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The creation of an ecovillage: Handling identities in a Norwegian sustainable valley

Hege Westskog, Tanja Winther, Marianne Aasen

This paper presents a qualitative study of Hurdal Ecovillage in Norway. It explores how the actors involved have interacted over time and contributed to shaping the ecovillage. The study demonstrates that the ecovillage as a concept is continuously refined both internally on an individual level and in the village, and in mainstream society. At stake is the question of ecovillage identity and what this should entail. The interviewed ecovillagers report two main motives for deciding to move to the village. One is to become part of the ecovillage community, while the other is grounded in the ecovillage as a means to achieve sustainability rather than as a goal in itself. Hurdal Ecovillage has undergone two distinct development phases. First, the members jointly owned the land, built their own houses, and attempted to be self-sufficient. The ecovillage was largely isolated from the local community. In the second phase, professional actors took over responsibility for developing the village, offering ready-made houses to be owned by individual families. This shift resulted in the ecovillage appearing more like conventional settlements. Today’s ecovillagers express a wish to constitute an attractive, sustainable alternative to conventional living, but to do so they have to maintain a distance between themselves and the wider community.

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