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Seeing Like a Commons: Eighty Years of Intentional Community Building and Commons Stewardship in Celo, North Carolina by Joshua Lockyer

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Yes, eighty years - clearly the Celo Community is one of the longest and strongest attempts at community-centered living in Appalachia, and we all have much to learn from this endeavor, so it is wonderful to have a book about it. At Celo, individuals and families settle on this commonly- owned land without purchasing a plot with the permission of the community of those already settled there, and the community also makes decisions about their community center and the land where no member has settled.  Celo began as the brainstorm of Arthur Morgan who devoted his life to making small communities more vibrant and community minded. Yellow Springs, Ohio, was his primary residence and focus, but he purchased 1,200 acres of land just east of Mt. Mitchell in the South Toe River Valley to establish this community, while purchasing land for his own second home above the valley where the growing season was longer because the frost settles near the river. Morgan was the first Director of the Tennessee Valley Authority where he began to implement his ideas, for example, in TVA’s research station in Norris, Tennessee, which produced papers on topics like the best fruit-bearing trees for a chicken yard. President Roosevelt fired Morgan. Many believe this resulted primarily because he called out prominent Roosevelt-supporting Tennessee politicians for buying land near Norris Dam, the first TVA dam. “Lockyer’s study goes into rich detail about the lives of Celo’s members and how Celo deals with such perennial community issues as decision-making, rule enforcement, new members, interactions with neighbors, and stewardship of natural resources. Seeing Like a Commons is much more than an ethnography, for Lockyer skillfully contextualizes Celo’s goals of creating a more just, resilient, and sustainable world. Lockyer’s hope that Celo can show all of us ‘a different way of living in the belly of the beast’ is sure to be realized in this excellent book.”- Jonathan G. Andelson. “Engaging vignettes, with which Lockyer opens chapters, personalize for the reader the inner workings of Celo’s governance and resolution of interpersonal conflicts. In all, Seeing Like a Commons is ethnography, history, and communal utopian studies at their best.”-- Donald E. Pitzer. The author, Joshua Lockyer, did his PhD dissertation on Celo and teaches anthropology at Arkansas Tech.

Lanham, Maryland: Lexington Books/Rowman & Littlefield: 2021. 259 pages with an Index, References and photos. Hardback with pictorial cover.