Constructing an Emotional Culture in An Intentional Community

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Title: Constructing an Emotional Culture in An Intentional Community
Author: Holden, Daphne
Advisors: Michael Schwable, Chair
Barbara Risman, Member
Jeffrey Leiter, Member
Sherryl Kleinman, Member
Abstract: The central focus of my dissertation is the process through which people construct and strategically use an emotional culture as an interactional resource. My research is based on three years of fieldwork observing an intentional community's business meetings, retreats, workdays, and social events, as well as interviews with all community members. For many of the community's therapeutic founding members, intense, unconstrained processing was a self-developmental end in itself. They took from therapeutic discourse the idea that it is only through unearthing true feelings that one can hope to process childhood pain and find one's true self. However, other members were interested in the community for political or environmental reasons and didn't like intense therapeutic processing. I show how these differences among members led to micropolitical struggles over community structure, focus, and definition. Therapeutic members had the most control over the emotional culture, creating a context in which there was an unacknowledged stigma attached to not sharing emotions and reproducing the idea that 'authenticity' meant appearing out of control. I showed how they then used therapeutic discourse as a resource to preserve a therapeutic emotional culture in which they were seen as the most proficient and brave. The unintended consequences of their use of this therapeutic discourse were to exclude or discredit other perspectives, to shield the current context from critical examination, and to create an emotional double standard for men and women.
Date: 2001-08-17
Degree: PhD
Discipline: Sociology

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