- Paperback: 336 pages
- Publisher: Univ Tennessee Press; 2 edition (August 30, 2011)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 157233746X
- ISBN-13: 978-1572337466
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 10 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,927,292 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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People of the Rainbow: A Nomadic Utopia 2nd Edition
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From Library Journal
The Rainbow Nation is a loosely knit group of countercultural activists ("hippies") that has organized gatherings in remote rural areas since 1972. Drawing on the methodology of participant/observer, Niman (American studies, SUNY at Buffalo) offers a sympathetic profile outlining the group's guiding mission to uphold and practice the values of nonviolence and cooperative living and to provide an alternative to the urban rat race. While he suggests that the tribe has been largely successful in terms of adhering to its founding ideals, Niman also points out that individual gatherings have been marred by poor group dynamics and disruptive behavior. One of the more notable features of Niman's approach is his effort to link the Rainbow to earlier utopian movements. "Rainbow ideology syncretizes Euro-American traditions with Thoreauvian pacifism, simplified 'New Left' politics, and the 'Eastern' religious ideas that flooded America in the years just prior to the first Gathering." The text is accompanied by several photographs by Gabe Kirchheimer, whose work has also appeared in the New York Times. Recommended for American studies collections.?Kent Worcester, Social Science Research Council, New York
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Since 1972 the Rainbow Family of Living Light, a loosely organized and anarchistic nomadic community, has been holding large gatherings in remote forests to pray for world peace and create a model of a functioning utopian society. Michael I. Niman’s People of the Rainbow, originally published in 1997, was the first comprehensive study of this countercultural group and its eclectic philosophy of environmentalism, feminism, peace activism, group sharing, libertarianism, and consensus government. It is a book yet to be superseded.
This second edition of Niman’s compelling and insightful work brings the Rainbow story up to date with a new introduction and two extensive new epilogues. While the big annual Rainbow “Gatherings” have drawn fewer numbers in recent years, Niman notes, the Rainbow ethos has in many ways migrated to the mainstream, as Rainbow notions about alternative medicine and environmental sustainability, for example, have gathered wider acceptance and influenced the national dialogue. Meanwhile, Rainbow movements in other regions, from Eastern Europe and the Middle East to Asia and Australia, are thriving.
In addition to addressing changes within the Rainbow Family and its complex relationship
to “Babylon” (what Rainbows call mainstream culture), the book’s new material explores the growing harassment Rainbows now face from U.S. law enforcement agencies—
especially those associated with the National Forest Service. As Niman contends, this particular saga of a U.S. bureaucracy at war with its own citizens is a subplot in the larger—and disturbing—story of how the relationship between Americans and their government has changed during the first decade of the twenty-first century.
In its nuanced portrait of an intriguing subculture, its successes, and its limitations, People of the Rainbow remains a significant contribution to the study of utopian communities in the United States and their ongoing legacy.
Michael I. Niman is a professor of journalism and media studies in the Communication Department at Buffalo State College in New York.
For additional resources related to this new edition, see http://buffalostate.edu/peopleoftherainbow.
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But while I've participated in Gatherings in Europe, Turkey and Israel, I knew little about Gatherings in the place it all began: the United States. Michael I. Niman's PEOPLE OF THE RAINBOW: A Nomadic Utopia is an ethnographic study of the North American Rainbow phenomenon, based on the author's own involvement in this community. The book was originally published in 1997; this second edition leaves the earlier text unchanged, but adds a new epilogue discussing recent developments.
Niman begins the book in perhaps the best possible way: an account of one typical day at a Rainbow Gathering. Through the eyes of Sunflower, a character based on the author, we follow Rainbow life from waking up in the morning to falling asleep at night. Sunflower passes through the usual places set up at gatherings, such as kitchens, communal fires and music-making circles, he engages in leisure or volunteering for tasks that need to get done (activities which are not necessarily distinct from each other at Rainbow), and he interacts with folks from a diversity of backgrounds.
After this introductory chapter, Niman's study is more formal, citing documentary evidence and interviews carried out in the field. In describing Rainbow traditions and the people involved, he often draws comparisons to other North American utopian communities from the 17th century to the present day. Niman also describes the relationship between Rainbow Gatherings and the world around them. One aspect of this is media reporting, and Niman has exhaustively trawled archives to show how the Rainbow Family is portrayed in the press. The other confrontation between Rainbow and the outside world is with the US Forest Service and law enforcement officers, which has ranged from harmonious to dirty tactics and violence on the part of the government.
