Iain Boal lectures on Occupying Eden

Lunch Time lecture 12:00pm-1:00 April 24, BEB Room 106
“Occupying Eden: Countercultural spaces in California, 1960-1980”

The pulse of radical energies code-named “the sixties” inspired thousands to reject their assigned roles in the American century, taking their refusal into the streets or back to the land, seeking to build another world. On the occasion of the publication of West of Eden: Communes and Utopia in Northern California, and focusing on the San Francisco Bay Area with a long history of co-operative utopian schemes, the editor Iain Boal surveys the counterculture’s remarkable range of improvised and experimental forms – abandoned urban factories repurposed by artists and artisans, rural communes in Mendocino and Sonoma, Black Panther households in Oakland, the Diggers of Haight-Ashbury in squatted Victorians, the Native American occupation of the empty supermax on Alcatraz, the hippies’ love affair with the Bucky dome. The state’s often violent response suggests comparison with the contemporary worldwide “movement of the squares” aiming to create spaces of direct encounter and horizontal politics.


Iain Boal is a social historian of science and technics, affiliated with the University of California and Birkbeck College, London. He is associated with Retort, a group of writers, artists and artisans based for two decades in the San Francisco Bay Area. He is particularly interested in the relations between art, science, technology and representation. With James Brook he edited Resisting the Virtual Life: The Culture and Politics of Information (City Lights, 1995). He is co-author of Retort’s Afflicted Powers: Capital and Spectacle in a New Age of War (Verso, 2005). He is co-editor of West of Eden: Communes and Utopia in Northern California (PM Press, 2012), and author of The Green Machine (Notting Hill Editions, 2012), a brief history of the bicycle in planetary perspective. In 2005/6 he was a Guggenheim Fellow in Science and Technology.

counterculture, Division of Architecture + Design, Iain Boal, Lecture, Sustainability + the Environment, utopia

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