Book of abstracts

Utopian Studies Society (Europe).

22nd Annual Conference

University of Brighton

July 13-15th, 2022

‘Opening Utopia: New Directions in Utopian Studies.’

Book of Abstracts

Reminder: our USS 2022 Conference will finish with a glorious performance by the one-and-only Dr. Duckie. We will be at the King and Queen from 7pm on Friday the 15th. The pub is directly across the road from Grand Parade/City Campus (the Confernece venue). All welcome!!

Wednesday July 13th: Day 1

Panels in A-Session – 9.30-11am

A1: A mani-pedi-anti-counter- FESTO for queer screen production: a quatrologue

Chair: Jonathan Greenaway. Panel Participants: Angie Black (University of Melbourne), Patrick Kelly (RMIT University), Kim Munro (University of South Australia), Stayci Taylor (RMIT University).

Panel Outline: 

In The Promise of Happiness, Sara Ahmed encourages ‘a skeptical disbelief in happiness as a technique for living well’ (2010, 2). She critiques the slavish obsession with happiness that favours dominant narratives, blinding us to alternative, and less oppressive, ways of living, ones that are queer, feminist, antiracist and subversive. ‘The utopian form’ as Ahmed suggests ‘is a testimony to the possibility of an alternative’ (2010).

This then asks the question of what forms of cultural production, in our case screen production and filmmaking, might disrupt these normative ‘happy’ narratives through a critique of hegemonic forms. Through a ‘utopian’ lens, how can our methods challenge the heteronormative markers of success and happiness, or what Elizabeth Freeman calls ‘chrononormativity’ (2010)? For this panel, through our individual queer screen production practices (screenwriting, mobile media, and documentary and narrative filmmaking) we collaborate to test the possibilities for disruptive queer methods that ‘might not make the alternative possible, but aims to make impossible the belief that there is no alternative’ (2010).

In this polyphonic presentation, and embracing the possibility of failure, we four practitioner-academics borrow Ahmed’s utopian premise to propose a (mani-pedi-anti-counter-) FESTO for our hopes of what queer screen production is/could/should be. Part performance, part screening, part quatrologue, we weave together our four practices which celebrate and assemble queer methodologies. In this presentation, we ask what might a screen practice that challenges aspirational heteronormative storytelling do in the world.

Dr Angie Black is a senior lecturer in Film & Television at VCA, University of Melbourne. They are an award-winning director who specialises in filmmaking as practice-led research. Black has a PhD on performance approaches in film production and a MA in screenwriting. Their debut feature film, The Five Provocations (2018), along with an extensive body of short films, explore innovative approaches to filmmaking and actively promote on screen diversity. Black’s research examines approaches to filmmaking, screenwriting and performance practices, with a focus on gender, sexuality and cultural diversity on screen.

Dr Patrick Kelly is a Senior Lecturer in Media in RMIT University’s School of Media & Communication. He is a filmmaker, media producer and artist, and has served as a Co-Director of Critical Animals creative research symposium and exhibition, as part of This Is Not Art festival. His screen works have been exhibited by The Lock Up Gallery and MARS Gallery, and at international film festivals, such as the Canada International Film Festival,Midsumma Festival, Tropical Alternative Film Festival, Sightlines: Screen Production and the Academy, and the International iPod Film Festival. He is currently working on a documentary film project about Honcho Disko, an inclusive queer performance night, and exploring notions of identity, belonging and community in and around queer documentary film practice.

Dr Kim Munro is a lecturer at University of South Australia. Kim is a documentary researcher and practitioner with an interest in the intersection between immersive and interactive technology and social and environmental issues. Kim’s work has screened on the ABC as well as at local and international galleries and festivals. Her PhD from RMIT explored expanded documentary practices and the politics of listening. Kim has also written on a range of documentary styles, genres and forms, which have been published in books and journals, as well as The Conversation and Metro Magazine. Kim was the conference programmer for the 2020 and 2021 Australian International Documentary Conferences (AIDC), Australia’s premiere event for nonfiction content. She has also organised documentary events and symposia and run filmmaking workshops around climate change with UN Habitat.

Dr Stayci Taylor is a Senior Lecturer at RMIT University. Her PhD by project (comedy screenplay) won an award for research excellence (2017). Her research (critical and creative works) on screenwriting, gender, comedy, web series, scriptwriting-as-research and nonfiction has appeared in Journal of Screenwriting, New Writing, TEXT, Celebrity Studies and Studies in Australasian Cinema among others. She is the co-editor of the books The Palgrave Handbook of Script Development (2022), Script Development: Critical Approaches, Creative Practices, International Perspectives (2021), TV Transformations and Female Transgression: From Prisoner Cell Block H to Wentworth and The Bloomsbury A-Z of Creative Writing Methods (both forthcoming 2022). Stayci brings to her research a background in writing for television in New Zealand and Australia.

A2: “The Present is the Ruins of the Future”: Notes on the Half-Life of Hope

Chair: Caroline Edwards. Panel Presenters: Caroline Bassett, Ben Roberts,  Jo Walton

The theme of this panel is the relationship between past, present and future envisionings of hope. We draw on utopian and dystopian thinking around nuclear criticism, cyberspace, cryptocurrencies, media archaeology and urban space to argue that bringing our own time into a new constellation (Benjamin) with both hopeful and apocalyptic thinking from the past can help to conceive hopeful alternative futures. All three papers are further linked by their exploration of metaphors of temporal digging, burying and bursting: from the ghostly motion of seeds, mycelia, tubers, and tree roots through apparently solid matter; to media archaeology and the recovery of freshly relevant utopian currents from retro-futuristic relics; to the buried nuclear waste set to last into the distant future and the barely imaginable civilisations we seek to save from finding it; to the ‘mining’ activities of utopian blockchain experiments, our panel explores time as an envelopment that both smothers and nurtures, connects and separates, conceals and reveals.

Our panel will consist of 3x individual 20 minute presentations and questions.

Caroline Bassett, ‘“Hope after hope’s ending”?: Nuclear critique revisited’

‘Let’s start with the end of the world, why don’t we? Get it over and done with and move on to more interesting things.’ N.K Jemisin’s SF is to the point. If apocalyptic thinking contains a gleam of hope, it is because something happens afterwards, and that ‘afterwards’ may hold utopian promise. But what happens when the threshold is terminal? At this point apocalypse thinking falters and so may (this kind of) utopian hope. ‘No apocalypse, no revelation’, said Jacques Derrida, exploring the prospect of annihilation in the Reagan/Thatcher era when the Star Wars programme and nuclear proliferation brought the prospect of global destruction nearer. Nuclear criticism, constituted as a more or less literary-critical response to that foreclosure, seems relevant in relation to contemporary existential risks: not only those that revive around nuclear arms, but also in relation to Artificial Intelligence, and in particular to technological Singularity discourse which contemplates the final end of the human. A question this line of thinking then allows us to explore is whether new forms of utopian thinking that relate to non-places and ‘non-times’ that are by definition never possible to arrive at can be countenanced or explored. One key issue here might be generation and disjuncture: working through nuclear criticism this paper asks what might constitute a hope of succession after termination; and for who, whom, or what?

Derrida, J. (1984) ‘No Apocalypse, Not Now (Full Speed Ahead, Seven Missiles, Seven Missives)’, Diacritics 14 (2): 20–31.

Jemisin, N. K. (2016) The Fifth Season. Orbit.

Ben Roberts, ‘Excavating hope: pessimistic fatalism, cyberutopia and media archaeology’

This paper looks at the role that ‘excavated’ utopias can play in the imagination of (hopeful) political futures. It takes as its starting point Mike Davis’s discussion of Los Angeles in City of Quartz. Davis’s description of the ill-fated worker commune of Llana del Rio, a poignant alternative to the aggressively anti-labour politics of Los Angeles in the early twentieth century, provides a model for excavated utopia as a way of conceiving different pasts and futures. The paper then moves on to discuss Joan Didion’s writing on 1960s California (and its critical reception) as a way of rethinking the relationship between cyberutopianism and the counterculture discussed by Fred Turner, among others. I argue that the fatalistic pessimism often associated with Didion’s work, helps (negatively) to refine our understanding of (cyber)utopian hope. Utopia’s non-place has a place in history and this excavated context is meaningful, productive and hopeful. Past utopias might in this sense be better than present utopias. I illustrate this by making connections between Davis’s urban theory and media archaeology’s interest in the utopian potential of past media artefacts.

Davis, Mike. 1990. City of Quartz: excavating the future in Los Angeles. New York: Verso.

Didion, Joan. 1979. The White Album. New York: Simon and Schuster.

Roberts, Ben. 2019. ‘Media Archaeology and Critical Theory of Technology’, in B. Roberts & M. Goodall (eds) New Media Archaeologies. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press: 155–174.

Turner, Fred. 2008. From Counterculture to Cyberculture : Stewart Brand, the Whole Earth Network, and the rise of digital utopianism. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Jo Walton: “Cyberutopia in the Postdigital: Praxis, Pranks, and ‘Applied Hope.’”

This develops the apparently contradictory notion of the ‘postdigital cyberutopia’, by exploring three interconnected case studies: the cybernetic retro-futurism of Project Cybersyn and La Vía Chilena al Socialismo (Stainforth and Walton 2019), emphasising the management of copper, gold and silver mines; the blurring of digital and analogue tabletop roleplaying in the 2021 Applied Hope: Solarpunk and Utopias Game jam (Walton 2022); and the (mis-)use of Indigenous Yapese economic materialities within the “Pacific Ideology” utopianism of contemporary blockchain and cryptocurrency discourse (Jutel 2021; Walton 2022). Do we now live in postdigital society, where the digital has lost its status as an erumpent enclave? What do the multiple enclosures and gamifications of platform capitalism mean for the utopian post-work imaginary that synthesised work and play? And can we still meaningfully speak of cyberutopianism, past, present or future?

Jutel, Olivier. 2021. ‘Blockchain Humanitarianism and Crypto-Colonialism’. Patterns, 3 (1).

Walton, Jo. 2022. ‘Applied Hope Games Jam’. Conjurations, 2. In press.

Stainforth, Elizabeth, and Jo Lindsay Walton. 2019. ‘Computing Utopia: The Horizons of Computational Economies in History and Science Fiction’. Science Fiction Studies 46 (3).

Walton, Jo Lindsay. 2021. ‘Bitcoin and stone money: Anglophone use of Yapese economic cultures, 1910-2020.’ Finance and Society. Early view.

A3: Panel –  Challenges to Hoping

Chair: Martin Greenwood. Panel Presenters: Joff Bradley, Ronald Bluhm, Anna Bugajska.

Joff Bradley. Utopia and the superego

In this paper, I want to consider the question of the posthuman-inhuman from the perspective of Bernard Stiegler’s philosophy. My focus will be on the film and HBO TV series Westworld as I am interested in questions of libidinal economy, biopower and psychopower, the loss of desire and the unleashing of the drives. I turn to dystopian science fiction to reflect on the power of marketing (control of consumer behaviour) which is destructive of desire and of spirit. Here I address AI, Big Data, and algorithmic governmentality to interpret Westworld as a prismatic simulacra which helps us to rethink control and disciplinary power, the runaway machinic desire of capitalism, and the question of inhuman becoming. I treat “the meat puppet of Capital” in Westworld with respect to Stiegler’s views on “technologies of the spirit,” the short-circuiting of desire, negative desublimation, and address the prospect of utopia sans superego and how that works in terms of techno-bodies, cyborgs and the transhuman condition. In my view, Westworld explores the liquidation of super-egoistic barriers and demonstrates the operations of the desublimation process, revealing the inhuman utopia of the capitalist process. How does Westworld show the passage from the automatism of the psycho-social apparatus of the super-ego to the automatization of its socio-technological apparatus? From a critical utopia perspective, what is the ethical consequence of the lost spirit of capitalism and spiritless machinic eros? I argue that the critical utopia-posthuman paradigm is heuristic for understanding the consequences of the absence of super-ego. With no conscience, guilt, or shame, there is no sublimation and the drives reign and every dark desire is realised. Verily, the human is becoming the most dangerous species on earth and with it the end of utopia as we know it. It is Stiegler and critical utopian studies which can help us to understand this.

Bio: Joff P. N. Bradley is Professor of English at Teikyo University, Tokyo. He is visiting fellow at Kyung Hee University, Seoul, and formerly visiting professor at Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi. He is vice president of the International Association of Japan Studies. Joff has co-written A Pedagogy of Cinema and coedited: Deleuze and Buddhism; Educational Ills and the (Im)possibility of Utopia; Educational Philosophy and New French Thought; Principles of Transversality, Bringing Forth a World; Bernard Stiegler and the Philosophy of Education. He published Thinking with Animation in 2021. His book Schizoanalysis and Asia is due for publication in 2022.

Dr. Roland Bluhm. Pitfalls of Hoping

Utopias are intimately related to hope. Utopias and hope are, of course, not the same thing: Not all hopes are utopian. But utopias are expressions of (individual and potentially collective) hopes. Given this relationship, some insights on utopias can be gained by having a closer look at hope.

The form of hope that underlies utopias is hope-that. Perhaps one must be hopeful (and thereby exhibit a different, a broader form of hope) to engage in any utopian imagination at all. Such hope may also drive dystopias. But in straightforward eutopias, specific hopes-that are expressed.

Hope is often viewed as a good thing – a good attitude, a good perspective, a good emotion to have. But that is a simplification. Hopes can also be problematic. An analysis of the concept of hope helps to recognise different potential pitfalls of hoping that pertain to different aspects of hope. For sound utopias, avoiding the epistemic pitfalls of hoping is particularly important: There are unrealistic, unjustified, or irrational hopes. And of the irrational, self-deceptive hopes are most problematic.

Bio: When I studied for my Master in Philosophy (Bielefeld University), I was mostly interested in epistemology and the philosophy of language/linguistics. For my PhD (University of Göttingen), I applied these interests in a study of the relationship of hope and self-deception. This has made me somewhat sceptical of unreservedly enthusiastic views of hope.


The development of technology in the recent decades has been raising questions about the rise of the societies filled with posthuman actors (Gladden 2019, Jacobson 2017, Roden 2015), both with the hopes placed in technological paradises and the fears about the human extinction. As utopia and utopian imaginations are generally thought to be exclusively human, a paradox emerges within the utopian visions of the posthuman societies: can they be considered utopian if they are not inhabited by humans? Can hope be perpetuated in any way in a posthuman utopia? Following what Francisco Martorell Campos (2021) claims about dystopias, we could venture that since the accounts of the posthuman worlds are frequently dystopian, they demonstrate the failure of imagination, and consequently the failure to hope. In my paper I would like to argue that the failure to imagine something signifies only reaching what is called in utopian studies the “vanishing point” (Jameson 1998), but that it does not imply the failure to hope. While imagination depends on the previous sensory input, hope allows to bridge the gap to the unknown and not yet imagined. We can observe that the failure of the anthropocentric and humanistic imagination leads to the deployment of hope on the Other in various speculative takes on the posthuman. The paper’s aim is to investigate the nature of this hope: whether it is still hinged upon the anthropocentric imagination for the species survival or whether it can be considered as non-intrinsically human feature.

 Bio: Anna Bugajska, Ph.D., Associate Professor and the head of the Language and Culture Studies Department at the Jesuit University Ignatianum in Kraków; member of Utopian Studies Society – Europe. She is the author of Engineering Youth. The Evantropian Project in Young Adult Dystopias (2019), and numerous articles and chapters on technoutopianism and posthumanism. Her other research interests encompass bioethics, biopolitics, and medical humanities.

A4: Panel: Politics and Performance

Panel Chair: Siân Adiseshiah. Panel Presenters:: Clare Geraghty, Adam Alston, Clare Chandler

Clare Geraghty: “Feminist hip hop as a means of enacting hope: queervolucionarias Krudxs Cubensi”.

This paper analyses the music and activism of queer Afrocuban feminist hip hop collective, Krudxs Cubensi. I assert that their work is inherently utopian as it calls into being a queer and hopeful present that is ‘not yet here’ (Muñoz, 2009). Members Odaymar Cuesta and Oliver Prendes, as non-binary subjects living in diaspora in the US, create subversive and inclusive spaces, both literal and metaphysical, for dissent with their performances. Through analysing excerpts from Lxs Krudxs’ music videos, at a lyrical, visual, and sonic level, I examine what it can mean to use feminist performance as a means of enacting hope in these specific cultural contexts.

