Prof Dan McKanan - Carrying a Special ICSA Camphill Flag!

Camphill Pages - Spring/Summer 2019

We are approaching a remarkable event this July with the International Communal Studies Association Gathering at Camphill in the USA. Many from Camphill including Andrew Plant from Milltown Scotland will go having submitted papers on the theme and the programme is printed below.

An academic rigour approach of the study of communities which had its origins in the workings of the Kibbutz,The ICSA has always had a major interest in Intentional Communities and Camphill has been a major influence in its studies. Indeed Jan Bang from Camphill in Norway and author of a remarkable little book on Camphill's Bible Evening The Hidden Seed as well as a standard work on Eco Villages was its president and organiser when the Conference was held in Findhorn Scotland in 2013. A significant gathering indeed which among many topics at a time of threat to Camphill celebrated the rise of Co Housing projects in intentional communities and how Camphill might benefit as is seen in such examples as Sturt's Farm in Dorset.

Chris Coates of Diggers and Dreamers fame heading up a co housing project in Lancaster succeeded Jan Bang and his books on Utopia Britannica and Commune Britannica are also standard texts in the field of studying communities and communes where Camphill features widely. Indeed it could be argued that Chris's books have been instrumental for a more considered understanding of Intentional Communities where otherwise they would be seen as weird and wonderful aberrations in society. For instance he traces back the Commune movement so popular in the 1960s to the land work peace camps set up for conscientious objectors in the second world war - far from the popular misconceptions of our times.

Chris Coates handed the baton of the ISCA to Dan McKanan and here we have a very special sense of gratitude for this Harvard Divinity Professor who has studied exhaustively the phonemena that is Camphill and his book The Future of Camphill will be published in time for the USA conference.

Dan first came to the notice of interested readers with his University of California Press book called ECO Alchemy in 2017. Here was a history of environmental awareness like no other which paid tribute to the Steiner Movement and Camphill in particular as a kind of soul and spirit of environmentalism, a study which could indeed have been an academic exercise of the threats to our planet if it hadn't been for the Intentional Communities that played their part in the 1960s and 70s taking to its heart those young people who with their special needs charges became land workers with a new Organic and Biodynamic purpose and knowingly or not stood up against the rise and rise of industrial and chemical farming and growing practises.

Were they drop outs or vital to draw attention to the important questions of health of the soil and the human being? For Dan McKanan the answer was the simple latter helped by his study of the importance of communities and their relationship to society in general and the questions cultural, social and economic they pose.

From that study he saw a particular gesture that emerges from 20th Century Intentional Communities that in the end they seek to integrate into wider society and don't wish to isolate or turn their back on a so called sinful or mislead society, something characteristic of more strident religious groups of earlier in history.

Dan McKanan arrived at this conclusion having toured Camphill places as well as L'Arche, Catholic Worker and Bruderhof communities and interviewed many Residents and Co workers.

The Future of Camphill Book will go into detail the story of the school, village, college and urban communities around the world and their challenges to thrive into the future. We owe a great debt of gratitude to his academic study of our social, cultural and working life which along with such separate studies from Robin Jackson in the UK goes a long way to validate the contribution that Camphill makes to improving the quality of life for those who wish to be part of its communities.