worlds that were contested at different times by men and women, and leaders and common members.
0326: Cultural anthropology
0700: Social structure