I argue that we can consider the work of Lxs Krudxs as an alternative vision of a utopian world, in contrast with that which was created by the Cuban Revolution of 1959, which claimed to eradicate social inequality. Currently, the island is experiencing its worst supply crisis in three decades. Amid harsher punishments for political dissidents and increasingly stringent censorship, activists on the island find ways to be active in hope, despite the risk of being accused of being ‘anti-revolutionary’.

 This paper is informed by fieldwork completed in 2022 in La Habana, Cuba, where Lxs Krudxs formed in 1999; and Austin, Texas, where they have resided and continued to grow their ‘solidarity networks’ for the past 15 years. Lxs Krudxs’ work provides an arena to explore how it is possible to interpellate a queer and utopian future through resistant performance, as self-described ‘queervolucionarias’.

Bio: ‘Clare Geraghty is a PhD candidate in the department of Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American Studies at University College Cork, funded by the National University of Ireland’s Travelling Doctoral Studentship award. Her research interests lie at the intersection of queer and feminist theory with Latin American and Caribbean studies.’

Dr Adam Alston (University of London): “Zombie time and interminable waiting: On Martin O’Brien’s queerly decadent praxis”

Much as theatre and other forms of performance frequently take producer- and consumer-friendly times and spaces for granted, they also have the potential to enable temporal and spatial politics of a very different kind. This paper is about the possibilities of that difference. It looks at the work of the British live artist Martin O’Brien, focusing especially on his experimentation with the productive capabilities of a slow, wheezing and coughing body. All of O’Brien’s work is grounded in his experiences of living with cystic fibrosis (CF) beyond the age of thirty, which he was told would mark the likely span of his life. He frames the years lived since as the ‘zombie years’, with his work turning to the embodiment of the zombie as a way of exploring not just experiences of chronic illness, but a kind of temporality that speaks to much wider processes of how bodies are seen to be healthy and their actions appropriate. Addressing work made before and during the pandemic, which presented a particularly acute threat to those living with CF, I argue that O’Brien’s figurations of the zombie and its stumbling slowness take on decadent qualities in their revaluation of the embodiment of sickness, a taste for abject and ascetic counterpleasures, and the fostering of temporalities opposed to the instrumentalisation and intensification of time in stagnating capitalist economies. In O’Brien’s work it is the kingdom of the sick – famously explored by Susan Sontag – as well as the temporalities of the sick that reign supreme, not least the interminable waiting and zombie time experienced by those living with chronic illness. The pandemic gave many the space and time to reflect on their own relationship to mortality; however, this paper posits that proximity to interminable waiting and zombie time points toward alternative productivities at odds with the time and injunctions of productivism, and that O’Brien’s queerly decadent praxis offers a valuable frame for appreciating their value.

Bio: Dr Adam Alstonis Senior Lecturer in Modern and Contemporary Theatre at Goldsmiths, University of London. He is the Principal Investigator of an Arts and Humanities Research Council ECR Fellowship titled ‘Staging Decadence: Decadent Theatre in the Long Twentieth Century’ (, Co-Deputy Chair of the Decadence Research Centre at Goldsmiths, and co-editor of a special issue of the journal Volupté on ‘Decadence and Performance’ (2021). He is also the author of Beyond Immersive Theatre: Aesthetics, Politics and Productive Participation (Palgrave Macmillan, 2016), co-editor of Theatre in the Dark: Shadow, Gloom and Blackout in Contemporary Theatre (Bloomsbury, 2017), and is currently working on two new book projects: a monograph with Bloomsbury provisionally titled Decadence, Capitalism and Excess in Contemporary Theatre (2023), and a co-edited anthology titled Decadent Plays: 1890-1930 (Bloomsbury, 2023).

Clare Chandler: : “Star-crossed utopia and dissonant pleasure in & Juliet (2019)”

 The jukebox musical & Juliet (2019)takes the final line of Shakespeare’s original  ‘Juliet, and her Romeo’ and imagines what might have happened had Juliet’s story ended in possibility rather than tragedy. This paper reads ‘Roar’, the musical’s 11 o’clock number, as a moment of feminist utopia. The song reveals the limitations of the ‘just feminist enough’ commercial musical theatre practice whilst allowing different temporalities, perspectives and possibilities to be explored and enacted.  Building on Richard Dyer’s work (1977) this paper considers the utopian possibilities within the musical, while recognizing the contradictions at the heart of the genre. Often musicals create a disjunctive sensation for the feminist spectator as shows utopian energies and promises juxtapose with the world outside the liminal utopic theatrical space, where there is the ‘lack of a culture that allows women the space to feel their ‘experiences’ acknowledged and celebrated’ (Aston). Contemporary musical theatre has witnessed the rise of herstories over histories and revisions of classic texts which appear to centre women and their narratives. & Juliet ultimately reinforces dominant ideologies, maintaining the status quo. Dolan’s consideration of the ‘inherent ephemerality’ of the utopian performative  provides an opportunity to recognise the syncopated resistance of the 11 o’clock number, unleashing the implications of this utopian performative moment which allows the audience to ‘experience their affective power’ (Dolan).

Bio: Clare Chandler is a musical theatre practitioner and researcher currently studying for a PhD at Lancaster University. In her thesis Clare explores feminist utopian resistance in the musical, proposing a contemporary feminist poetics for musical theatre.  Clare has published widely about feminism and the musical, including work exploring the ‘almost’ feminism of Hamilton,  and critical responses to the flawed female protagonists in Paris and the Musical .

A5: Panel: Speculative Fictions on Screen.

Chair: Joe Davidson. Panel Presenters: Urszula Terentowicz-Fotyga, Stankomir Nicieja, Heather McKnight and Kate Meakin

Urszula Terentowicz-Fotyga (Maria Curie-Skłodowska University):“Amusing Ourselves to Death”: Dystopia as Entertainment, Dystopia of Entertainment

The dystopian genre has always functioned as a way of overcoming the “failure of imagination” by spelling out and concretizing future effects of today’s actions. As our times become more and more dystopian, the role of dystopia in capturing the complexity of the present moment seems even more pressing. The paper proposes to consider the transformative role of dystopian narratives in the context of the contemporary ludification of culture. It will discuss the form and function of dystopia in the age dominated by entertainment and infotainment offered by streaming platforms, computer gaming and the social media. The paper will address two aspects of the relation between the dystopian warning and entertainment. On the one hand, it will consider the commodification of dystopia in contemporary film, on the other, it will address the playful engagement of dystopia with the comic mode.

Bio: Urszula Terentowicz-Fotyga is Associate Professor of English Literature and Culture at Maria Curie-Skłodowska University in Lublin, Poland. She has degrees in English Literature from UMCS and in Culture and Criticism from The University of London. Her main research interests are utopianism, semiotics of space, contemporary literature and film. Her book publications include Dreams, Nightmares and Empty Signifiers: The English Country House in the Contemporary Novel, Semiotyka przestrzeni kobiecych w powieściach Virginii Woolf and Space in Literature (editor). She has published on contemporary dystopia in film and literature, on Lotman’s semiotics of culture and on postmodern and contemporary literature.

Stankomir Nicieja (University of Opole): Competing Regimes of Hope: A Comparative Study of Interstellar (2014) and The Wandering Earth (2019)

NOTE: Unable to attend.

Today, science fiction films and their creators are often censured for imaginative timidity and narrowness of horizons. Undeniably, contemporary media landscape has been dominated by dark and circumscribed dystopias set in the worlds hardly distinct form our own. In my presentation, I want to juxtapose two cinematic attempts to break out of the narrow dystopian mould. I will analyse American Interstellar (2014) directed by Christopher Nolan vis-à-vis the Chinese The Wandering Earth (2019) directed by Frant Guo. Both films represent rare forays into hard science fiction built around daring and far-reaching concepts. They can also be understood as fictional responses to the challenges of climate change and the possibility of annihilation of our planet. Interstellar as well as The Wandering Earth are costly spectacles aimed at attracting widest global audience. They both explore the possibilities of radical geoengineering to save humanity from extinction while hope and solutions they offer are similarly unsettling. At the same time, however, both films are characterised by revealing variations in narrative construction and character development. In my presentation, I am going to juxtapose the two films in order to highlight the diverse ideological frameworks that they build. My intention is to show how the political and cultural backgrounds of China and America have influenced the solutions offered in both films.

Heather McKnight and Kate Meakin: The Prefigurative Possibilities of Speculative Television: The Handmaid’s Tale and Utopia Falls

Recent television studies research discusses how television can produce parasocial connections with fictional characters due to its serialised form.[1] While television should not be viewed uncritically, we have seen an explosion of diverse content as streaming has usurped more conservative television networks. Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale television adaptation (2017- ) has been commended for its relevance to current debates around reproductive rights infringements and Trump’s election. After the show’s release, the Handmaid was taken up in an impressive range of international protest contexts and has become one of the most recognisable contemporary visual figures.[2] The show, in its dystopian marketing, themes and characters, intentionally evokes emotionally empowering reactions and lends itself to use in feminist protest. The success of shows like The Handmaid’s Tale directly underpins the creation of Utopia Falls (2020). As the first sci-fi hip hop crossover, the show represents youth subcultures on television in a way that fundamentally values BIPOC and LGBTQ+ lives and values the revolutionary potential of the arts. The show has inspired activism around BLM and provides a space of politicisation for young actors, inspiring activist activities and community building during the pandemic. Here, we examine speculative television as a parasocial gateway to activism and demonstrate how the radical narratives of successful shows are radicalising funding decisions in the industry. We address not only the speculative narrative of these shows, but use interviews with UK-based activists and the director of Utopia Falls (R.T. Thorne) to demonstrate a speculative political entanglement between these shows and the world they seek to influence.

[1] Bradley J. Bond, ‘The Development and Influence of Parasocial Relationships With Television Characters: A Longitudinal Experimental Test of Prejudice Reduction Through Parasocial Contact’, Communication Research 48, no. 4 (1 June 2021): 573–93,

[2] For news articles on the handmaid in different protest contexts, see Liptak (2017a), Beaumont and Holpuch (2018), Bell (2018), Castillo (2018), and Slovak Spectator (2018). The robe has featured in Brooklyn 99, Will and Grace and Ru Paul’s Drag Race.

Bio: Kate Meakin is undertaking their PhD at the University of Sussex considering contemporary feminist, queer, climate and anti-racist activism in the UK alongside North American speculative fiction. She is interested in activism motivated by Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale and the work of Octavia E. Butler in configuring activist spaces.

Bio: Heather McKnight is a researcher with the Magnetic Ideals Collective. She completed her PhD in Law Studies at the University of Sussex Law Department, studying resistance to the marketisation of higher education through the lens of a reimagining of academic freedom. She is a critical utopian scholar and activist with research interests in unions, protest, education and prefigurative television studies.

Wednesday July 13th: Day 1

B-Session – 11.30-12.45pm

Keynote Speaker: Raffaella Baccolini. Reclaiming Critical Dystopia, Recovering Hope in Darkness

As an Italian woman who did her graduate work in the United States, and who specialized in American “high” modernist poetry, my approach to utopian studies has been shaped by my cultural and biographical circumstances as well as by my geography.  It is therefore a hybrid approach that combines these geographical and historical circumstances with other issues like desire and interest. In particular, my interest in feminist theory and in writings by women has intersected with my belief that good literature is meant to disturb and unsettle readers. I believe that a feeling of being out of place, not at home in the world is a necessary condition of utopia and of the desire to contribute to the transformation of society. It is an approach that has foregrounded from the very beginning issues of genre writing as they intersect with gender and the deconstruction of high and low culture. Such an approach, however, has and must also come to terms with the political and cultural circumstances that characterize an historical period. Therefore, I will offer a reflection on the genre of dystopia, how it has changed, its constituent elements and their transformations, with a look at its gender dimension and, in particular, the issue of women’s reproductive rights in some recent critical dystopias. In my work, in fact, I have been studying dystopian literature in its formal and thematic features, while trying to look for other modes of articulating horizons of hope. Together with many others, I have come to believe that contemporary dystopian production, in its themes and in its formal aspects, is an example of an oppositional and resisting form of writing, one that maintains hope and a utopian horizon within the pages of dystopia in these very dark times.

Bio: Professor Raffaella Baccolini is a Professor in the Department of Interpreting and Translation at Bologna University, and will be discussion her paper ‘Reclaiming Critical Dystopia’. Her research areas are contemporary and twentieth-century American and English Literature as well as gender studies. In particular she has published on women’s literature; feminist criticism; utopia, dystopia and science fiction; modernism; memory and nostalgia; trauma studies; young adults’ literature, cinema. She is a member of MeTRa; she is co-editor of the “Ralahine Utopian Studies” series (Peter Lang) and of the online journal mediAzioni.

Wednesday July 13th: Day 1:

C-Session – 1.30-3pm

C1: Panel – ‘Critical Hope(lessness) and the Utopian/Dystopian dialectic in Drama, Theatre, and Performance’ (in-person panel)

Panel Chair: Siân Adiseshiah; Panel Presenters: Aylwyn Walsh, Hakan Gultekin, Mesut Günenç

Dr Aylwyn Walsh (University of Leeds) “Critical hope beyond a ‘good life fantasy’: Arts participation in Imagining Otherwise”.

In our year-long GCRF funded collaborative project, partners from the Tshisimani Centre for Activist Education, BottomUp and the University of Leeds worked with artists to engage young people from Cape Town to explore the specific conflation of race, space and violence in South Africa’s most unequal city. Our participants from the Cape Flats alongside young refugees worked intensively using visual arts, creative writing and digital storytelling, asking ‘when we create and make the world, can that assist in redressing the psycho-social effects of poverty, unemployment and rampant violence in educational and activist alternatives?’.

In addition to a sharing of arts outcomes, the project produced 3 digital toolkits on films for social change and a youth arts toolkit as well as a glossary of arts education. In this presentation I share some of the themes and outcomes from the project, with a specific focus on the importance of critical hope that can emerge through the arts.

Drawing on Paolo Freire, Henry Giroux, Robin Kelly, Lauren Berlant, and Ruth Wilson Gilmore this presentation builds a theory of critical hope from how young Capetonians use the arts to imagine and promise something different. I explore critical hope as an activist dimension that can challenge the perniciousness of violence in South Africa – affecting poor and working class communities asymmetrically.

Note: This was a collaborative project and all efforts are made to preserve the format of dialogue and polyvocality, though resources mean it is not possible to have a young person co-present.

Bio: Ally Walsh is Associate Professor of Performance and Social Change at the University of Leeds in the School of Performance and Cultural Industries, where she is Director of Postgraduate Research Studies and programme leader of the MA in Applied Theatre & Intervention. In Leeds she served on the board of trustees for TIDAL, working on climate justice, and runs weekly arts and mental health workshops as part of Ministry of Untold Stories. Her book Prison Cultures, maps performance, resistance and desire in women’s prisons (Intellect, 2019).She is currently completing #ImaginingOtherwise, a project on youth, violence and arts activism in South Africa, which has produced 3 comix, 2 toolkits and several articles along with 3 digital films4social change.

Dr Hakan Gultekin (Artvin Coruh University, Turkey): No Shoulder to Cry on: Precarity and Hope(lessness) in Nadia Fall’s Home

This paper examines Nadia Fall’s verbatim play Home (2013), which focuses on homelessness amongst young people in London in the context of the UK government austerity programme, which included financial cuts to health, education, culture and retirement, and the introduction of the new benefit, Universal Credit. In the context of these reforms, significant changes and disruptions began to occur in the social services designed for disadvantaged people. Ann Pettifor (2018) describes this situation as a “shift [in] the burden of the financial crisis away from the shoulders of those responsible and on to those least responsible”. As the New Horizon Youth Centre in London (2021) reports, homelessness among young people has increased by 20% since 2019. This situation reveals that despite the reforms made, the youth of the UK has become increasingly vulnerable. Guy Standing emphasizes the precariatization of young people in his work The Precariat: The New Dangerous Class (2011). As a result of neoliberal policies, young people who are completely at the mercy of free market conditions are increasingly doomed to precarious lives and the loss of hope. For Standing, the precariat is a class-in-the-making, which has no political agenda or strategy. On the other hand, the Precariat is the most crowded social layer in the history of the world, as it includes a broad range of social groups such as the homeless, dispossessed, LGBTIQ+ individuals, the unemployed, youth and immigrants all over the world.

