From Free Love Utopia to the Well-set Table
Picador Press 2016
New Books in American StudiesNew Books in Christian StudiesNew Books in Gender StudiesNew Books in HistoryNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books in ReligionNew Books in Religion & FaithNew Books Network June 25, 2017 Lillian Calles Barger
Ellen Wayland-Smith, a descendent of the Oneida community, teaches writing at the University of Southern California. Her book Oneida: From Free Love Utopia to the Well-set Table (Picador Press, 2016) is an insightful and beautifully written history of the nineteenth-century Oneida community. Begun in 1848 by the religious visionary John Humphrey Noyes and his followers, Oneida became an experiment in biblical communism, complex marriage, gender equality, non-procreative sex and socialized child rearing as a symbol of universal fellowship. Noyes’ practice of eugenics attempted to produce a generation of spiritual giants and created painful situations for those accused of “sticky love,” having preference for lovers and children. Internal conflicts, outside legal and social pressure brought its demise as an religious community in 1879. A remnant of entrepreneurial descendants built the secular Oneida Community Limited on new industrial and marketing methods. Rejecting the radical sexual ethics of their elders, the younger generation sought to provide a business model of brotherly love through innovative labor relations. The Oneida brand thrived in the America market place until its bankruptcy in 2006. The legacy of the Oneida community continues to fire the imagination for its alternative social arrangements and business innovation.
Lilian Calles Barger, www.lilianbarger.com, is a cultural, intellectual and gender historian. Her current book project is tentatively entitled The World Come of Age: Religion, Intellectuals and the Challenge of Human Liberation is forthcoming from Oxford University Press.