The Settlement Utopia: Brotherly Love, Discipline, and Social Critique

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    The Settlement movement, which originated in late nineteenth-century England, was a pioneer in bettering the conditions of the working poor. It pursued the utopian project of locating ‘settlements’ within poverty-ridden neighbourhoods where respectable students should meet slum dwellers on equal terms. This article explores the trajectory of the comparatively under-researched Danish offspring of the movement. It demonstrates the tempering and compromise that occurred when utopian ideals of ‘brotherly love’, ‘God’s Kingdom’, and ‘radical social change’ were realized in concrete social arrangements. Contradictions and ambiguities arose when utopian ideas were confronted with what could be done. The Settlement became a highly ambiguous space, a ‘heterotopia’. The roots of the contradictions cannot simply be identified in the external pressure of legal requirements and funding criteria represented by public welfare agencies. The contradictions can also be excavated from the Settlement’s own ideological doctrines and its historical development.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalJournal of Civil Society
    Issue number2
    Pages (from-to)141-157
    Number of pages17
    Publication statusPublished - 2016


    • The settlement
    • Christian philanthropy
    • Utopia
    • Heterotopia
    • Social welfare

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