Nadia Fall’s Home is a verbatim play that presents real testimonials of young precarious people, such as an Eritrean Girl, who was smuggled into the country in a lorry and a Garden Boy, whose only desire is to feel safe. Homeless young people from different cultures live in this ‘globalised’ hostel that can be likened to a post-neoliberal dystopia. Fall employs a utopian gesture of interrupting the middle-class space of the theatre with the words of young homeless people and aims to make the audience confront this hopeless condition. This paper analyses the ways in which Fall’s play Home deploys hope and hopelessness, as well as utopian and dystopian affects to make visible the intolerability of precarity and homelessness, and the utopian desire for an alternative way of living.

Bio: Hakan Gültekin is a postdoctoral researcher at University of East Anglia. He received his PhD degree in English Literature Department of İstanbul Aydın University. In his research, he focuses on cultural studies, contemporary British drama, literary theory and political drama. He has written dissertations on writers such as Ernest Hemingway, Lucy Kirkwood, David Hare, Simon Stephens, Steve Waters and Howard Barker. His recent publications include The Critique of Neoliberalism in David Hare’s Plays (2021) and Post-neoliberalism, Free Market and Disillusionment: Anders Lustgarten’s If You Don’t Let Us Dream, We Won’t Let You Sleep (2021).                                    

Dr Mesut Günenç, Adnan Menderes University, Turkey: Utopia and Dystopia in Edward Bond’s Dialectical Theatre.

According to Edward Bond, art is constituted through a continuous variability of the dialectic because every thought is criticisable. Bond does not argue that a utopian work of art resolves actual conflicts in a fictitious setting; rather, he emphasises that it exposes these issues in a concrete way in its internal structure and reflects the need for a new and different existence. In this paper, I demonstrate how Bond, one of the most prominent representatives of the Marxist-dialectical theatre, creates his dramaturgy of utopia/dystopia, and hope/hopelessness in his plays The Bundle (1978) and Summer (1982). Bond believes that art, particularly theatre, should be employed to encourage a desire for a socialist utopia. In a creative process that began with The Bundle, Bond takes the material of real life and articulates it in such a way that makes different ways of living possible/desirable. The character Wang, a revolutionary leader standing with the people against the landowners, reappropriates the land for the common good. Summer needs to be understood in the context of the Second World War. Its setting is a fictious island that was destroyed and looted by the Germans during the war. The characters Ann and David are involved in a class struggle, which takes place in the aftermath of a brutal war and occupation. But equally, Ann and David attempt to create a utopian way of living on the island, an island that had been made previously uninhabitable.

He does not resolve the contradictions of life (within capitalism) in a utopian fiction; rather, he contends that the problems of capitalist exploitation that drive individuals to hopelessness should be made visible in his own internal structure. He does this through a kind of Brechtian theatre where the contradictions of capitalism are foreground. Like Brecht, Bond attempts to use theatre to change society – both represent the fundamental problems of society to convince spectators that social change is necessary and possible. Bond purposefully employs a mix of political propaganda and a utopian hope for a new and different existence. Bond’s plays exhibit a desire for a politically awake society, and a peaceful world that prioritises equality and freedom.

Bio: Mesut Günenç is currently working as an Assistant Professor at the department of English Language and Literature at Adnan Menderes University. He got his B.A. and M.A. at Ataturk University/Erzurum and got his Ph.D on Contemporary British Drama/ Postdramatic Theatre at Istanbul Aydın University. In his research he concentrates on Contemporary British Drama and Postdramatic Theatre. He has published on articles on playwrights such as Martin Crimp, Mark Ravenhill, Tim Crouch, Sarah Kane and Jez Butterworth in national and international journals. He has also published a book entitled Postdramatic Theatrical Signs in Contemporary British Playwrights (2017) and book chapters entitled ‘Passions of William Shakespeare’s Lesser Known Characters: Tim Crouch I, Shakespeare’, ‘Victimized Woman: Sarah Kane’s Phaedra’s Love’ and ‘The Posthuman Turn in Postdramatic Theatre’. He also published a book called David Hare’in Oyunlarında Post-Truth Söylem in Turkish. He is continuing his academic studies under the supervision of Dr Siân Adiseshiah, as a visiting postdoctoral scholar at Loughborough University.

C2: Panel: Histopia, Critical Hopes -Building utopia on critical basis: fictional and historical perspectives

Panel Chair: Javier Álvarez Caballero Panel Presenters: José Carlos Ferrera, Francisco Paoli Bolio

Panel Outline:

In this panel, we would like to present three papers aiming to underline the utopian comprehensive perspectives of challenging established order, both from historical and fictional points of view. The dialogue will be focused on several topics (economy, politics, ecologism, feminism, and posthumanism, among others) and will promote a reflection of the real possibilities of shaping society through factual and complex utopian hopes. As Eduardo Galeano eloquently said, “Utopia lies at the horizon. When I draw nearer by two steps, it retreats two steps. If I proceed ten steps forward, it swiftly slips ten steps ahead. No matter how far I go, I can never reach it. What, then, is the purpose of utopia? It is to cause us to advance”.

Javier Álvarez Caballero: Is Posthumanism the Hope for Utopia? The Fight Against Anthropocentrism. A Posthuman-Eco-anarquist Approach to Atwood’s MaddAddam Trilogy

Capitalism and climate change are two terms that are inextricably linked. While Margaret Atwood’s trilogy MaddAddam delves into issues such as genetic engineering or violence through a post-apocalyptic narrative, a more nuanced approach portrays a world in which the deterioration of the environment caused by capitalism has been taken to the extreme. Specifically, the novels go in depth into the field of ecocritics regarding its eco-anarchist approach. This paper focuses on the representation of the main branches of the eco-anarchist school: primitivism and social ecology. Ecocritics aim to raise awareness to the environmental issues of current society and establishes a link between the evolution of modern society and its unavoidable development towards that world the novel envisions, where humankind has exploited the environment to its own advantage beyond the point of no return. Eco-anarquism aims to find a solution for this dystopic situation in which a conceited capitalist society lives happily while destroying the habitat they need to guarantee their survival. Beyond this eco-anarchist perspective of these novels, Margaret Atwood introduces us to the field of Posthumanism, portraying a new version of the human being as a substitute for the obsolete model that current humans are. This paper aims to prove that there is a synergy between the concepts of Eco-anarquism and Posthumanism, stating that they need to coexist in order to be fulfilled, being this combination the only way to achieve Utopia. No society can call itself posthuman if it is not eco-anarquist, and viceversa.

Bio:Javier Álvarez is currently pursuing his PhD studies in Canadian Literature. He has worked as a teacher in Trinity College Dublin, where he also did research for his PhD, giving different lectures about his field of research. He currently teaches at Maynooth University (Ireland). His dissertation explores the MaddAddam trilogy, written by the Canadian author Margaret Atwood. His field of research pivots around a postapocaliptic environment, where the human interacts with the posthuman, finally establishing a close relationship between eco-anarchy and posthumanism. His research portrays a plausible future world which is a result of current society, also known as Speculative Fiction. His topics of interest are sociology of literature, diaspora, posthumanism, transhumanism, ecocriticism, and ecoanarchy.

José Carlos Ferrera: “Spanish ecofeminism: a choice for hope”

This paper deals with Spanish ecofeminism. On one hand, during recent years, feminism grew in the country, and, in fact, it seems the only movement able to resist the rise of the far right speech. Its empowerment has been shown through the recent huge demonstrations of March 8. On the other hand, the Spanish ecological movement is weaker, as the lack of a strong Green party shows. Due to this ecofeminism might be an accurate solution in Spain as it tries to synthesise both ideas; this fuels the theory of a new movement involving a new horizon of hope. Its tenets entail a different, sustainable and empathic way of establishing a more environmentally friendly relationship with the earth. It overcomes the western cultural dualism that rules our world, distinguishing between civilisation and nature, man and woman, rationality and emotions. Ecofeminism ideals assume an economy of care which prioritises essential needs, far from the predatory consumerism we live on. Despite being a minority movement, nowadays they are flourishing in Spain, inspired by its stances: women who come back to the countryside to promote grass fed cattle; groups who open collaborative shops that sell organic food; people living in urban cohousing seeking a bigger sense of community and sustainable life; organizations, such as Ecologistas en Acción (Acting eco-warriors), which campaign for a better environment. In this paper I will analyse some meaningful examples that offer an alternative, however humble, to a hopeless world.

Bio: Carlos Ferrera is Lecturer in the Department of Modern and Contemporary History at the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid (Spain). He has been Visiting Professor at the Universidad de Buenos Aires (Argentina) and at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. His research fields focus on 19th Century, especially in the liberal political culture, the relationship between theatre and politics and on utopia. His recent publications include: “Utopian Views of Spanish Zarzuela” (Utopian Studies 26, 2015 in a special issue about “Utopias and dystopias in Modern Spain”, edited by himself and J. Pro); “Utopian imagination across the Atlantic Sea” (in Latin american utopias, edited by J. Pro, Brighton: Sussex Academic Press, 2018), “Heterodoxias espirituales y utopías en el siglo XIX español” (Online journal Librosdelacorte 16, 2018); “Miedo al frío. Imágenes climáticas y utopías cálidas” (in Imagens de Utopía, edited by Heloisa Capel y Geraldo Witeze Junior, Goiânia: Cegraf/UFG, forthcoming); “Ernst Bloch. Escena teatral y utopía” (Boletín del GT-CLACSO. Herencias y perspectivas del marxismo, forthcoming).

Francisco Paoli Bolio: “A Mexican utopia”

General Salvador Alvarado, a revolutionary from the state of Sinaloa was a pre constitutional Governor in the state of Yucatan, Mexico (1915-1918); he was also a military and political leader in five federal entities of the southeast: Campeche, Chiapas, Quintana Roo, Tabasco and Yucatán. This late state was the most powerful and rich was Yucatán. Alvarado published a utopia titled Mi sueño (“My Dream”) in the second year of his government. Mi sueño is really a utopian plan to develop all that region. The exit of Yucatan was owing to an agricultural industry that produced the fiber of henequen. That industry was controlled by an oligarchy associated with big American enterprise, International Harvester. At the very beginning of his government Alvarado controlled the industry, increased the price of the fiber and received millions of dollars. Part of that income was sent to the Constitutional Revolutionary Army, and other half to increase salaries and fringe benefits to workers. He liberated peasants of their debts, built many schools, libraries. He celebrated diverse alliances with hacendados, entrepreneurs, workers, peasants and artisans; revindicate women wrights; prohibited drinking alcoholic beverages extimulated sports, groups of scouts, and many other ways to reach a strong society, social justice and equal of opportunities for all. In My sueño he also designs a plan to develop the whole region with a system of railroads, ways and ports, with the purpose of linking the two oceans, Pacific and Atlantic, and improve commercial activities.

Bio: Francisco Paoli Bolio is a lawyer and sociologist. PhD in Social Sciences (Universidad Iberoamericana). Researcher in the Institute of Legal Studies, National University of Mexico (UNAM). Professor of Theory of State, UNAM School of Law. He published 30 books about Political History, Politics, Law & Society, Human Wrights and values.  Recently published The utopia of a Constitutional State (Spanish: La utopía del Estado Constitucional, Editorial Porrúa, Mexico, 2021. There is an electronic version in Amazon Kindle). He participates weekly in a TV Program (Channel 11 Mexico) doing social and political analysis. Member of HISTOPIA (Group of Researchers).

C3: Panel: “Queering Methods of Hope”

Chair: Adam Stock. Panel Presenters: H Howitt, Ibtisam Ahmed, Magdalena Dziurzyńska

H Howitt: “How we Fuck and Unfuck the World: Intimacy as Method in Trans Sex Research”

What does research look like when consent, creativity, and connection is valued over truth, rigor, and impact? What happens to academic knowledge production when we refuse the erotophobic sterility that lingers like a bad hangover from modernity’s myth of scientific superiority, and instead return to what we have always been: beings hard-wired to connect meaningfully with other humans, non-humans, and more-than-humans?  In this presentation, I reflect on what a peculiar and terrifying time it is to be a trans disabled scholar, and show how coalition building is the only way to unfuck ourselves. Drawing on my PhD project ‘how we fuck’ I show how love, hope, vulnerability and solidarity coalesce to produce what I term ‘intimacy as method’. Intimacy as method intervenes to help liberate both trans sex from its dominant narratives of suffering, and trans sex research from its hostile customs of squeamishness and violent legacies of Eurocentric philosophy. 

Bio: H is an artist, activist, and educator who researches the sexual practices of trans people at the University of Brighton. Informed by their experience as a disabled, queer and trans sex worker, their values of access intimacy, vulnerability, creative communication, and consent underpin their practice. Their PhD project ‘How we Fuck’ uses intimacy as method to make visible the diverse ways trans people engage with the materiality of fucking, and the ways that a trans, disabled scholar engages (with) the University.

Ibtisam Ahmed: “LIVE, WORK, POSE: queer utopian freedom in the vogue and ballroom scene”

Hope is an act of resistance for marginalised and minoritised communities. Creating spaces of joy, understood to be an apolitical and mundane right for most groups, becomes a radical and clearly political act. With this principle in mind, I explore the vogue and ballroom scene in the North of England as a manifestation of queer utopia.

Voguing and ballroom culture has its roots in Black and Latine queer community building in the USA. Ostracised due to the intersection oppressions of queerphobia and racism, these groups created a new space that reconfigured, recontextualised, and reclaimed traumatic histories into new forms of freedom. When this scene was replicated in other countries and regions, it took on the specific contextual struggles present in its new homes.

Drawing on my academic background of Utopian scholarship, my professional background as an LGBTQ+ activist, and my community background as a member of a fledgling vogue House, I make my way through the three keywords of my title. LIVE: the defiant act of surviving and thriving against a backdrop of historical and ongoing oppressions and discrimination. WORK: the conscious creation of community as a practical solution against structural challenges and queerphobia. POSE: the joy of performance, artifice, and camp as complementary forms of liberation.

In doing so, I would like to share the hope and the joy that is ever-present in the vogue and ballroom scene, as an inspiring reminder of resilience against the odds and as a model for community responses to prejudice.

Bio: Ibtisam Ahmed (he/him) is the Head of Policy and Research at LGBT Foundation, and a founding member of the House of Spice. He completed his postgraduate education with an MPhil from the University of Nottingham before moving into full-time activism. His publications include a chapter on the utopianism of queer immigrant superheroes in the book The Politics of Culture (2020, Cambridge Scholars Publishing), which he co-edited. As a disabled, queer immigrant of colour, he always aims to shine a light on silenced voices and multiply marginalised communities.

Magdelena Dziurzyńska: “The Future is Queer: Reversed Heterotopia and the Normativity of Queer Spaces in Rafael Grugman’s Nontraditional love”

Queer theory involves exposing the ways in which ideas of what it means to be normal, particularly as expressed through heteronormativity, constrain people’s lives. While criticising heteronormativity queer theory aims to examine the ways in which this heteronormativity is enforced on individuals to fit discursive norms.

Science fiction becomes an important genre that gives the authors the possibility to imagine future societies that are different from the existing ones. Such an opportunity is frequently used to examine gender, sexuality or sexual bias by challenging readers to re-examine their heteronormative portray the possible future but to reflect on the present, for instance by presenting utopian alternative worlds in which those who are oppressed in the real world may find a glimpse of hope.

The work is going to analyse dystopian novel Nontraditional love (2008) by Rafael Grugman as the examples of the alternative, radical world in which homosexuality becomes the social norm while heterosexuality is widely suppressed. In the research the idea of heterotopia, introduced by Foucault, will be employed. As this concept presents something that is other or disturbing, it may be referred to so called queer spaces.

The analysis is going to concern the reverse of such heterotopia in the alternative worlds where heteronormativity is replaced by homonormativity. The research is going to focus on the function of such heterotopia and how it may be connected with the Foucauldian theories of sexuality as the discourse of biopower, while exploring the reasons for creating such alternative realities. Another question posed will be whether such radical representation of queer future may in fact serve as  the expression of queer hope.

Bio: Magdelena Dziurzyńska I am a PhD candidate at the institute of English Studies at the University of Wrocław, Poland. I hold a double major in English and French Studies. My research revolves around the representations of gender, sexuality and queerness in science fiction, as well as utopian and dystopian literature.

