The Chloroplast Research Institute


The Chloroplast Research Institute is an academic organization dedicated to doing research about communities, for communities, by communities.

Chloroplast’s mission has three parts:

  1. Use academic methodology to ask and answer questions specifically relevant to the Federation of Egalitarian Communities (FEC)
  2. Foster a scholarly community within the FEC
  3. Popularize and advocate for the FEC by creating accessible educational content

Let’s look at each of the three parts of this mission in a bit more detail:

Part 1: Ask questions!


The first mission of Chloroplast is to ask questions.  There are lots of questions of immediate relevance to communities that can best be answered from a more removed, theoretical perspective. For example, there’s a lot of anecdotal evidence suggesting that living in community improves your mental health. Could we gather measurable evidence that this is the case? If we could, it would strengthen our message, and help us attract talented people to join the communities movement. And what about labor optimization? Labor is managed diversely within the FEC. Is any one method unusually efficient? Knowing the answer would give new communities a better chance at succeeding.

The questions will range from the quantifiably testable, like “Do communities improve mental health?” to the philosophically abstract, like “Might a community be a super-organism?” What all these questions have in common is that they will be communally generated. We care about this way of life and we want to make it better, thoughtfully.

Part 2: Scholarly community!


The second mission of Chloroplast is to grow a vibrant scholarly community within the FEC.  Our goal is less about answering specific questions than it is about cultivating a strong culture of inquiry within the communes. For too long the ivory tower has held a monopoly on information and on the practice of “knowledge seeking.” Our egalitarian ethos compels us to seek more communal forms of knowledge generation.

We seek to inquire collaboratively with artists and thinkers of all disciplines.

Part 3: Talk about it!


The third mission of Chloroplast is to teach – to teach ourselves and to teach the world. Knowledge is useless unless it is shared. Our purpose is not just to ask important questions, nor just to create a supportive community for answering them, but also to bring those answers to the world. We intend to blog about what we study, to make educational videos, and to hold conferences to teach people about all the important things we are learning. In short, we intend to speak loudly and articulately about the fascinating qualities of our homes.

A community engaged in the thoughtful exposition of itself is a fuller community.


The Chloroplast Research Institute will be an interdisciplinary team of communards dedicated to self-examining their community from within.

Chloroplast recognizes that there is a role for theory amidst all the hubbub of hammock weaving and seed saving. Theory can help us answer crucial questions, but perhaps more importantly, theory can provide story, context, direction, and ultimately, identity. The goal of Chloroplast isn’t just to conduct research which makes the communes work better, but also to tell stories which makes them more self aware. “What exactly are we, this federation of communities, and what is our place within the larger global ecosystem?” Having a sophisticated narrative like this won’t just give the FEC a stronger sense of purpose (which is quite strong as it is), it will also create a channel through which talented people from afar can be attracted to explore this new, old way of living a human life.

The Chloroplast Research Institute

5 thoughts on “The Chloroplast Research Institute

  1. Yes! I would have loved to have been a part of this when I lived at Twin Oaks. Let me know if you ever want to open this to people not currently commune members.

    As someone more on the track to being a social scientist at the moment, I’d also encourage you all to question a lot of the concepts that you are using, even in this post. Comparing between communes using quantitative data is great. But more than that, I think ICs present a great opportunity to challenge what concepts like “mental health,” “efficiency,” and so on, even mean, and to look at their political effects. Are we accepting these as unproblematic neutral concepts from mainstream science? How is it decided that these things are important or priorities in communities? How are these words used to get people to behave in certain ways? There’s political power lurking behind all of these concepts, and if we’re interested in creating new ways of living, we need to expose that power to be able to work beyond it. That’s really what you all have a great opportunity to do here.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey Ethan! Thanks so much for your thoughtful comment. I completely agree with you. The paradigms we are compelled to operate within by the university system constrain the questions we can ask in big ways. The academy channels creativity into only those questions which can be expected to generate funding for the academy. We can view this limitation as a product of capitalism, but I think it stems from something more basic: Members of institutions must act in the best interests of that institution, or the institution won’t exist for long. The questions Chloroplast can ask will be similarly constrained, but instead of being constrained by the academic industrial complex, they will be constrained by the needs of the FEC, needs which seem much more noble, from my perspective.

      We are having our second virtual organizing meeting next Thursday, October 13th, at 7pm. Would you be interested in attending via google hangouts?


  2. Julia says:

    I’m super excited to share my thesis research with the collective once it’s complete! I’m studying gendered division of labor at Twin Oaks in comparison to the capitalist mainstream for my Bachelor’s thesis.


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