Back to the Land Project #10

Dear Advisory Board and friends,

We hope that this Newsletter finds you well, and that you are all enjoying a wonderful Holiday Season. The second semester of 2022 has represented a turning point for our BTL Project on several levels, and we will do our best to keep you updated in this editorial and in the rest of our letter.

First, as you know if you follow us on social Networks, Paolo joined Brian from Jun 21 to Aug 22 for a two-month long visit to back-to-the-land friends and communities in the US Pacific Northwest.

We would like to thank all the back-to-the-landers, scholars and activists we met in Mendocino, Trinity, Humboldt, and Shasta Counties, CA, and Josephine, Jackson, Lane, and Douglas Counties, OR, for their time, hospitality, and archives they gifted us. Two examples of our visits: we participated to the Oregon Country Fair 2022 as volunteers (thanks to Jerry Joffe for this opportunity), meaning that we could do insider observations of the Fair as well daytime as nighttime when only staff members are present; Laura Isakoff gave us a copy of a 1971 unpublished manuscript, called “Hippies of the Redwood Forest”, from SFSU Professor Emeritus Sherry Cavan (now unfortunately deceased), which we can share with you by request.

As the result of all these meetings, contacts, and a networking effort fostered especially by Scott Holmquist, Edie Butler, Dominic Corva and other members of the Humboldt Area People Archive, we were able to form a Coalition, called “Countercultural History Coalition” (CHC), which is a gathering so far of 5 research/archive projects (including our own) and an individual supporter.

The aim and composition of this coalition is described in two articles of this Newsletter. The signature of a founding charter for this coalition during an in-person meeting in Eureka, Aug 13-14, is for sure the most important accomplishment of the BTL Project since its inception to preserve the memory and life stories of thousand of individuals that, since the 1960s, moved (or are moving) from the cities and chose (or are choosing) alternative lifestyles and values, very different from the rest of Western culture. This coalition is open to be joined by other projects, institutions and individuals.

A presentation for the Humboldt public has already been made on the KMUD Broadcast “Let’s Talk Show” (11/30, 7-8pm, available here) conducted by Lehlenia DuBois (thanks to her for the invitation) by Brian (BTL Project), Richard Jergenson and Ann Waters (CounterCultural Museum Archive, CCMA). Hopefully, others will follow, inside and outside of academia: we are preparing both a scientific and general public presentations with the help of coaliton members.

Regarding academia, another important news item has been presented by the appointment of Paolo to be an associate researcher for the Department of Sociology of the new Cal Poly Humboldt (formerly Humboldt State University), with the support of Dr. Dominic Corva, who became an assistant professor there this spring, and Dr. Anthony Silvaggio, who is currently directing the Sociology Department. Paolo is very grateful to them for this opportunity, and he will do his best to serve the scientific implementation of Cal Poly Humboldt and collaboration with European, esp., French universities.

Indeed, when he returned to France, he realized that there has what seems to be a renewed interest for back-to-the-land related topics in French academia and beyond: dozens of new surveys from different fields (anthropology, geography, sociology…) have been published during the last 2 or 3 years, or are currently in progress. A recent symposium he attended to present the first results of our BTL Project in California and Oregon gathered more than 60 participants at Nanterre University, and he was surprised at the size of the audience. Another two-day long conference organised in Clermont-Ferrand, sponsored by various groups, companies, and curiously the State, gathered more than 200 professionals, researchers, etc. Paolo as a representative of Cal Poly Humboldt and CHC, could become a delegate for exploring old and new social tendencies to live more simply and closer to nature, taking a socio-historical perspective that seems to be missed or marginalized by a lot of surveys, especially those focused on post- Covid Back-to-the-Land movements.

We’d like to share a final new point before announcing the content of this Newsletter: we started to organize Brian’s 50 years of archives from Denny this summer, and to inventory all that we have regarding BTL movements on both sides of the Ocean. Although the task is huge this is a first bibliographical draft including the Counterculture and the Back-to-the-Land movements, and it already has hundreds of references and is 60 pages on a Word Doc. We will do our best to continue this effort. We seek funding for this.

Some of our findings are available in a section called “News from the Web and beyond”, which replaces for this issue our usual Denny Story; a large part of this Newsletter is dedicated to presenting the CHC (from Charter) and its members, as well as our partner’s Websites (a CHC Website is coming soon). We also publish some excerpts of an article called “Bioregional Movements: A Story from Many Voices”. And, finally, as usual, you can find our mission statement, links to our previous Newsletters, and to our Social Networks.

Wishing you, your families and friends again Wonderful Holidays,


Take care and stay tuned.

Paolo Stuppia and Brian Hill

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