C4: Roundtable: The Palgrave Handbook of Utopian and Dystopian Literatures

Panel members (all in-person) will include:

· Jennifer Wagner-Lawlor, Co-editor, Penn State University, and Chair of the panel

· Fátima Vieira, Co-editor, University of Porto

· Laurence Davis, Contributor, University College Cork

· Barnita Bagchi, Contributor, Utrecht University

· Quitterie De Beauregard, Contributor, Sorbonne University

· Liam Benison, Contributor, University of Porto

Wednesday July 13th: Day 1

Panels in D-Session – 3.20-4.50pm

D1: Panel – Crooked Utopia on-Screen (hybrid panel)

Chair: Sean Seeger. Presenters: Anna Bell, Mehdi Achouche, Enrique Meléndez Galán

Anna Bell: Pessimistic Hope as Rebellion: Fassbinder’s Utopia

By emancipation, I mean that the hero learns, representing the audience, that a utopia is necessary. You need it.

Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1977 (own translation)

Rainer Werner Fassbinder is regarded as a pioneer of queer cinema due to the open thematization of his own sexuality as well as queer themes and protagonists in many of his films, produced from the end of the 1960s until his untimely death in 1982. The emotions and longings that he articulates in his works are topical: they tell of depression, anxiety, despair, loneliness, toxic relationships and power structures. According to Fassbinder, to create cracks in the established worldview, to question the status quo and to motivate utopian thinking, his films require a certain degree of pessimism. This points to an ideological agreement with current deep-ecological, feminist and queer perspectives. Drawing on the works of Ann Cvetkovich and Donna Haraway I argue that the utopian potential, resulting from Fassbinder’s filmic use of negative emotions, is leading to a special kind of hope, that I will describe as being pessimistic. Pessimistic hope is made of grieving and of being curious. Unlike hope, which is future-oriented, pessimistic hope is bound to the present and therefore a better suited tool to respond to the urgency of our current life situation on a deeply damaged earth. Our society is built upon the very destruction of this earth which at the same time is its habitat. I argue that we should learn from Fassbinder: A utopia is necessary, namely the emancipation from the prevailing social system. We need it. The utopia of a rebellion, created through pessimistic hope.

Biog: Anna Bell is a PhD candidate in the ‘Configurations of Film’ research collective at Goethe University, Frankfurt. She studied Political Science with a minor in Media and Communication Studies as well as Film Culture: Archiving, Programming, Presentation. Since 2014 she also has been working in the program departments of various film festivals. Her research interests include memory studies, queer and affect theory, discourse and canonization processes and the impact of (self-)presentation of artists.

Enrique Meléndez Galán: Destroying Heritage/Destroying Hopes: Notes about Architecture, Visual Culture and Speculative Fictions.

Abstract This communication focus on how dystopian films or TV series such as The Man in the High Castle, The Handmaid’s Tale or even Blade Runner 2049, and more others, show the role of the heritage as an important part of the narrative. In these cases, we can see the destruction of these monuments or buildings (intentionally or unintentionally) as a part of a great semantic enforcement in order to spread a message of desolation, devastation or unhopefully in these speculative fictions. In this sense, it is possible to see a reflection of our fears as society and we can ponder about concepts like “warchitecture” or “cultural trauma” in these dystopian contexts, but with a very deep base in our currently societies. According to this, we can see different ways of approaching to the destruction of heritage in these films or series. In cases such as The Man in the High Castle, the destruction of the Statue of Liberty could be an act of propaganda; in the case of The Man in the High Castle, the desolation of Lincoln’s Memorial or the modification of Washington Memorial could be interpreted as a religious message; in Blade Runner 2049 the collapse of Las Vegas could be part of our climatic emergence situation; or in the opposite side, in V for Vendetta, the destruction of the heritage could be seen as a symbol of hope for the people.

Bio: Enrique Meléndez Galán (Badajoz, Spain, 1991) is a lecturer at the University of Oviedo (Spain). He studied Art History at the University of Extremadura, where he did a Master on Research in Arts and Humanities. He completed his formation with a PHD in Heritage in 2019 following the programme of the Universities of Huelva, Córdoba, Jaén y Extremadura. The topic of this Thesis was about Art Education and its history in Extremadura. Although, he has another fields of research like Speculative Fiction and Visual Culture; Architecture, Landscape and Heritage; and Contemporary Art.

Mehdi Achouche: Problemos and the Anti-Utopian Satire on Screen

 Problemos And the Anti-Utopian Satire on Screen

The French film Problemos (Eric Judor, 2017) focuses on the phenomenon of ZADs, or Zones to Defend, areas occupied by activists who wish to occupy a specific piece of land in order to stop a development project. These zones multiplied in France in the 2010s and gained national publicity after the failed eviction in 2012 of the militants occupying land destined to build a new airport near Notre-Dame-des-Landes, and in 2014 after the death of one militant during another police operation in another such zone. These areas are fiercely protected by activists mainly for environment reasons, but the individuals occupying these lands, for a few weeks, months or even years at a time, have tried to use these enclaves to develop and demonstrate alternative lifestyles, making Notre-Dame in particular “a world-famous space of autonomous experimentation” (Anonymous). This is the subject tackled by the film, a comedy, which imagines a sceptical outsider family visiting one such area besieged by the police, with the first act describing these activists’ utopian ideas and values (e.g. a couple has decided not to name their baby or to choose its gender, in order to let them decide when the time comes). But a worldwide pandemic soon wipes out the rest of humanity, and the following acts depict this community’s problematic attempt to rebuild the world in its own image – a reversal on Thomas More’s own narrative structure. The film then offers a satirical depiction of the way the activists try to rebuild society, with individualism, private property, jealousy and power dynamics soon re-emerging among the “neo-hippies”. A new bourgeoisie soon forms, along with a new revolution, while a teenager firmly believes this is all a reality tv show. These are some of the themes tackled by a film which bases its comic energy on a strong anti-utopian comment on “human nature,” one that can be fruitfully compared to more enthusiastic descriptions of such communities in post-1968 France, and to more recent and more mainstream depictions of similar anti-technology, alternative lifestyle zones (2008’s Surrogates). The very title of the film, referring as it does to the Spanish left-wing Podemos party and Indignados popular movement of 2011, points at the film’s political content. Director and main star Eric Judor also explains having drawn his inspiration from the French version of the Indignados, the Nuit Debout movement, and what he witnessed happening every night on Place de la République in Paris at the time: “The only way to think about a better world, without the dice being loaded from the very start, is to let everyone express themselves… But you give everyone a chance to speak, it’s chaos. […] that’s probably what it means, forming a group…”.

Bio: Mehdi Achouche is an associate professor in anglophone cinema at Sorbonne Paris Nord University. His research deals with the representations of progress, technological utopianism and transhumanism in cinema and TV series. He is currently working on a monograph about dystopian and anti-utopian science fiction cinema from 1967 to 1977.

D2: Panel – Slow Hope and Past Hopes

Chair: Diane Morgan. Presenters: Arthur Blaim, Zsolt Czigányik, José Eduardo Reis

Artur Blaim (remote).Constructing a Utopian/Dystopian Academy: The Case of the Polish “Constitution for Science and Higher Education”

Universities as well as institutions of advanced education and research have played an important role in many projects of ideal states beginning with More’s Utopia. Sometimes they were seen as micro-utopias isolated from the essentially dystopian environment or as institutions in which utopian solutions could be implemented and tested. One of such micro-utopias is projected by the recent Polish Higher Education Act advertised as the Constitution for Science and Higher Education combining radical centralization, authoritarian management, elimination of collective decision-making with simplification of hierarchical organizational structures, introduction of models adapted from big corporations, and promises of increased financing. The paper discusses the discursive strategies employed in the act and its subsequent modifications in the light of its explicitly formulated objectives and the implicit goals aimed at imposing state control on universities, restricting academic autonomy and self-government by eliminating most of the democratically elected bodies and imposing arbitrary quantitative system of evaluating scholarly and didactic status of academic staff and institutions.

Bio: Artur Blaim is Professor of English Literature at the University of Gdańsk.  He is the author of Early English Utopian Fiction (1984), Aesthetic Objects and Blueprints. English Utopias of the Enlightenment (1997), Gazing in Useless Wonder. English Utopian Fiction 1516-1800 (2013), Robinson Crusoe and His Doubles (2016), Utopian Visions and Revisions, or the Uses of Ideal Worlds (2017). He has co-edited several volumes in literary and utopian studies and published numerous articles on cultural semiotics, literary and filmic utopias, and William Shakespeare. 

Zsolt Czigányik: Utopia and democracy in an East Central European perspective.

For a long time in contemporary history, democracy was considered as a given in most parts of Europe, however, recently new challenges occurred. The presentation attempts at finding hope in this situation in the intellectual history of democracy within utopianism, focusing on the 19th century. Utopianism highlights a number of problems and conflicts concerning the ideals of democracy, and with the analysis of utopian and dystopian texts we can investigate the role of the elements of democracy in their depictions of ideal social and political structures. We can also recognise that there is a significant difference between Western and Eastern European utopianism as far as the role of democracy is concerned. As Erika Gottlieb (in Dystopian Fiction East and West)argues, the depiction of the democratic ideals of the French revolution in some 19th century utopian texts is an example of Western democracy seen as a political utopia in East Central Europe. At the same time, such texts often highlight the problematic aspects of democratic societies particularly when contrasted with regimes centred around benevolent, enlightened rulers or the problems arising out of the immaturity of the masses. The presentation will focus on Hungarian utopian texts, especially The Voyage of Tariménes (written by György Bessenyei in 1804) and The Tragedy of Man (by Imre Madách, 1862). These texts often treat democracy as a problematic, even dangerous concept, and through this criticism one can better understand the differences between Western and East Central European political and social imaginaries.

Bio: Zsolt Czigányik is treasurer of the Utopian Studies Society (Europe), and is associate professor in the Department of English Studies, ELTE, Budapest, and a researcher of the Democracy Institute, Central European University, Budapest

José Eduardo Reis:  The last of the soviets or the end of the great utopia.

Svetlana Aleksievitch’s Second Hand Time: the Last of the Soviets (English version) is a testimony-based novel about absence, denial, disillusion and, above all, the aspiration for ontological and political liberty. Conceived as a requiem to a key political figuration of this greatest of human ideals, it looks back from the more recent times of ideological disenchantment and confusion, delving into people’s memories of the Soviet’s regime glory and demise.  In addition to comparing Second Hand Time to the other three books that comprise the author’s tetralogy dealing with crucial historical features and periods of the Soviet Union’s political and social experience, our paper will focus on the narrative strategies used in this novel to highlight and denounce the paradoxes, absurdities, illusions and machinations that subverted and led to the collapse of the utopian project of building a social order governed by socialist ideas.

Bio: José Eduardo Reis is associate professor of literary studies at the University of Trás-os-Montes and Alto Douro (Portugal). He is a full researcher at the Institute of Comparative Literature of the Facyulty Letters of Oporto University As a comparatist he has published regularly with a main focus on the topic of literary utopianism. He is a reviewer for American Journal of Utopian Studies and a member of the editorial board of the Portuguese and French academic jounals Letras Vivas, Nova Águia, Cultura entre Culturas, Atlante. He is a member of the international advisory board for the on-going academic project on Pioneer Works of Portuguese Culture.

D3: Panel – Community: Intentional, International, Possible.

Chair: Anitra Nelson. Presenters: Alexandre Christoyannopoulos, Vijayita Prajapati, Teuvo Peltoniemi.

Alexandre Christoyannopoulos: Alternatives Ideas of Europe: An Anarcho-Pacifist Critique of Europe’s Liberal Internationalism

The path that the European project took could have been different. The competing ideas of Europe which germinated in the nineteenth century did so in an ideological landscape cross-fertilised by the blossoming of various internationalist ideologies such as liberalism, socialism, anarchism, and pacifism. Revisiting and updating arguments articulated by a stance which combines the latter two, informed therefore by the more radical edge of ideological continuums concerned with peace and socio-economic justice, what became of the European idea can be said to have fallen short on four themes: economics, peace, multiplayer politics, and Europe’s role in the world. On economics: integration has repeatedly shown too little after-thought for the economically left-behind and for those whose culture has felt threatened by globalisation. On peace: pax Europeana emerged in a context of Cold War tensions between NATO and the Soviet bloc; European powers have continued to embark on neo-imperial interventions beyond the continent; a booming arms industry has fuelled militarism both in Europe and where European weapons are exported; and Europe has anyway not been devoid of both structural and direct political violence. On multi-layer governance: the EU’s embrace of subsidiarity is impeded by tenacious Westphalian imaginaries; its institutions lack democratic accountability; and the levers of multi-layered sovereign power are captured by the interests of international capital. On Europe’s role in the world: narratives of Europe as a normative power glance over the dirtier work which Europe is happy to let its transatlantic ally lead on and benefit from; neo-colonial asymmetries and inequalities have replaced older colonial ones; and migrants continue to suffer at the foot of ‘fortress Europe’. In short, sharpening existing criticisms of the EU with an anarcho-pacifist focus, this paper contrasts competing utopian visions and argues that the EU’s neoliberal capitalist internationalism could have taken – and could still take – a different path.

Bio: Alexandre Christoyannopoulos is Reader in Politics and International Relations at Loughborough University. He is the author of Tolstoy’s Political Thought (2020), Christian Anarchism (2010), as well as a range of journal articles and book chapters on Leo Tolstoy and on religious anarchism. He also co-edited the multi-volume Essays on Anarchism and Religion, and he is the Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Pacifism and Nonviolence. A full list of publications is available on his website.

Vijayita Prajapati: Educational Significance of an Intentional Community

Karl Mannheim uses realisation as a differentiator between utopia and ideology, focussing on

both the will and the power to drive change. To a large extent, Intentional Communities display

evidence of attempting to realise utopian ideals. (Mannheim, 2015) An intentional community

sits on the boundaries of theory and practice. The ideas of the founding group challenge the

existing social order in some form, or the other, may it be religious, social, political or

environmental. The people attracted to that way of life slowly start to join, creating momentum.

So why do people choose to join utopian lifestyles?

When Kanter wrote about the millennial movement, she discussed how commitment and

solidarity play a significant role in the longevity of Intentional Communities through either an

instrumental, cathartic or affective connection to the community members. (Kanter, 1972) How

do they continue to live those ideals?

Gert Biesta’s proposition on functions of education refers to qualification, socialisation and

subjectification as being the domains that groom us to live the way we do in this world and yet

build on capacities of questioning and critical thinking that encourage freedom which recognises

its limits, which understands that we are a part of an interdependent network and wanting to

lead a better life. (Biesta, 2020)As a subset of the society, Intentional Communities also focus

on sustaining their unique way of living and perpetuating it amongst both existing members and

being continuously attractive to new like-minded members. How do the Intentional Communities transmit their ideals and living values?

The paper would like to present an argument that a thriving Intentional Community actively

focuses on education for socialisation and subjectification as a way of building commitment

amongst its members. Studying the pedagogical significance may help explore how utopian

impulses are ignited and more relevantly sustained and whether this can help revisit Karl

Mannheim’s concept of ‘free-floating Intelligentsia’, which can further the quest for utopia.



Biesta, G. (2020, June 16). Risking Ourselves in Education: Qualification, Socialization, and

Subjectification Revisited. Educational Theory, 70(1), 89-104.

Heeren, J. (1971). Karl Mannheim and the Intellectual Elite. The British Journal of Sociology,

22(1), 1–15.

Kanter, R. M. (1972). Commitment and Community: Communes and Utopias in Sociological

Perspective. Harvard University Press.

Mannheim, K. (2015). Ideology and Utopia: An Introduction to the Sociology of Knowledge (L.

Wirth & E. Shils, Trans.). Martino Publishing.

Bio: Currently, undergoing a PhD at the University of Strathclyde, I have been teaching, training and learning for the last 18 years.In the last 18 years, I have worked with both corporate training and development and educational institutions in various capacities working with people and their innate skills, talents and passions.

Teuvo Peltoniemi: The Finnish Utopian Communities compared to Classic Utopians 

Finnish Utopian communities are not often mentioned together with More’s Utopia, or with Fourier, Owen, Cabet or Oneida, but they have a long history reaching back to the 1734 Eriksson’ Sailing North European Sect,  antislavery “New Jerusalem” in Sierra Leone in 1792, and socialist whaling company Amurland in Pacific Russia in1868.

The main wave of Utopian emigration was already over when the Finns established more Utopian communities. Later Finnish communities were in the Americas, like Sointula in Canada, and Penedo in Brazil. Altogether 20 ventures around the world represent nationalism, socialism, cooperatives, “tropic fever” and religious ideas.

