Faith CoLab: Tapestry of Faith: Resistance and Transformation: An Adult Program on Unitarian Universalist Social Justice History

Activity 1: The Temporary Autonomous Zone

Activity time: 30 minutes

Materials for Activity

Preparation for Activity

  • Read Handout 1 and copy for all participants.
  • Write on newsprint, and set aside:
    • If you have experienced a temporary autonomous community, what feelings or emotions did your experience elicit? What did you take away from the experience-positive, and negative? Did it help you grow spiritually or emotionally?
    • If you have not had such an experience, reflect on how or whether the temporary autonomous zone could support people engaged in social justice work.

Description of Activity

Distribute Handout 1, The Temporary Autonomous Zone. Read it aloud, or invite participants to read it silently to themselves.

Invite questions or comments. Then, post blank newsprint and lead the group to brainstorm examples of temporary autonomous zones, recording their contributions. Allow five minutes for this part of the activity.

Now, invite participants to consider whether they have had any personal experience with a temporary autonomous zone, or been part of a group that temporarily suspended social norms. If these are not listed on newsprint, suggest: a political affinity group, a consciousness raising group, an outdoor concert, or even a group of friends that meet regularly to share meal preparation. Say:

If you have ever participated in such a group, please offer your experience as an example.

Now post the questions you have written on newsprint. Invite participants to take five minutes to recall their experiences or respond to the posted questions, making notes in their journal.

After five minutes, have participants move into groups of three to share their reflections.

Allow ten minutes for small group sharing. Then, re-gather the large group and invite participants to add to the brainstormed list of temporary autonomous zones.

Invite participants to name some emotions, observations, and questions that have emerged from their conversation about temporary autonomous zones. Engage conversation, using these questions:

  • Do you detect any patterns or common feelings associated with temporary autonomous zones? Are there recurring questions?
  • .Are temporary autonomous zones common or uncommon? Has everyone had an experience with them, or only a few people?
  • Are any of the experiences connected with a religious community?
  • (If the group has done Workshop 7.) Do temporary autonomous zones seem different from or similar to utopian communities?