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Title: Enacting intentional heterotopias :discovering alternative spaces through a relational-scalar approach in the spiritual intentional communities of Damanhur (Italy) and Terra Mirim (Brazil)
Authors: Fois, Francesca
Issue Date: 2016
Publisher: Newcastle University
Abstract: This thesis explores the social, material, spiritual and spatial enactment of alternative spaces by considering multiple related scales. Drawing on ethnographic research, this work investigates two spiritual intentional communities: the shamanic community of Terra Mirim in Bahia, Brazil and the federation of Damanhur, in Italy. The research offers a context-specific exploration of how “alternative orderings” (Hetherington, 1997) can be enacted in the global south and north. Theoretically, although recognising the limits of utopian studies in investigating intentional communities, this research combines utopian literature with the concept of heterotopia. Heterotopias are what Foucault calls “enacted utopias”; this understanding allows a more “systematic description” from which to read, analyse and situate these alternative spaces (Foucault, 1986:24). By interrogating these themes of utopianism and heterotopianism, this thesis argues that a relational-scalar approach provides a more integrated and nuanced account of enactment than is found in existing research, where the tendency is to view the individual, or the place, or the performance of community rituals, as separate entities. Significantly, this thesis weaves a transcendental scale and understanding into a relational-scalar analysis of the individual, the community, the local, and the global. Drawing upon empirical evidence this study argues that, firstly, intentional heterotopias create new conceptual spaces and shape alternative orderings that challenge the boundaries traditionally conceived to separate the social, spiritual and economic dimensions of daily life; secondly, that the enactment is initially triggered by individuals’ life change experiences, followed by community practices but also by relational-spatial processes embedded in local areas and within the global network; thirdly, that within the transcendental scale alternative spiritual knowledge is produced, community enactments are disclosed and sacred spaces of juxtaposition created. Overall, the thesis contributes to a geographical understanding of alternative spaces, arguing that a holistic understanding of enactment must look beyond the physical place of community building; thus recognising, contrary to the traditional notion of utopian ‘islands’, multiple yet related scales.
Description: PhD Thesis
Appears in Collections:School of Geography, Politics and Sociology

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