There were altogether 20 ventures in Australia, USA, Canada, Soviet Russia, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Argentina, Paraguay, Brazil and Israel. Also those are well linked to the great ideologies behind the great Utopian communities.

After a short presentation of the Finnish Utopian communities, they are compared by their ideological background, and by the existence of Utopian features in practice. Reasons of the end of the settlements are analyzed, and compared with some traditional utopias.

Finally possibilities for future Eco, Virtual and Space Utopian communities are briefly discussed.


Bio: Teuvo Peltoniemi, Director of Sosiomedia, is a science writer, journalist, researcher and trainer specialised on social and health topics, emigration, telemedicine, and nuclear power issues. He has worked for over 20 years at the A-Clinic Foundation in Helsinki, Finland, e.g. as Communications Director and Editor-in-Chief of Tiimi Journal and AddictionLink. He has previously worked as a university teacher and researcher as well as journalist for radio, television and printed media, and developed domestic and European prevention projects.,

D4: Workshop: Meditation for the Unhoused: A design-based workshop and visioning exercise.

Facilitator: Elise O’Brien

Meditation for the Unhoused is an imaginal design workshop. Through guided meditation we will explore houselessness, meeting a guide who will take us to a transitional village created by climate change refugees. We will return from the meditation with imagery and design concepts. We will work backward from where we would like to be to where we are now.

Workshop objectives: Explore and analyze social, policy, cultural, and organizational obstacles to housing for all. Compare and contrast visionary and bureaucratic lenses.

This is a hands-on participatory workshop. Maximum capacity 22.

Bio: Elise O’Brien is an artist and scholar at University of Oregon, USA. At UO she holds an environmental justice fellowship and partners with Landscape 4 Humanity on arts engagement strategies for the unhoused in Eugene, Oregon. Elise’s research is interdisciplinary and explores the intersection of culture and design. It works with the questions “Are there cultural solutions for design issues?” “Are there spatial solutions for cultural problems?”

D5 Panel – William Morris

Chair: Laurence Davis. Presenters: Michael Robertson, Owen Holland.

Michael Robertson: William Morris’s Utopian Designs

William Morris has been a frequent subject of study for utopian studies scholars since the field’s origins, but virtually all the attention has been directed to his socialist political engagement and writing and to News from Nowhere, his self-described “chapters from a utopian romance.” Morris, however, did not turn to socialism until he was nearly fifty. For decades before that he worked as a designer, and he continued his design activities until the end of his life. What would it mean to consider Morris’s designs as utopian? This illustrated talk looks closely at examples of Morris’s designs in a variety of media: wallpaper, textiles, furniture, murals, and stained glass. It places the designs in the context of utopian studies, explores the key elements underlying their utopianism, and considers their cultural work in the 19th century and today.

Bio: Michael Robertson is Professor Emeritus of English at The College of New Jersey and an Honorary Research Fellow at Birkbeck, University of London. He is the author of three award-winning books on 19th-century literature and culture, including The Last Utopians (Princeton UP, 2018). He is currently writing a biography of William Morris.

Owen Holland: Tragedy and Revolution in William Morris’s The Pilgrims of Hope.

In his 2015 book Hope Without Optimism, Terry Eagleton writes that ‘there is a tragic form of hope whereby [the dead] can be invested with new meaning, interpreted otherwise, woven into a narrative which they themselves could not have foretold’. William Morris’s narrative poem The Pilgrims of Hope (1885–86) mobilises precisely this tragic form of hope in its paradoxical commemoration and celebration of the defeated Paris Commune of 1871. Morris acknowledged the tragic character of the Commune in his journalism. In Pilgrims, meanwhile, Morris endeavoured to discover a poetic that might be capable of investing the Commune’s defeat with new meaning. The poem’s epic register bears out Raymond Williams’s observation that ‘successful revolution […] becomes not tragedy but epic: it is the origin of a people and its valued way of life’. Morris’s adoption of an epic register in Pilgrims has to do with his attempt symbolically to transform the historical tragedy of 1871 into something resembling an heroic origin story, or the creation of a new epos, for the late-nineteenth-century socialist movement. This paper will explore the argument set out above, taking Morris’s poem as an occasion for reflection on a broader set of problems concerning the relationship between tragedy and revolution, the politics of hope against the banality of optimism, and the function of utopian studies at the present time.  

Bio: Owen Holland read English Literature at St. Catharine’s College, Cambridge, and he subsequently took an MA in Critical Theory at the University of Sussex. He returned to Cambridge to pursue his doctoral research and was awarded his doctorate in 2015. He was Career Development Fellow in Victorian and Modern Literature at Jesus College, Oxford, between 2016 and 2018 before he moved to UCL, where he was an Associate Lecturer in the English Department between 2018 and 2021. He joined the Department of Literature at XJTLU in 2021. His first book, titled William Morris’s Utopianism: Propaganda, Politics and Prefiguration, was published with Palgrave in 2017. It forms part of a new book series, Palgrave Studies in Utopianism. His second book on British responses to the Paris Commune of 1871 is forthcoming with Rutgers University Press in spring 2022. More widely, he researches the literature and culture of the long nineteenth century, and he is interested in critical theory, particularly cultural materialism. He is also the editor of The Journal of William Morris Studies, and he has edited a selection of Morris’s political writings for Verso’s Revolutions series.

D6: Workshop – An Exercise in Utopian Performance

Facilitator: Sanja Voldovnik (online participation only)

In 2019, on the 50th anniversary of Apollo’s moon landing, Benson wrote in New York Times that “[m]ost major achievements, be they personal or collective, arrive after rehearsals”. For at least a century now, science fiction has claimed its space in the quest for alternative ideas, utopian thinking, and creation of possible worlds. Some researchers (for example, Raven 2017, Merrie et al. 2018, Appel et al. 2016) have turned their attention to science fiction as a way of better understanding new developments in science and technology, both on the individual and the systemic level. In Staying with the Trouble (2016), Haraway proposes that her “sf game tracks modest, daring, contemporary, risk-filled projects for recuperation, in which people and animals tangle together in innovative ways that might, just barely possibly, render each other capable of a finite flourishing—now and yet to come” (16). Leaning on science fiction and its theatre and performance practices, this online workshop provides a guided worldbuilding experience in which the participants will be encouraged to focus not only on imagining utopian and alternative futures, but also on everyday experiences that can lead to an active mobilization for change. The introductory workshop is intended to be approximately 45 minutes long and consists of a 10-minute introduction/provocation, 20-minute group or individual work and ends with a 10-15-minute collaborative discussion.

Bio: Sanja Vodovnik is a postdoctoral fellow at the Centre for Drama, Theatre and Performance Studies at the University of Toronto. Her work focuses on science fiction in theatrical and extratheatrical performance spaces and investigates the roles that science fiction plays in contemporary technologically saturated worlds. She is particularly interested in events that contribute to the production of sf experiences such as immersive theme parks, world fairs and(online) fan communities.

Wednesday July 13th: Day 1

Panels in E-Session – 5-6.30pm

E1: Dialogue – Long Hope.

Chair: Patricia McManus. Participants: Darko Suvin, Phillip E. Wegner.

Philip E. Wegner. Hope, Failure and Bad Compromise


Those who hope, strive. Those who are disillusioned, accept. In that respect, they are self-fulfilling prophecies.

Jonathan Sacks

Raymond Williams famously opens his Keywords entry on “Culture” in this way: “Culture is one of the two or three most complicated words in the English language. This is so partly because of its intricate historical development, in several European languages, but mainly because it has now come to be used for important concepts in several distinct intellectual disciplines and in several distinct and incompatible systems of thought” (87). As a result of these complications, Williams maintains that we can be using the same term to signify radically different things; and when this occurs any possibility of dialogue comes to an end. Williams is less interested in the impossible task of fixing the signification of the word once and for all; rather, he encourages us to become more aware of such multiplicity in the hopes that we can break free of the various shades of moralizing ethical criticisms that remain the dominant and effective practices in the contemporary intellectual scene.  In this way, we might just begin to listen to each other—for Thomas More, a Utopia in its own right— instead of simply waiting for our to talk. Finally, for Williams this is never merely an intellect concern, a matter of how we interpret the world, in various ways; rather, it inescapably involves politics—where for Williams, the point should always be to change the world.

If a number of recent polemics are any indication, the same claim today can be made for the word hope within the trans- and post-disciplinary practice (another source of conflict) of Utopian studies. An entry in a Keywords for Utopian Studies thus might read something like this: “Hope is one of the two or three most complicated words in the Utopian studies. This is so partly because of its intricate historical development, in several European intellectual and political traditions, but mainly because it has now come to be used for important concepts in several distinct intellectual disciplines and in several distinct and incompatible systems of thought.” I have written on a number of occasions on recent efforts to diminish or even dismiss outright the notion of hope and the traditions with which it is associated—by, for example, reducing it to “official optimism,” an insistence on “happy endings,” and the “limit . . . beyond which thought need not continue.” In this paper, I want to begin to brush against the grain of these moralizing claims and continue a project begun in Invoking Hope (2020) by returning to what I would term “hope, the problematic”—“not a set of propositions about reality, but a set of categories in terms of which reality is analyzed and interrogated, and a set of ‘contested’ categories at that” (Jameson, “Science versus Ideology” 283)—especially as this problematic is developed in the work of thinkers such as, among others, Tibullus, Gregory of Nyssa, Lu Xun, Walter Benjamin, Ernst Bloch, and Antonio Gramsci, and more recently, James Baldwin, Fredric Jameson, Darko Suvin, Tom Moylan, Slavoj Žižek, Jonathan Sacks, Sean Grattan, Eddie Glaude, and Rachel Greenwald Smith.

These interventions all draw a sharp distinction between hope and any form of intellectual or idealist optimism, something most elegantly summarized in Gramsci’s formulation, “I’m a pessimist because of intelligence but an optimist because of will” (Letters from Prison 299). Moreover, they help us grasp hope at once not as a concept but an affect, whose opposites are anxiety and memory; and as processual, an activity, or a matter of becoming. As such, hope can be cultivated and educated for, or extinguished.

I will conclude by sketching out the connections between hope and one of the most discredited—and hence misunderstood—notions in contemporary Utopian studies, that of perfection.  If we understand perfection, as the greatest works in the tradition of utopian narratives teach us, not in terms of finitude—and hence open to representation—but rather the infinite—and hence a matter of aspiration—then hope situates us in new ways toward what Jameson, Žižek, and others term the political and aesthetic value of failure; and in particular, the necessary failure, as Greenwald Smith more recently reminds us, of all compromise. A Utopian studies that takes up such a nuanced understanding of the complicated word hope will embrace failure as a necessary part of historical movement and reject compromise as an end (rather than as a means).

Bio: Phillip E. Wegner is the Marston-Milbauer Eminent Scholar and Professor of English at the University of Florida, where he has taught since 1994, and the director of the Working Group for the Study of Critical Theory.  He is the author of numerous essays and five books: Imaginary Communities: Utopia, the Nation, and the Spatial Histories of Modernity(California, 2002); Life Between Two Deaths: U.S. Culture, 1989-2001 (Duke, 2009); Periodizing Jameson: Dialectics, the University, and the Desire for Narrative (Northwestern, 2014); Shockwaves of Possibility: Essays on Science Fiction, Globalization, and Utopia (Ralahine Utopian Studies at Peter Lang, 2014); and most recently, Invoking Hope: Theory and Utopia in Dark Times (Minnesota, 2020); as well as the editor of a new edition of Robert C. Elliott’s The Shape of Utopia: Studies in a Literary Genre (Peter Lang, 2013). His forthcoming book is entitled, The Jameson Files and he has recently completed another manuscript, The Book of Entanglements: Musings in a Time of Pandemic and other Emergencies. He was the President and Chair of the North American Society for Utopian Studies from 2010-2014 and a keynote speaker at 2011’s 12th International Conference of the Utopian Studies Society held in Nicosia, Cyprus. In 2017, he was honored with of the North American Society for Utopian Studies Lyman Tower Sargent Award for Distinguished Scholarship. A full biography and list of publications can be found at:

Darko Suvin:  For the Long Hope: A Counter-Project, via Prometheus

This paper is on how to understand Promethean hope and fire today with help from Aeschylus who created him for us, but appropriating and modifying him for our long epoch of huge danger. It is written amid pressing concerns which must use his play Prometheus Bound a bit as the European Middle Ages used fallen Roman monuments: as building blocks of what we need today, retaining much of the old but useful skill and matter. Our concerns may be a continuation of Aeschylus’s deepest insight, partly contradicted by his own fear of political extremity, or they may be a reworking that leaves the contradiction within Aeschylus aside. In either case I believe it is quite allowable to finally plump for the original overwhelming emotional identification with the larger-than-life protagonist as against the cruel and genocidal god/s he hates and is hated by.

Bio: Darko R. Suvin, scholar, critic and poet, born in Yugoslavia, studied at the universities of Zagreb, Bristol, the Sorbonne, and Yale, is Professor Emeritus of McGill University and Fellow of The Royal Society of Canada. Was co-editor of  Science-Fiction Studies (1973-81), editor, Literary Research/Recherche littéraire, ICLA review organ (1986-95); visiting professor at 10 universities in N. America, Europe, and Japan, Award Fellow of Killam and Humboldt Foundations. has won various awards for scholarship and prizes for poetry. Has published 35 book titles, edited 14 volumes, and written hundreds of articles on literature and dramaturgy, culture, utopian and science fiction, political epistemology and communism; also four volumes of poetry. His last book is Disputing the Deluge: 21st Century Writings on Utopia, Narration, Horizons of Survival, Bloomsbury Academic, 2022. Vita and essays are accessible at; papers to read and download at

E2: Panel – Hope, Bodies, Chance

Chair: Ville Louekari. Participants: Peter Conlin, Franziska Bork Peterson, William Sokoloff

Peter Conlin: Hope, sparks and the politics of meaningful uncertainty.

This paper is an exploration of chance and indeterminacy within critical thought—both in terms of conceptually identifying the role of chance within the production of knowledge (the centrality of the ‘chaotic journey of thought’ (Mallarmé) within cultural understanding and political analysis), and working through chance as modality of insight itself. The intention is to give ‘chance a chance’ (in Ian Andrews words) in terms of seeing beyond simply randomness or esoterica, and locating chance within political currents with drastic implications on meaning, possibility and hope. This is not merely making a case for indeterminacy within intellectual work, but moreover, the way it might counter inevitabilities and inculcated despair—chance as a spark of hope. In an increasingly volatile world, I am defying the condition wherein chance and unpredictability are, on the one hand, almost automatically associated with pessimism and doom (economic collapse, war, pandemics); and on the other, aside from residual practices or ways of life deemed to be outside of modern life, solely the domain of market dynamics (as outlined in Joshua Ramey’s Neoliberal Divination). The paper presents a series of ‘readings’ of a random selection of YouTube videos with very few views that engage these banal remainders, almost like tea leaves, as a way to gather thoughts on hope and chance intersecting with Blochian concepts.

Bio: Peter Conlin is a writer and researcher based in Birmingham (UK), and works as a Teaching Associate at the University of Nottingham. He has recently published Temporal Politics and Banal Culture: Before the Future (Routledge) which is comprised of a series of reflections on political imaginations in relation to boredom, obsolescence and logistics sites. He is currently developing the Time Lapse podcast which is an interview series with theorists, activists and artists on the temporal politics of the twenty-first century.

Franziska Bork Petersen: Body Politics Between Hope and Desire

The paper draws on my forthcoming book Body Utopianism: Prosthetic Being Between Enhancement and Estrangement (July 2022) to address utopian and anti-utopian implications of contemporary body politics. On the one hand, the paper explores a cosmetic gaze (Wegenstein) as anti-utopian iteration of a Blochian Not Yet. A cosmetic gaze posits all bodies it meets as in potential ‘need’ of enhancement according to gendered, ableist and racial norms. It thus functions as a technique of dominant ideology.

On the other hand, the paper makes the case that dominant ideology does not invariably co-opt individual bodies’ utopian practices, or that they are necessarily compensatory – as utopian studies scholarship sometimes suggests. Just as reiterations of a normative body politics do not only concern private individuals, ways of bodily being that undermine such normativity are not solipsistic projects of individual artists for their peers. In making this case, the paper looks specifically at alivfeForms (fed and cared for by JP Raether). This artistic project concerns the temporary becoming and manifestation of a number of constructed identities – “vessels into potential realities, […] already embod[ied] in the here in now.”

