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Revisiting 1960s Countercultural Back-to-the-Land Migration and Its Millennial Resurgence

Keith Halfacree Orcid Logo

The Global Sixties, Volume: 15, Issue: 1-2, Pages: 43 - 78

Swansea University Author: Keith Halfacree Orcid Logo

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Abstract

“Getting one’s head together” by attempting to go “back-to-the-land” – move into the countryside to live more “naturally” – remains a stereotype of “hippies” from the long Sixties. Yet, while studies of this phenomenon exist, both academic and as memoirs, it has not been researched in detail as much...

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Published in: The Global Sixties
ISSN: 2770-8888 2770-890X
Published: Informa UK Limited 2022
Online Access: Check full text

URI: https://cronfa.swan.ac.uk/Record/cronfa61533
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Abstract: “Getting one’s head together” by attempting to go “back-to-the-land” – move into the countryside to live more “naturally” – remains a stereotype of “hippies” from the long Sixties. Yet, while studies of this phenomenon exist, both academic and as memoirs, it has not been researched in detail as much as might have been expected, certainly not in terms of how those involved lived “off the land” and/or outside the US. This paper seeks to resurrect this topic for serious academic consideration. A call to revisit back-to-the-land comes not just from abiding fascination with the Sixties but because this countercultural movement fed into the contemporaneous emergence of a broader and still notable population trend across much of the global North of a “return” to rural living: counterurbanization. Moreover, recent decades have seen the resurgence of countercultural back-to-the-land, building on its long 1960s legacy but now underpinned by a more explicit search for environmentally sustainable lifestyles. This review of back-to-the-land, after noting the demographic place today of counterurbanization, focuses on an overview of long Sixties back-to-the-land and then on the early years of its ongoing resurgence. For both periods, attention is given to how back-to-the-landers have been studied, what their motivations are, whether they move as family or group, how long their rural life tends to last, what opportunities and barriers they have met, and what evidence there is of land work. It is concluded that back-to-the-land today shows considerable continuity with its 1960s heyday but has been more proactive in its spatialized rejection of key everyday life aspects and experiences within contemporary (urban and suburban) mainstream society. In short, a key Sixties phenomenon remains very much alive today but in a more mature form.
Keywords: Back-to-the-land, counterurbanization, rural living, migration, hippies, alternative living
College: Faculty of Science and Engineering
Funders: Swansea University
Issue: 1-2
Start Page: 43
End Page: 78