15 November–Therese Nelson

“This is What Democracy Looks Like: The Utopian Vision of the Occupy Chicago Movement”

November 15, 2012
12:00-1:20 pm
Swift 106

Please join the Theology Workshop and the Religions in American Culture Workshop for a jointly hosted presentation on the Occupy movement in contemporary America, with Therese Nelson, PhD student in Anthropology & Sociology of Religion. Mary Emily Duba and Greg Chatterley will add texture to the discussion from the vantage points of the two hosting workshops.


In the 16th century, Thomas More coined the word utopia to describe a mythical, superior society. In this presentation, Nelson will argue that Occupy is a utopian community in the tradition of other American utopias, communities whose values inspire their participants to act in concert for what they perceive to be a better world. The movement is not idyllic, but is committed to shared ideals. Occupiers’ enthusiasm for their utopia takes on the sacred character of religion in both structure and substance. This presentation trains a microscope on the interior workings of the Occupy Chicago movement in order to learn how a group committed to high ideals creates and defends its ethos as it seeks to operate in a world of unforgiving realities, hard choices, and imperfect human nature.

Lunch will be provided. No preparation is expected of workshop participants, but the paper will be available through the Workshop listserves for those who wish to read the paper in advance. Persons with a disability who believe they may need assistance, please contact Aaron in advance at athollander@uchicago.edu.