NOTE: Unable to present.

Bio: Franziska Bork Petersen, PhD, is a performance scholar and the author of Body Utopianism: Prosthetic Being Between Enhancement and Estrangement (Palgrave Studies in Utopianism, 2022). She teaches at the University of Copenhagen, The Danish National School of Performing Arts and Heinrich-Heine Universität, Düsseldorf. Her work on dance, performance art, fashion and digital bodies has appeared in Performance Research and MedieKultur: Journal of media and communication research.

William Sokoloff: Radical Queer Utopianism

There is growing scholarly interest in the concept of utopia beyond “American Dream” propaganda (Chua 2018) and as a counter to Left pessimism (Cooper 2014). Unfortunately, scholarly contributions of utopian queer theorists have not been included in broader conversations pertaining to utopia. I argue that queer subversive practices can broaden and enrich conceptions of utopia beyond heteronormativity, compulsory motherhood and/or a pragmatic gay/lesbian agenda (e.g., marriage equality; military service). Queer utopian theory also disrupts entrenched oppressive myths about sexual reproduction that limit the chances for all adults to flourish. I draw on the work of Lee Edelman, Davina Cooper, Lauren Berlant, Jack Halberstam and José Esteban Muňoz to develop this radical queer utopian political position. This paper concludes with a defense of Michel Foucault’s libidinal adventurism, friendship as a way of life and some queer forms of political intervention as forms of resistance and everyday utopian practice that are within everyone’s reach.

Bio: William Sokoloff is Associate Professor in the Department of Political Scienceat the University of Texas, Rio Grande Valley. He is the Author of Confrontational Citizenship: Reflections on Hatred, Rage, Revolution and Revolt (SUNY 2017); and of Political Science Pedagogy: A Critical, Radical and Utopian Perspective (PALGRAVE 2020).

E3: Panel – Post-Humanism, Post-Individualism, Community (hybrid panel)

Chair: Andrew Bridges. Participants: Stefania Rutigliano, Michael Larson, Boyarkina Iren

Stefania Rutigliano: Which hope for the posthuman?

In a modern world, when a secular concept of history supersedes the faith in the providential order and chance is acknowledged as a driving force for historical events, hope refers to human forces only. After considering how the concept of hope is affected by secularization, I would display that hope involves a critical perspective against the present as regards political and scientifical aspects. In this respect, in order to survey its critical motivation, its engagement with inequality and injustice but also with the controversial consequences of the technological progress, I would examine how hope is declined in some dystopian fictions. I would particularly focus on some novels dealing with posthuman, such as Marge Piercy’s He, She and It (1991) and Ian McEwan’s Machines like me (2019). In those dystopic and ucronic novels I think it is interesting to examine the concept of hope referring to such themes as the responsible use of technology, the hybridisation between human beings and machines, the human creativity withstanding the artificial intelligence, the future of digital culture and other relevant topics.

Bio: Stefania Rutigliano is Associate Professor at Bari University where she teaches Comparative Literature and Theory and History of Literary Genres. Her studies concern the relation between literature and Judaism, gender studies, intersections between literature and visual arts and the European novel of the 20th century. Some of her publications are: Il Golem. Mistica e letteratura (2006), Variazioni di genere. Il petrarchismo di Mary Sidney e Louise Labé (2013).

Articles:“L’Europa che non c’è: Narrazioni controfattuali e mondi possibili” (2022); “Verità, politica e  mondi possibili: Der Tod des Vergil di Hermann Broch e The Plot Against America di Philip Roth“ (2019); “Giobbe dalla Bibbia al romanzo” (2019); “Saggio, narrazione e Storia: Die Schlafwandler di Hermann Broch“ (2018)

Michael Larson: Community in Ursula Le Guin’s The Dispossessed and the Philosophy of Jean-Luc Nancy.

Almost fifty years after its publication, Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Dispossessed still stands as one of the most influential mediations on the concept of utopia. Le Guin’s “ambiguous utopia” contains a unique conception of community. In the text, aside from a few instances that are deserving of scrutiny, the society of Anarres is portrayed as egalitarian, capable of granting individuals almost total autonomy, and free from the hierarchies created by private property.

This is reflective of the anarchist philosophers, such as Peter Kropotkin and Paul Goodman, who Le Guin saw as articulating an alternative to both liberal capitalism and state Marxism.

However, Anarresti society is not without conditions and requires that individuals

contribute their labor. Considering the basis of this utopian community gives us an opportunity to read Le Guin’s novel through the philosophical discourse of community and politics, which was heavily influenced in the 20th century by Jean-Luc Nancy’s La communauté désoeuvrée (The Inoperative Community).

Putting these texts in conversation raises questions about the politics of hope: is it

possible to locate a basis for a truly utopian-oriented society that does not also contain the

potential for domination and social violence? Also, in what ways are Nancy’s insights

simultaneously reflected in and critical of the society in Le Guin’s novel? While we may not find definitive answers to these questions, illuminating the gaps between Le Guin’s utopian text and Nancy’s understanding of community will shed light on this aspect of utopian studies.

Bio: Michael Larson is a visiting assistant professor at Keio University. He completed his PhD at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and received a Fulbright Grant to research the 2011 Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami in Japan, later writing a nonfiction account of the disaster When the Waves Came: Loss, Recovery, and the Great Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami(Chin Music Press 2020). His research focuses on science fiction and utopian studies.

Dr Boyarkina Iren: Hope, post-individualism, and communism in the works of Greg Egan and Olaf Stapledon

Today, there are still ongoing debates among scholars and researchers about the definition of the concept of post-individualism, which seems to have a complex interdisciplinary and multifaceted nature, similarly to many other terms containing  the prefix “post” in its structure, f.ex. posthumanism.

Moreover, the meaning of post-individualism changes, as we shift from one field of studies to another one, from politics and political economy to philosophy, sociology, literature and so on. For the purposes of this paper we abide by the following statement of Lars Cornelissen that seems to be appropriate for the field of literary studies: “post-individualism” […] is intended not only to signify that we have, already, somehow, transcended individualism but to direct attention to which individualism is always already in the process of being challenged, unsettled, deconstructed.”[1]. Nowadays, this process is enhanced by various social, political and economic changes. The 4th Industrial Revolution, which is currently in progress according to Klaus Schwab and the swift development of BINC technologies greatly contribute to the abovementioned processes of challenging and deconstruction of individualism on the way to post-individualism.

Science fiction  is also faithfully reflecting these processes; hence, it’s an effective instrument to study the concept of post-individualism. The paper focuses on Permutation City by Greg Egan and Last and First Men by Olaf Stapledon; it studies the ideas of these authors on post-individualism extrapolated to the future. The former sf novel deals with some peculiarities of post-human and post-individual existence in the future dystopic society, while in the latter post-individualism is dealt with in a series of dystopian/ utopian societies of the future, some of them posses characteristics of communism, anarchism, etc. The paper analyses and confronts the ideas and reflections on post-individualism in various societies in these science fiction novels.


E4: Panel – The Shadows:  Science, and Hope

Chair: Anna Bugajska. Participants: Kenneth Hanshew, Marta Korbel, Evanir Pavloski

Kenneth Hanshew: Hope in contemporary Czech SF?

John Brunner has argued that science fiction at its best is the medium in which “our miserable certainty that tomorrow will be different from today in ways we can’t predict, is transmuted to a sense of excitement and anticipation, occasionally evolving into awe” and claims it to be “the literature of the open mind” (Carmien 2004: 146). This paper examines recent Czech SF that envisions the near future such as Rok havrana (The Year of the Raven), Spad (The Fall) and Chronika zániku Evropy (The Chronicle of the End of Europe) to both question Brunner’s and others assumptions about SF’s optimistic anticipation and progressive stance as well as Stanisław Lem’s conception of SF as meaningful speculative play. Despite their titles and dystopian settings, it is argued that contemporary Czech SF texts offer some kind of hope for the future as they engage with current problems of globalization, terrorism and war. The hope, however, is neither found in a stereotypical faith in technology frequently ascribed to SF nor in a projection of utopian social harmony a la Star Trek. It will be shown that while their visions of the future are not cause for awe, they are still cause for surprise.

Bio: Kenneth Hanshew works at the Center for Czech Studies at the University of Regensburg and explores the intersection of utopias and science fiction historically to the present in Slavic literature and film as well as the cross-cultural dissemination of utopian thought in my research and teaching.

Marta Korbel: Pioneers of Tomorrow: Science as the Source of Utopian Hope in Soviet Science Fiction.

Thirty years after its dissolution, the Soviet Union remains one of the most striking attempts at establishing a utopian society. While the project swiftly degenerated into its antithesis, it had been founded on unquestionably utopian principles. Science and technology were perceived as crucial tools in the realization of the Soviet enterprise (Howell 201). This paper will examine the role of science as a source of utopian hope in three post-Thaw Soviet science fiction texts: Ivan Yefremov’s Andromeda Nebula (1957), Ariadna Gromova’s A Duel Against Oneself (1963) and Arkady and Boris Strugatskys’ Roadside Picnic (1972). It will build on Vyacheslav S. Stepin’s and Vladyslaw A. Lektorsky’s examinations of the Soviet philosophy of science, as well as Elana Gomel’s and Darko Suvin’s analyses of utopianism in Soviet sci-fi. It aims to explore the contemporaneous authors’ response to ideological concepts promoted in their society, such as the emergence of the New Man (Gomel 358), uniting the world under the banner of Communism, and colonizing outer space (Siddiqi 79). The author’s hope is to contribute to the understanding of the functioning, manifestations and contestations of hope in one of the world’s biggest failed utopias, as well as to comprehending state’s complex and persistent legacy.

Bio: A graduate in English Philology at Maria-Curie Skłodowska University in Lublin, Poland, and a holder of a Master’s degree in English Literary Studies at the University of Aberdeen, Scotland, currently completing a postgraduate programme in Advanced English Studies at the University of Salamanca, Spain. My main research interests are comparative literature and science fiction, especially utopian and posthumanist writing.

Evanir Pavloski: Hopeful Dystopias? Looking for Ways to Cast some Light into the Shadows.

The very idea of considering hope as one of the most important features in dystopian literature may sound intrinsically incoherent. At a first glance, it seems that an optimistic perspective towards the future has no room in a fictional world in which the future is depicted as oppressive and gloomy. However, as we intend to show, hope (either as a feeling shared by characters or as an ideal that motivates the writing process) is part of the nightmarish societies depicted by authors from Eugene Zamyatin to Suzanne Collins. This presence challenges the notion of an absolute horror commonly associated to the dystopian genre and its creations. Hence, the aim of this work is to discuss three modes of representation of hope in dystopian literary works: as the author’s rhetoric discourse (perceivable through his/her piece of writing), as a controlling device in the fictional society and as a narrative’s thematic element. For methodological purposes, we will focus on works written in the 20th and 21st centuries, which clearly represent a period marked by some of the darkest horrors and the most hopeful dreams. As we proceed, we will highlight some examples of these three forms of hope in works such as “The Machine Stops”, We, Nineteen Eighty-Four, Fahrenheit 451, The Hunger Games, Maggot Moon, among others. As a conclusion, we intend to prove that finding hope in dystopian creations is not necessarily a utopian task.

Bio: Evanir Pavloski is Professor at Ponta Grossa State University in Brazil.

E5: Panel: Using ‘Utopia as Method’, to Reimagine the Future in Older Age.

Chair: Heather McKnight. Participants: Jade Elizabeth French, Melanie Lovatt, Valerie Wright (online panel)

Note: this is a collective session on the topic. 

How can we challenge dominant, ageist assumptions that older people are preoccupied with the past and have no stake in the future? In the project ‘Reimagining the Future in Older Age’, we draw on Ruth Levitas’s ‘utopia as method’ (2013: xii) to critique these narratives and create new ones, imagining a future for older age that is based on hope and desire (not only practical needs). In this paper, we reflect on the successes and spaces for improvement in two creative research methods: intergenerational reading groups and forum theatre workshops. In the reading groups, participants were invited to use fictional narratives to reimagine societies in which everyone’s futures were valued, regardless of age or circumstance. We then worked with forum theatre company Active Inquiry, who use Augusto Boal’s methods of participatory theatre to democratically engage citizens in improving society. In this paper, we assess to what extent these creative methods opened up a space for utopian thinking, asking: To what extent were participants hopeful about the future of older age? How far did utopian methods help participants imagine new solutions? What were the limits in how far we could imagine this future? We finish by reflecting on how utopian methods were not only integral to the research project but also built community and solidarity in online environments in ways we had not anticipated.

Paper 1: Using creative methods in qualitative research

Paper 2: Deconstructing ageism in intergenerational reading groups

Paper 3: Creating counter-narratives: Forum theatre and the future in older   age.



Dr. Jade Elizabeth French ( is a Doctoral Prize Fellow researcher at Loughborough University. She is interested in how a ‘poetics of ageing’ manifests in twentieth-century poetry, fiction and visual arts, with work published in Feminist Modernist Studies and Women: A Culture Review. She works within the interdisciplinary boundaries of health humanities and ageing studies, most recently on the ESRC-funded project Reimagining the Future in Older Age.

Dr. Melanie Lovatt ( is the Principal Investigator on the ESRC-funded project ‘Reimagining the Future in Older Age’. She is a senior lecturer in sociology at the University of Stirling. Her main research interests converge around time, the life course, and relationships. She is increasingly interested in fictional representations of ageing and time, and how fiction can be used as a research method.

Dr. Valerie Wright ( is a historian of modern Scotland with particular expertise in gender, social and political history. She is currently Research Associate in History at the University of Glasgow. She has worked in a variety of disciplinary contexts including urban studies and sociology, most recently on the ESRC funded project Reimagining the Future in Older Age.

E6: Early-Career Scholars’ Round Table – Career stage, Intersectionality and Borders: Exploring possibilities and challenges of our roles as ECRs and marginalised researchers in the becoming-diverse of utopian studies.

Chair and Co-Ordinator: Rhiannon Firth. Participants: Ibtisam Ahmed, Heather Alberro, Allison Norris, Manuel Sousa Oliveira, Eleonora Rossi, Athira Unni.

In this open discussion forum, we will explore career stage as both a constitutive element and effect of intersectionality. We hope to shed light on the challenges and possibilities that our intersectional experiences and voices from the margins present to our own development as researchers, and to the democratisation and diversification of utopian studies and academia more broadly. All conference attendees are welcome to join and contribute. We emphasise that precariousness and marginalisation will mean different things to different people in different contexts. Our aim in this session is to reflect on our own situated experiences without making universal claims or assumptions.

The hope is to facilitate a discussion inspired by co-production and participatory epistemologies such as feminist consciousness-raising and critical pedagogy. We invite everyone to participate and will begin by valorising the intersectional experiences several early career researchers to start a wider conversation, not as isolated narratives or reified identities; rather as perspectives that allow us to gain greater insight on broader structural oppression as well as possibilities for solidarity, mutual aid and resistance. Our hope is to link our experiences to our hopes for utopian studies and broader academia, which will inform our planning for future events, contributions, and interventions at the society conference and beyond.

Contributions and interventions will include:

Rhiannon Firth (she / her) Institute of Education, UCL.

●   Facilitator/chair

Ibtisam Ahmed (he/him) LGBT Foundation

●       What are the challenges in making academia accessible to other professions and types of work that would benefit from academic expertise?

●       How can we achieve that in a space where decision-making is not always equitable and democratic?

Heather Alberro (she / her) Nottingham Trent University

●   Modalities of exclusion/othering: how do visa policies and border regimes affect researchers on precarious contracts?

●   What can we learn from experiences as an international ‘other’ on a visa (financial precarity, work restrictions, no access to state support, occupying a liminal space wherein you contribute economically, etc. to the host society but aren’t fully welcomed)

Allison Norris (any / all) Carleton University

●       How do institutional contexts, registers, and terms/definitions impact conversations about diversity, inclusion, and intersectionality? On whose terms are we having these conversations?

●       How can we work toward representation and change that resist exploitation and tokenism?

Manuel Sousa Oliveira (he/him) University of Porto / CETAPS

●   How to create safe, welcoming, inclusive spaces for inexperienced, insecure, or marginalised ECRs to share their research and challenges?

●   What are the networking strategies and formats of academic events that we can adopt to build a real sense of community among emerging scholars in Utopian Studies?

Eleonora Rossi (she/her) Birkbeck College, University of London

●       How can institutions facilitate cross-cultural and international conversations on the various meanings of hope?

