Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


In Hutterite society, tradition has dictated "what ought to be." This view of reality emphasizes simple living and avoidance of the world and is reflected in ascetic colony housing. However, as more areas of Hutterite life change in response to attempts to increase economic production, it is difficult to maintain avoidance as an ideal. As the gap between "idea and reality" increases, tradition is undermined, and on many colonies, normative validity claims are no longer unquestionable. Consequently, colony leaders are now confronted with demands for participation and collective consumption, especially for modern and more-private housing. This study explains how Hutterite housing has changed and why recent changes have been so dramatic. Housing data, collected in historical and field work research on eighty-eight colonies, are incorporated into rules based on methodology developed by Henry Glassie. These rules illustrate genetic relationships among Hutterite house types and identify the transition from "folk" to modern housing. Concepts from symbolic interactionism and three interpretations of Marxist theory--technical determinist, broad mode of production, and critical theory--are used to explain why colony housing has changed. This theoretical synthesis indicates that the introduction of modern and more-private housing mirrors fundamental change in Hutterite society, change that is brought about by developments that have increased the tension in the contradiction between "being-on-the-colony" and "being-in-the-world." This increase in tension and attempts at reconciliation are considered the driving mechanism of change on Hutterite colonies. Although change in colony housing mirrors change in Hutterite society, the introduction of modern housing allows colony members to move "offstage" where they can improvise on group norms. This explains, in part, how individual Hutterites have become more autonomous, a development that was largely unforeseen and which is significant for two reasons. Firstly, the desire for more autonomy indicates that colony members are attempting to satisfy their own expectations of themselves, not just social expectations. Secondly, although housing has been defined by the colony, the unforeseen consequences of the changes made possible by more-private housing have acted back on the original definition and reshaped it.