While Niman is sympathetic to the Rainbow Family, an active member himself, he nonetheless takes a critical view at times. In spite of an emphasis on tolerance and inclusion, Rainbow Gatherings have taken few steps to attract African-Americans and the disabled. Though decisions are supposed to be made by the consensus of all present, few participate in decision-making sessions and inevitably power hierarchies arise. But perhaps the most serious critique of Rainbow traditions comes in the chapter "Fakelore". Rainbow Gatherings often claim Native American heritage. One tradition, the myth that the Rainbow Family is foretold by a Hopi prophecy, has spread to Rainbow communities all over the world:
"There will come a time when the Earth grows sick and when it does a tribe will gather from all the cultures of the World who believe in deeds and not words. They will work to heal it ... they will be known as the 'Warriors of the Rainbow.'"
Niman debunks this supposed prophecy, showing how it has no basis in authentic Hopi lore (or any other Native American belief) but appeared for the first time in a 1963 tract of Christian evangelism. Furthermore, he notes that Native Americans do not welcome Rainbow appropriation of their culture and identity, and several native groups have called such appropriation a form of genocide. Nonetheless, members of the Rainbow Family continue to claim that they are in tune with Native American spirituality, perhaps even more than actual Native Americans today.
The new epilogue focuses on two relatively recent Rainbow trends. The first is the spread of Rainbow Gatherings all over the world. The first Rainbow Gathering outside the US was held in Switzerland in 1983, and now European Rainbows have their choice of several gatherings a year. The annual World Gatherings have been held on six continents. At any given moment, a Rainbow Gathering is going on somewhere. Unfortunately, this section is much less detailed than I expected. There are some notable differences in culture and logistics between North American Rainbow Gatherings and ones in other countries, but Niman does not describe them.
The second recent trend is the appalling crackdown on Rainbow Gatherings in the United States by government. Niman was present at the 2008 North American Rainbow Gathering when law enforcement, in the pursuit of one man reported to be in possession of marijuana, fired weapons into a children's day care camp. (He was helping to film the documentary "We Love You", which has video of this incident.) He charts how law enforcement at Gatherings are becoming militarized, spending hundreds of thousands of dollars of taxpayer money on strategies that only encourage conflict with these peaceful hippies who cause little trouble (Niman cites arrest figures at Gatherings, which turn out to be quite low, with many charges thrown out in court). It is easy to dismiss a law enforcement crackdown if the people involved are a weird subculture (much like what is happening with Open Wall Street protests as I write this), but Rainbow Gatherings reflect the changing relationship of the American people with their government. As Niman writes in the closing words of the book, "The Rainbow Family, with its persistent insistence on maintaining what it sees as a constitutionally protected right to gather, has become the proverbial canary in the mineshaft of freedom."
I must say that I'm appalled by the print quality of this book. It is on cheap paper that looks like it will yellow or become brittle in short order. Half of the pages have ink stains from the facing page, and the text is set in an unsightly sans serif typeface. There are photographs, but one cannot make out any detail because they are printed on this awful paper instead of plates. But at least the 2nd edition is accompanied by a website where one can download many source documents, including the results of Freedom of Information Act requests from the Forest Service and other government agencies.
The Anti-semtism claim is a very, very poor argument compared to the rest of the book, its like the author was looking for flaws in everything a little bit too much, and wanted to see bad in people who wrote a obvious chrsitian book, to say that Jews didnt Accept Christ, as that was anti-semetic.
Thats just people stating what their preacher told them, And this is used as the 1-2 punch in wikipedia quotes for the book and the dumb hippy commune, Its a poor claim, and Belittles the argument to make YOU the Debunker look like a doofus.
I Would give it 5 stars if this weird oversight was omitted, but then again, the "white culture" that both new agers and debunkers obsess about is WW2 Nazi germany instead of the History of Man. The measure of who is the REAL racist, because its NOT ME TOTALLY!
Its kinda funny that people who can analyze these other people dont try to do it to themselves.