●       What acts of translation are possible in the present that can allow for greater inclusivity, and for widening access to ‘hope,’ particularly amongst ECRs?        

Athira Unni  (she / her) Leeds Beckett University

●   As ECRs with an understanding of diversity and difference, how do we begin to change the conversation inside Utopian Studies with its Eurocentric definitions?

●   How can we understand hope not only as a utopian concept, but the beginning of a dystopian reality of settler colonialism and the genocide of the indigineous people?

Bio:  Rhiannon Firth is a Lecturer in Sociology at IOE, UCL Faculty of Education and Society. Her latest book, Disaster Anarchy, will be in print and available from Pluto Press on July 20th.

Bio: Heather Alberro  is a lecturer in global sustainable development at Nottingham Trent University, in the Department of History, Languages and Global Culture. Her background and interests span a range of disciplines including green utopianism, critical posthuman theory, environmental ethics, and literary ecocriticism. Her publications include the chapter ‘Interspecies’ in the The Cambridge Companion to Literature and the Anthropocene (2021) and ‘H.G Wells, Earthly and Post-Terrestrial Futurities’ (2022) in the journal Futures. She is also currently working on a book on contemporary critical-posthuman ecotopias for the Ralahine Utopian Studies book series. Heather also serves as co-convenor for the Political Studies Association’s (PSA) environmental politics specialist group and as EDI officer for the Utopian Studies Society.

Bio: Allison (A.b.) Norris is a PhD student in Communication who holds degrees in Creative Writing, Film, and Cultural Studies and has taught university courses in Women’s and Gender Studies, new media activism, and popular culture. Informed by her creative practice as a writer, director, and producer, Allison’s academic work has focused on cultural and material conditions of production. Her research at Carleton considers the distribution of media via various platforms and uses Queer theory and research methods along with intersectional frameworks to explore distribution contexts.

Bio: Manuel Sousa Oliveira is a PhD candidate at the University of Porto, and a Doctoral Research Fellow at the “Mapping Utopianisms” research area of the Centre for English, Translation, and Anglo-Portuguese Studies (CETAPS) with funding by the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT) (ref. UI/BD/151368/2021). His doctoral project is a comparative study of Ursula K. Le Guin’s and Margaret Atwood’s literary utopias with a focus on ethics. Recently, he earned his MA degree in Anglo-American Studies from the same institution with a dissertation on Paul Auster. In 2018, he collaborated with the ALIMENTOPIA – Utopian Foodways research project as a trainee. He is currently the international spokesperson for the Emerging Scholars’ Forum of the Association for Canadian Studies in German-Speaking Countries (GKS). He received two research grants from Porto’s Portuguese British Association (ALBdoP), both in 2019, and two Margaret Atwood Society Awards, most recently in 2021.

Bio: Eleonora Rossi (BA, MA) is an PhD candidate in English at Birkbeck College, University of London. Her research examines the possibility for utopian thinking within contemporary literary discourses on environmental devastation. Focussing specifically on planetary waters and postcolonial contexts, Eleonora’s work is concerned with the possibilities opened by SF in relation to imagining human and nonhuman life after the ecocatastrophe. Eleonora is currently a member of the Beyond Gender Research Collective, with whom she has co-authored two upcoming academic articles on SF, water, queerness, and the utopian prospect of solidarity and collective action.

Bio: Athira Unni is a PhD candidate at the School of Cultural Studies and Humanities at Leeds Beckett University. Her dissertation focuses on contemporary feminist utopias and dystopias from South Asia and the Caribbean. Her research interests include women’s writing, postcolonial studies, literatures from the Global South, utopian studies, memory studies and 20th century American poetics. Her debut book of poetry Gaea and Other Poems (2020) was published by the Writer’s Workshop, India.

Thursday July 14th: Day 2

Panels in A-Session – 9 – 10.30am

A1: Panel: Hope and/in Housing

Chair: Helen Bartlett. Participants: MyFan Jordan, Helen Bartlett, Martyn Holmes, Dave Solfed and Fearghus Solfed.

Solfed: Brighton Solidarity Federation Housing Union

Solfed will give an overview of how Brighton Solidarity operates as an organisation and approaches the organisation have taken to housing in the past, as well as some ideas about how our brand of anarcho-syndicalism relates in a general way to the kinds of utopian projects being discussed.


MyFan Jordan: Neuroqueering Cohousing?

Social housing is a critical lever at the disposal of governments in the fight against poverty, inequality and growth capitalism. It has never been more important to provide housing security to those in deepest financial hardship. For economic and social participation, but also to bring groups together to understand and tackle climate change.

For young trans and gender diverse Australians, stigma, discrimination and social isolation are common experiences of being ‘othered’ as they grow up. This results in many living marginalised lives, overrepresented in homelessness statistics and three times as vulnerable to suicidality as non-queer youth.[1],[2]

With this in the frame, the Pivot Cohousing research project handed the reins to a group of gender diverse young people, supporting them to codesign a model of mutual or cohousing that might meet their needs. But participants went much further than imagining a pooling of resources and consent-based processes of decision making. They created a utopian model, a community they really wanted to live in; one informed by shared experiences of having been ‘othered’, one where the ‘social glue’ would lie in a shared bond of belonging and core values including:

·         Empathy and compassion

·         Ongoing consent

·         Accessibility

·         Adaptive innovation

·         Intersectionality

·         Sustainability

·         Anti-oppression

·         Restorative justice

·         Scalability

This Utopian model of creating micro communities has implication beyond its original intention of supporting young people to ‘pivot’ into a more secure adulthood, it offers a model for community wellbeing that could resonate for all.

[1] Oakley & Bletsas (2013)


Bio: Myfan Jordan is the Founding Director of Grassroots Research Studio. She has spent 20 years working with communities at the grassroots, as an advocate and as a researcher undertaking co-design policy development. Myfan has strong interests in housing, criminal justice, gendered ageing, LGBTIQ+ and (dis)ability advocacy, and intersectional disadvantage. She is also a passionate advocate for degrowth and localism. Myfan co-convenes the Women’s Hub at the New Economy Network of Australia and the Creating Community Working Group of CoHousing Australia, where she sits on the Board in an honorary capacity. She also currently works as a community planner for local government. For examples of past and current projects see: Or follow @ResearchStudio @myfan_jordan on Twitter and Grassroots Research Studio on Facebook and LinkedIn.

Helen Bartlett: Brighton & Hove Community Land Trust

Martyn Holmes: Bunker Housing Co-Op.

Bio: Helen Bartlett is active in the housing co-operative movement as well as other forms of community led housing in Brighton & Hove. She is a founder member of Rosa Bridge Housing Co-op, a small LGBTQIA+ housing co-op that was set up to take houses out of private and into collective ownership and to explore different notions of queer home and community. She is a member of Bunker Housing Co-op and Hub Co-ordinator for Brighton & Hove Community Land Trust. She is interested in how housing co-operatives particularly can provide an alternative to our current system that sees housing as a commodity and means of accumulating wealth rather than homes for social good or indeed basic human right; and how we can work together to achieve this.

Bio: Martyn Holmes is a founding member of Bunker Housing Co-op. He sits on the board of CCH (Confederation of Cooperative Housing), is an academic undertaking a PhD in Community Led Housing in the Architecture department at UEL, a Community-Led Housing (CLH) developer and a housing activist.

He is interested in discussing Utopia in relationship to community led housing as a process, the right to the city, the city as a process and co-ops/community led housing a way back in rather than a way out.

A2: Panel – Bodies, Families, Desires

Chair: Owen Holland. Participants: Mike Mayne, Clare Fisher, Sara C. Motta and Nikolett Puskas

Mike Mayne: Family Abolition and Queer Utopia

Johanna Brenner and Nancy Holmstrom argue that our conceptions of “solidarity, respect, and commitment to others’ development” are “now located exclusively in family life,” a monopolization of care and love that prevents a social realization of these values, which prevents the realization of social liberation. The movement for family abolition – perhaps the most radical utopian project of second-wave feminism – systematizes an analysis of this institution and has recently been revigorated by queer and feminist theorists like Sophie Lewis, Vanita Reddy, and Kathi Weeks.

The utopian impulse, according to José Muñoz, can be “glimpsed as something that is extra to the everyday transaction of heteronormative capitalism. This quotidian example of the utopian can be glimpsed in utopian bonds, affiliations, designs, and gestures that exist within the present moment.” Ruth Levitas suggests that “concrete” utopias “embod[y] what Bloch claims as the essential utopian function, that of simultaneously anticipating and effecting the future.” I argue that queer intentional communities configure or “gesture” towards, to use Muñoz’s terminology, concrete utopias. I read queer communes like STAR, Lavender Hill, Druid Heights, and Casa Duende as critical reviews of family relations and heteronormativity, and I argue that queer utopian figurations of community provide analytical tools for the project of social liberation. I also argue that today the nuclear family works as the most significant rhetorical bulwark against the movement activism of feminism and queer agency.

Clare Fisher: Utopia Without Bodies? Reading Theory, Writing Fiction, and (Not) Buying Jeans.

This paper asks: what do we hope for when we read critical utopian theory? How is such hope similar to or different from what we hope for when we read the text of experimental creative writing, or an advert for new jeans? I identify distinct strands of utopian hope in texts by Jack Halberstam (2011) and Jose Munoz (2009), creative writers Anne Boyer (2015) and Lydia Davis (2009), and those from promoted internet posts specifically targeted at the algorithmic ‘me’. I do so via an experimental reading and writing practice which analyses my felt experience of reading such texts as sites of knowledge that cannot be disentangled from the texts ‘themselves.’ It is a work-in-progress and a provocation.

I argue that whereas consumer capitalism promises a utopia in which there is no failure and no bodily difference, queer critical utopian theory offers one in which the body’s differences, particularly those which might normatively be labelled as ‘failures’, are not only acknowledged but reframed as a creative and critical tool. In so doing, such theory goes some way towards jettisoning what Elizabeth Grosz has called the ‘somatophobia’ of Western philosophical thought (1995); this rests, however, on an acceptance of language’s performative power, which is, I will argue, another way of disavowing the body and its role as an always-failing messenger between the ideal and the material. Experimental creative writing attempts to voice this failure through voicing the writer’s failure to voice it, yet even here, reflexivity becomes another ideal which promises to ‘fit’ the vicissitudes of embodied experience as neatly as that spectrally perfect pair of jeans.

Such arguments are not universal, but rooted in my highly specific felt experience; they invite audiences to find hope in what a never-quite-embodied utopia can and cannot do.

Bio: Clare Fisher is the author of All the Good Things (Viking, 2017) and How the Light Gets In (Influx Press, 2018). They live in Leeds, where they teach creative writing and study for a phd which looks at queer theory, experimental writing and failure. Their short fiction and creative non-fiction has been published in The London Magazine, Lithub, Gertrude Press,3:am and elsewhere. Twitter: @claresitafisher Insta: @clarefisherwriter

Duologue. Sara C Motta and Nikolett Puskas: Threading space – dignity against and beyond hope.

Weaving our on-going discussion, reflection, thinking out loud, feeling, sharing, listening, being. Being there. In the suspended spaces – the places not limited/bound by the dimensions of time and space. The invisible spaces where raw, honest, unbound exchanges can happen – in a safe and nurturing circle. The circle is pulsating – it is bigger, it is smaller, it always contains more entities than the ones ‘visibly present’ in one form or another. It is honouring, it is respecting, it is thoughtful.

Are these liminal spaces for/with liminal subjects?

We are in an on-going discussion that we would like to carry into the Utopian Studies Conference’s space, around speaking from/with kinds of lineages and struggles and dignities. The problematics around ‘hope’. Discussing and foregrounding really dignity, and survival/survivance as an ongoing presence that enables us to survive and have seeds of healing liberations despite and with the ongoing systemic and systematic negation of our being-knowing in all institutions of modernity/coloniality, including the university. How, for some of us hope has been used in general by lineages of critical tradition who are within modernity/coloniality- are subjects even if marginalised and oppressed so have being and so for whom a sense of the future to keep going in this way makes sense as there is a present; for indigenous and black folks and all those othered often our very humanness is denied and so we cannot wait or we are relegated to social death we must be living with the complexities of non-being and other forms of life making practises that are onto-epistemological always-already.

There is a difference (in our approaches, in our conceptions), there is a tension we are in a duologue working through, around the problematics of hope and thus really moving beyond the idea of hope.

Because who is hope for really? What are our struggles about? [Can there be hope at all?] Are we struggling to have dignity? [Make] Meaning? Be heard? [As we all clearly have a voice, it’s just that it’s often utterly ignored. Or we ‘need’ to swallow it in the first place.] To liberate [ourselves, as no one else will do that for us]? To survive? To exist? To be human?

There are invisible spaces, which exist outside of institutions and all-over, interweaving, permeating, filling cracks, holes…They have no space within institutions [do they?] if they do, it comes with a particular set of rules, has to still fit neatly in certain boxes, be censored, be ‘digestible’, be ‘not too upsetting’/’too much’/’too radical’/’too personal’, be the mirage of ‘here you go, you have space! We [the White Western Patriarchy] ‘encourage’, ‘enable’, ‘allow’ you to…? What? Be ‘visible’? Be ‘recognised’? Be having ‘equal opportunities’? We don’t. We see no real change. Yet we somehow pour ourselves through cracks, tiny spaces inside the institutions and splurring outside and creating the invisible realms where we can safely speak our minds and we find compassion, solidarity, genuine understanding/being heard. These are spaces we are weaving, for ourselves, and each other.

Can we dream – awake and asleep – of these spaces, that are invisible, but can be very much felt in-between/across/amongst the weavers, where no time, space, physicality matters, and in which we are not in a constant struggle and negotiation/fight for the many who are denied/stripped of humanness, being?? [How insane is that?!] Where there is no distinction? No other? Where we are free and so can deliberate what hope is? Unbound.

Bio: Sara C. Motta is a proud Indigenous-Mestiza of Colombia Chibcha/Muisca, Eastern European Jewish and Celtic lineages currently living, loving and re-existiendo on the unceded lands of the Awabakal and Worimi peoples, NSW, so called Australia. She is mother curandera, poet, political philosopher, popular educator, and Associate Professor at the University of Newcastle, NSW. Sara has worked for over two decades with raced and feminised kin in  resistance/re-existencias in, against and beyond heteronormative capitalist-coloniality in Europe, Latin America and Australia and has published widely in academic and activist-community outlets. Her latest book Liminal Subjects: Weaving (Our) Liberation (Rowman and Littlefield) was winner of the 2020 best Feminist Book, International Studies Associate (ISA).

Bio: Nikolett Puskas is an activist, who likes to do things, not only theorize on them. Believing in bottom-up, grassroots initiatives for social inclusion and real change, paving way to the right to the city and right for environmental justice. She has been working in the urban sphere since 2015. Previously used to be an interior architect and designer, fashion designer and maker  – after growing disillusion with those fields, she left, searching for deeper meanings.

She has a BSc in Light Industrial Engineering, an MA in Sustainable Design and an MSc in Leadership for Global Sustainable Cities. In her transdisciplinary practices, she is building on her diverse academic and professional background. In this manner, hers is a holistic approach aiming at transformative, and consecutively regenerative design & approaches for a more prosperous future – that is pluriversal. She considers herself to be from multiple physical, embodied and professional backgrounds. These multiplicities exist simultaneously in her, affecting and guiding her practices.

A3: Panel – The Mobilisation of Hope in Activist Groups and Movements (in-person panel)

Chair – Adam Stock. Presenters: Darren Webb, Rhiannon Firth, Heather Alberro

Darren Webb: From Critical to Transformative Hope.

This paper addresses the conference themes of how “hope” is active in the present and the forms it takes in politics. Using Occupy Wall Street as an illustrative case study, I argue for the need within radical social movements, in moments of utopian rupture, to move from critical to transformative hope. Here I draw upon my own “modes of hoping” framework (a framework for making sense of hope as a socially mediated human capacity experienced in highly differentiated forms) to offer a reading of the ways in which OWS participants experienced hope and how this hope was given political expression. The argument of the paper can be summarised in five short claims: Firstly, OWS signalled a utopian shift, a utopian moment, the discovery of a new structure of feeling. Secondly, OWS was born of the frustrated patient hope placed in Barack Obama. Thirdly, that this patient hope gave way in 2011 to a critical hope of refusal and negation. Fourthly, however, that the movement got stuck within this mode of hoping and never moved beyond the collective experience of restless, inchoate indignation. Finally, that OWS lends support to Mannheim’s claim that the inchoate collective desires of a group need utopian direction if the group/movement is to become a historically transformative force. The paper concludes by reflecting on how the move from critical to transformative hope might be mobilised.

