images1I sort of made it on the Oprah show; well actually that is not true. What is true is that her website mentioned my new living situation called “CoHousing”.  It is being referred to as a sort of “tribal lifestyle”. As an Anthropologist, I find this oddly fascinating. The story, by Jeanie Lerche Davis is from her byline called  Single and Loving It.  In an article entitled “New-Style Communities”, Lerche states that,

“Cohousing” is one answer. It’s a form of group housing much like a ’60s commune, but yuppie-style. These are condo-style developments built around a “common area” with kitchen, dining, laundry, exercise, and children’s playroom facilities. Cohousing communities are typically designed to resemble old-fashioned neighborhoods. Members get together often to share meals, socialize, and handle the ordinary stuff of daily living although they live in individual units. “Intentional community” is an inclusive term for ecovillages, cohousing, residential land trusts, communes, student co-ops, farms, urban housing cooperatives, and other projects. Intentional communities can be found all over the U.S. and Europe, their growth spurred by the Internet. Typically, community members jointly own land that has multiple dwellings. Frequently, members share a common bond—a religious, political, or social philosophy that brings them together…….

w_cavemen2The above is all fairly true in my case but the comparison to a “tribe” is not very helpful. You can call me a “hippie” or a “green commie” as my students do but to claim that we live at a very simplistic level sociopolitical complexity is way off base. I’m not taking offense at being compared to being a member of a“band-level society”. Rather, I feel the need to point out that complex societies allow for small “pockets of temporary simplicity” and that these pockets are temporary in nature. Such pockets stand in opposition and in fact “maintain” the very things that they are resisting. Lerche continues, 

“Urban tribes form in a vacuum,” Watters (author of the book Urban Tribes) tells WebMD. “Our generation has not joined the traditional social organizations our parents did, the churches and civic groups. We don’t stay in our jobs as long. That leads to a social vacuum, and humans don’t do well in a social vacuum. Something will fill it. That’s where Thanksgiving dinners started out as stopgap measure, then 10 years later, we realize these friends have become our family.” Read on at Single and Loving It.


You can read the rest of the article but if you are hoping to find any systematic anthropology there, don’t hold your breath. Now that I have lived in the Fresno CoHousing community for a couple of months, I can echo Kermit’s point that “it ain’t always easy being green”. The assumption that I’m a churchless single and drifting from job to job smarts. I’m active in my church, I’ve had the same job for the past six years (with no plan on departing) and I’ve been married for over ten years (and have a couple kids to boot). I guess my beef is mostly with Watters who, in an effort to make a point, has been a bit too reductive for my taste. This is one angry villager who is standing up for his subaltern status!