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DOYLE, Michael William. “The Haight-Ashbury Diggers and the Cultural Politics of Utopia, 1965-1968”
Article published on 5 June 2004
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Ph.d., Cornell University, 1997. 514 p. Adviser: Michael KAMMEN

DAI, 58, no. 11A, (1997): 4415

“The Diggers were an innovative collective of artist-anarchists who were active primarily in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district between 1966 and 1968. Their name derived from a group of seventeenth-century peasants who had courageously, if unsuccessfully, resisted the enclosure of the English commons. Organized by veteran members of the San Francisco Mime Troupe, the later Diggers adapted the dramatic form known as "guerrilla theater" (originally conceived by the Troupe’s founding director, R. G. Davis) as a mode of prefigurative politics in the realm of everyday life. The resulting technique, which they referred to as "life-acting," combined the direct action of anarchism with dramaturgical role playing.

The Diggers’ principal project was to enact ’Free,’ a comprehensive utopian program that attempted to function outside the money economy. It included providing no-cost medical and legal services, as well as operating free stores, hostels, farms, communication and transportation networks, among other endeavors. These alternative institutions and practices were swiftly emulated in numerous countercultural enclaves throughout the United States and abroad. Most of these undertakings proved to be shortlived, supported as they were by the donation of surplus goods and cash that proved difficult to sustain with the disappearance of the "post-scarcity economy" beginning in the late 1960s. Similarly, the mutual aid network of volunteers that worked on a neighborhood level did not thrive when extended beyond a face-to-face community, or when overwhelmed by the rapid influx of large numbers of disaffiliated young people who proved unwilling to reciprocate.

During their last year of existence the Diggers took to calling themselves the Free City Collective. The change in name signalled a shift in their focus to expand the project of ’Free’ so that it encompassed all of San Francisco. Although they formally disbanded in mid-1968, several members of the collective have continued the attempt to counteract what they regard as the more destructive aspects of American culture by working through the bioregional movement, which they were instrumental in founding in the early 1970s”


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