Patriarchy, Technology and the Lives of Hutterite Women: A Field Study
Masuk, Lesley C.
The Hutterite Brethren are a religious communal society found in rural areas of Western Canada and in several American states. Although there is considerable published research on Hutterites, little new research has been published since 1987. Few scholars have questioned the effects of either the patriarchal organization of Hutterite colonies or the isolation of Hutterite women within the communal domestic sphere of the colony. The focus of this research is on the contemporary situation of Hutterite colonies in Canada with specific focus on the effects of the introduction of technology on the lives of Hutterite women in the context of colony patriarchal structure. In order to carry out this research, the author drew on her Hutterite heritage to gain access to a Hutterite colony in the province of Manitoba. The author lived on a Schmiedeleut colony for nine weeks during which she observed the lives of Hutterite women in the context of contemporary Hutterite colony organization. She was treated as a dien (single young woman) and participated in the daily activities and conversations of the dienan (young women). Given their location both in the life cycle and Hutterite stages of life, the dienan are the most sensitive to tensions and conflicts within Hutterite colony life. Participation observation provided the researcher a window -- the vantage point of the dienan -- on the lives of Hutterite women as effected by technological change within the colony patriarchal structure. Habermas' distinction between pre-modern society and modern society as types, along with his notion of the colonization of the lifeworld, provided the framework for locating and analyzing the effects of technology on the lives of Hutterite women. Drawing on field data from the nine weeks of participant observation at the colony, the researcher was able to document and identify elements in the colonizing effect of technology on the communal domestic lifeworld of Hutterite women. This thesis concludes that Hutterite male leaders have introduced advanced technology applications into nearly every aspect of colony production, including the communal domestic sphere of Hutterite women. The colonizing effect of the patriarchal intrusion of technology into the communal domestic sphere of Hutterite women has resulted in loss of traditional work roles for Hutterite women, in loss of the religious meaning of their work, and in resentment toward the patriarchal decision-making structure of colony life. Hutterite women display anger and depression, and, in number of instances, defect either temporarily or permanently from the colony. This colonization of the lifeworld of Hutterite women presents significant challenges to the communal patriarchal structure of the Hutterite Brethren in terms of providing new, meaningful work roles in a more diversified and egalitarian productive sphere and of providing some decision making opportunities for Hutterite women in areas that directly effect their lives. Since participant observation was central to this research, the author also discusses issues related to the relationship between emotion and knowing.