HOLY MOUNT: Identity, Place, Religion, and Narrative at New Lebanon Shaker Village 1759-1861
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While the Shakers are associated in North American with simplicity and communalism, an examination of Shaker history reveals a dynamic and complex society. Shaker life was structured by a powerful metanarrative: the Shakers were the ‘Chosen People of God,’ who lived in ‘His Promised Land.’ This narrative, which is profoundly geographical due to its intertwining of people with place, was not static in its interpretation. Nevertheless, it served as the basis for the discourses concerning the most appropriate means to live in the World, but not be of it. Few geographers have examined religiosity and spirituality systematically. This research highlights the interaction between religiosity, identity, place, and narrative as an essential element of the human condition. Religiosity is expressed through narratives and rituals and buttresses a sense of identity and belonging in place. Particular expressions of the Shaker covenantal narrative were shaped by the places in which the Shakers existed. This work examines the Shaker experience at New Lebanon Shaker Village (New York) focusing on the antebellum period. It examines the context in which the Shakers existed, the shifts in the interpretations of the Shaker covenantal narratives, and the means by which the Shaker leadership disseminated their ideas.