Bio: Darren Webb is Senior Lecturer in Education at the University of Sheffield. His research explores the intersection between hope, education and utopia.

Rhiannon Firth: Disaster Anarchy: Mutual Aid, Degrowth and Utopian Value

This paper will draw on the conclusion to my latest book, finally completed after 7 years (!) of research and writing: Disaster Anarchy: Mutual Aid and Radical Action (Pluto, 2022). In the paper, I explore the intersection of disasters as crises of capitalism with mutual aid as a prefigurative and utopian practice. The idea of ‘disaster utopia’ has conservative origins dating back to the 1950s and 1960s, when North American disaster researchers and media reporters would laud the community action that arose after a natural disaster. The terminology ‘post-disaster utopia’ would be used to describe a period where people would put aside differences to ‘roll up their sleeves’ and ‘pull together’ to selflessly help others during recovery. This ethos continues to the present day in the aftermath of hurricanes and pandemics, as governments laud community action to justify neoliberal rollback of welfare. During the Covid-19 crisis, we witnessed the irony of ‘mutual aid’ – an anarchist concept popularised by Kropotkin, being mobilised by the neoliberal state in support of a rapid return to the capitalist ‘new normal’. Nevertheless, this paper argues that mutual aid and other disaster utopias prefigure values beyond crises of capitalism. Disaster utopias problematise the orientation of utopia towards intention and the future. Nobody wishes for a disaster, yet they produce affects such as desire and hope for change, and the formation of grassroots infrastructures and technologies. Conservatives, liberals, and even many socialist/Marxists converge assuming control ideologies are required to address wicked problems like pandemics and climate change. Anarchist thought and practice shows downscaling and localisation are effective responses to structural asymmetries.

Bio: Bio: Rhiannon Firth is a Lecturer in Sociology at IOE, UCL Faculty of Education and Society. Her latest book, Disaster Anarchy, will be in print and available from Pluto Press on July 20th.

Heather Alberro: ‘My Friends are Dying’: Critical Modalities of Hope in Terrestrial Utopian Movements’

Bio: Heather is a lecturer in global sustainable development at Nottingham Trent University, in the Department of History, Languages and Global Culture. Her background and interests span a range of disciplines including green utopianism, critical posthuman theory, environmental ethics, and literary ecocriticism. Her publications include the chapter ‘Interspecies’ in the The Cambridge Companion to Literature and the Anthropocene (2021) and ‘In and against eco-apocalypse: On the terrestrial ecotopianism of radical environmental activists’ (2021) in the journal Utopian Studies. Heather also serves as co-convenor for the Political Studies Association’s (PSA) environmental politics specialist group and writes frequently for The Conversation UK.’

A4: Panel: Historicising, Textualising Hope

Chair: Jennifer Wagner-Lawlor. Participants: Liam J. L. Knight, Harry Warwick, Olga Kubinska.

Liam J. L. Knight. Hope in Dystopian Endotexts.

The relationship between literary dystopias and hope is well documented in dystopian scholarship. Hope materializes in the way literary dystopias can contain their own utopias (Atwood 2011), dramatize acts of resistance against overbearing forces (Nebioğlu 2020), or provide warnings so that readers can avoid similarly pessimistic futures (Baccolini and Moylan 2003; Demerjian 2016). In this paper I will contribute to these debates by arguing that endotexts – an umbrella term encompassing additional fictional texts found only within works of fiction, e.g., books-within-books, footnotes, and appendices – act as a key site of hope in dystopian fiction. Drawing attention to their own constructedness, endotexts are inherently metafictional (Waugh 1984), thereby reinforcing the dystopian genre’s drive to diagnose and warn against caustic power structures in the real, contemporary world. To illustrate this argument, I will discuss several dystopian endotexts, including ‘The Principles of Newspeak’ from George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949), the ‘Historical Notes’ from Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale (1985), and the extracts from Buzz Windrip’s ‘Zero Hour’ from Sinclair Lewis’s It Can’t Happen Here (1935). By metafictionally addressing the perils of their times, these dystopian endotexts actively encourage their readers to strive towards something different and better, thus providing a route to hope through evocations of the utopian impulse. Consequently, this paper will demonstrate that analysing endotexts as endotexts, a currently uncommon approach, has value to utopian and dystopian scholarship, for it reveals how the complex textuality of literary dystopias offers hope even in cases where their story-worlds do not.

Bio: Liam J. L. Knight is a doctoral researcher in English Literature at the University of Birmingham. His thesis focuses on the manifestation of post-truth anxieties in the ‘endotexts’ of twentieth- and twenty-first-century literary dystopias, arguing that they demonstrate that the genre of dystopian fiction has always been concerned with truth, why it matters, and the dangers of distorting it. A passionate educator, Liam also publishes GCSE revision materials on his YouTube channel, ‘DystopiaJunkie’.

Harry Warwick. Cathedral of Power: Battersea Power Station in Dystopian Culture

Once an avatar of social and economic progress, the coal-fired power station has become the emblem of deindustrialisation and decline. Launching the Conservative party’s 2010 manifesto in the long-defunct Battersea Power Station – which at its peak supplied as much as a fifth of London’s electricity – David Cameron exploited this very association: Battersea Power Station, he claimed, is ‘a building in need of regeneration in a country in need of regeneration’. Cameron appears to have got his wish: its redevelopment funded by a consortium of Malaysian firms, the erstwhile power station is now a complex of luxury apartments, offices, and shops. By contrast with Cameron’s gentrified pseudo-utopia, however, this paper turns to the history of dystopian representations of Battersea Power Station, particularly those produced in the period of the building’s dereliction. The paper begins with a reading of the famous depiction of the building on the cover art of Pink Floyd’s album Animals (1977), which industrialises Orwell’s agricultural allegory in Animal Farm (1945); compares this artwork with Michael Radford’s cinematic Nineteen Eighty-Four (1984), in which the power station coincides directly with authoritarian power; and concludes by examining Alfonso Cuarón’s Children of Men (2006), whose ‘reproductive futurism’ is also a fossil futurism – a vision of the future dependent on the heat and light of fossil fuels. The power station embodies not only our social hopes and dreams, this paper contends, but also our fears.

Bio: Harry Warwick is a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow in the Department of English and Comparative Literary Studies at the University of Warwick. His first monograph, Dystopia and Dispossession in the Hollywood Science-Fiction Film, 1979–2017, is forthcoming with Liverpool University Press in 2023.

Olga Kubinska. Hope steeped in pessimism: 21st-century visual forms of remembrance  of the Jewish past in Poland

Over the last few decades in Poland there has emerged a revival of memory on the common Polish-Jewish history, accompanied by numerous publications and exhibitions on Jewish past in Poland: temporary exhibition in the synagogue in Włodawa, opening of a permanent exhibition in Sobibor death camp, the Museum of the History of Polish Jews “Polin” in Warsaw, permanent exhibition devoted to the Holocaust in the Museum of the Second World War in Gdańsk, Museum of the Ulm Family in Markowa, exhibition of photographs of Polish Jews in Milejczyce. Numerous publications from the last two decades, artistic events, installations, theatrical productions and films testify to this reborn interest in the heritage of the destroyed Jewish community. However, antisemitism is still rampant (not only in Poland, as Martin Reisigl and Ruth Wodak (2002: 609) write about “the resurgence of open anti-Semitism” in Austria) which subverts the attempts to construct a collective memory. A question arises whether there may be any hope to suppress antisemitism understood as a form of racism. As Walter Benn Michaels claims “in the utopian imagination of neoliberalism, this is exactly how we would understand class difference: not as an inequality to be eliminated but as a difference to be respected.” The paper, acknowledging the recent attempts to establish/preserve elements of a common past, formulates the thesis encapsulated in the title, that these efforts, while necessary, at best allow to envisage only a faint glimmer of “hope steeped in pessimism”.

Bio: Olga Kubińska, associate Professor at the University of Gdańsk. She is the author of the monograph Przybyłem tu, by umrzeć [I have come here to die], the editor of Retoryka umierania. Angielskie mowy pożegnalne doby Tudorów i Stuartów [Rhetoric of dying. English dying speeches of the Tudor and Stuart times], and coeditor of the Polish edition of Margaret Cavendish Świat Blasku [The Blazing World by Margaret Cavendish]. Co-editor (with Artur Blaim) of the series “Bibliotheca Utopiana”) since 2018. At present her research embraces Early Modern English literature, Holocaust literature, and utopian studies.

A5: Panel – Utopia Fierce and Gentle

Chair: Martin Greenwood. Participants: Jim Block, Ville Louekari, Athira Unni

Jim Block. A Fierce Call for a Gentle Utopia

As the Conference call boldly notes, an anti-Utopian time mobilizes us to fiercely surmount the boundaries of

existing frameworks and the lethargy of despair, which operate to curtail all futures and proclaim (by default) the inevitability and irreversibility of present institutions and practices. To put the challenge boldly, nowhere are basic reconceptualizations more urgently needed than with the fulcrum making larger transformations possible, that is, in developing more evolved notions of human capacity and self-development on the psychodynamic, moral, and relational levels. So long as we burden ourselves by uncritically maintaining the arrested and misshapen conceptions of contemporary human personhood, thus allowing ourselves no way forward, we are easily coopted or self-silenced, reinforcing the dominant anti-utopian dynamic with its barriers to change.

Utilizing and supplementing the originative work of Erich Fromm and psychoanalyst Heinz Kohut, the dialectic of injury as the early assaults on one’s core emerging self together with a psychodevelopmental elaboration of the healing processes for journeys to full self-realization and collaborative engagement in our time will be presented. The first goal will be to identify the forms of psychic injury and arrest preventing full development inflicted in the course of a damaging socialization and stifling social discipline inflicted by the very system preventing change, which leave individuals unable to flourish utilizing the possibilities of the late modern world. Personal and social transformation can only be undertaken by exposing: the rapaciously competitive structures of privilege and domination leaving many mired in societal neglect and marginalization and others exploiting the undeserved privileges of class, status, wealth, gender, race, and other levers of power and intimidation to palliate and disown the hidden injuries behind a stifling sense of performative identity; an outmoded and stunted conception of human desire and self-actualization; and the need of all suffering deprivation and psychological deficits to reject change to the egregious maldistributions of material well-being and resources of self-development in order to generate and co-constitute an inclusive, just, and abundant common world.

The second focus will be to consider ways of addressing and surmounting the contemporary pandemic of injury: developing by utilizing the insights of Fromm, Kohut, and others new forms of core psychosocial healing which help to nurture and generate new human capacities and forms of selfhood that enable us to pursue common flourishing and collective empowerment. Through innovative and transformative practices of developmental facilitation and child rearing, we can pursue the work of reflection, experimentation, and reconstruction in developing new social realities beyond the stunted worlds of compliance and disempowerment in systems of hierarchy, authority, elite control, and self-deferral. It is in periods like the present that the moment can be fiercely seized, opening toward the many forms of collective fulfillment now possible.


Ville Louekari: Utopian hope, repression, and desire

The function of utopian genre of literature has been contested in recent decades. Postcolonial research has shown that the classical utopian genre that started with Thomas More’s Utopia emerged alongside global colonial relations and functioned to justify settler colonialism. Discovering already settled lands and indigenous nations, the settler utopian hope was that it was not so. This hope was expressed in paintings like John Gast’s American Progress (1872), in utopian literature, and even in law, in the concept of terra nullius, nobody’s land. To claim to “make the desert bloom” a fantasy of a desert is needed.

In my paper I aim to analyze utopian hope not only as individual but as social phenomenon, following Ernst Bloch’s research on the centrality of hope to human culture (in his three-part Principle of Hope). Bringing Bloch into conversation with postcolonial and decolonial thought, I discuss utopian hope in terms of repression and desire. Repression, as I argue it was utopianism that enabled Europeans to deal with colonialist domination in the daylight. I look at utopian hope as repression from a psychoanalytic view, with the help of thinkers like Jacques Lacan and Frantz Fanon.

I contrast utopian hope as repression with utopian hope as desire, referring especially to Fredric Jameson’s book Archaeologies of the Future: The Desire Called Utopia and Other Science Fictions. Jameson connects utopia to wish-fulfilment, yet not as a monotonous wish for things to be otherwise (as in settler utopias) but as a desire or drive for continuously imagining alternatives.

Bio: Ville Louekari is a Doctoral Researcher in The Centre of Excellence in Law, Identity and the European Narratives (EuroStorie) hosted by University of Helsinki. He works across the fields of history of philosophy, continental philosophy and global critical theory. His doctoral dissertation focuses on the role of utopia in the formation of European ideas and ideals in the interwar period.

Athira Unni: Decolonising Utopia: Hope as A Rallying Point for Non-Western Models in Utopian Studies.

Utopian thinking has Western humanist underpinnings and utopian studies has reflected this Eurocentric approach. Both Lyman Tower Sargent and Tom Moylan theorize utopian and dystopian narratives around Eurocentric points of reference such as Christianity and the concept of revolution. Sargent suggests that utopia and dystopia with the ideas of reward and punishment have Christian underpinnings which were later secularized. Moylan while defining critical dystopia notes that ‘critical’ can imply the point at which sweeping social change such as a revolution could take place. For the global majority, these concepts – both Christianity and revolution – matter far less than colonization and imperialism. Hence, non-Western utopian thinking cannot be made to fit into the Western model. Decolonising utopia, therefore, ought to be considered seriously. I propose that utopia or dystopia are culturally specific and not generalized, non-spatial concepts divorced from history. For the same reason, a utopia or dystopia for the West might just be a social reality elsewhere. Imperialism and colonization have utopian underpinnings, the realisation of which lead to dystopian realities, as pointed out by Bill Ashcroft. Therefore, postcolonial nations ought to be seen as having hybrid models of utopian thinking with residues of pre-colonial utopian aspects and decolonial anti-imperialist histories as well as neo-colonial dystopian elements from the present. I propose to consider a Blochian model of hope as a rallying point for a decolonised utopia while critiquing existing ideas of utopia from a postcolonial and decolonial perspective.

Keywords: utopia, decolonise, anti-imperialism, dystopia, hope

Bio: Athira Unni is a PhD candidate at the School of Cultural Studies and Humanities at Leeds Beckett University. Her dissertation focuses on contemporary feminist utopias and dystopias from South Asia and the Caribbean. Her research interests include women’s writing, postcolonial studies, literatures from the Global South, utopian studies, memory studies and 20th century American poetics. Her debut book of poetry Gaea and Other Poems (2020) was published by the Writer’s Workshop, India.

A6: Panel: Hope and the University

Chair: Manuel J. Sousa Oliveira.  Participants: Jacqueline Dutton, René Rejon, Claudia Sandberg, Sophie Dungan,  Stefan Fuchs, Rebecca Bell, Ana Baeza Ruiz.

Jacqueline Dutton, René Rejon, Claudia Sandberg, Sophie Dungan, Stefan Fuchs: Teaching Utopia in Collaborative Modes: Arts Discovery @ The University of Melbourne.

In this paper, we would like to share our experiences of teaching utopia in the new flagship Arts Discovery subject at the University of Melbourne. Our collaborative team teaching is underpinned by utopian thinking as a method to engage student research projects focused on New Futures. We each present our own research journeys as models to inspire student research projects. While Jacqueline Dutton has long experience in the field of utopian studies, the other staff bring fresh and sometimes unexpected perspectives on utopian thinking from various disciplines.

Dr René Rejon’s research investigates the moral implications of benefiting from historical injustice within postcolonial societies, and his perspective on utopian thinking anchors our seminars with references from political philosophy. Dr Claudia Sandberg is an award-winning filmmaker and cinema studies scholar whose research highlights migration and marginality in film, including socialist cinemas, which adds a visual cultures approach to our seminars. Sophie Dungan is a rising star whose MA thesis on vegetarian vampires of the Anthropocene has been accepted for publication with Palgrave, opening eco-feminist perspectives of utopia in our seminars. Dr Stefan Fuchs is an anthropologist specialised in Japanese shopping mall culture and right-wing rock music who brings Marxist theory and consumer cultures to the fore in the classroom. 

Surprising connections and enlightening conversations between staff and students ground this counter-hegemonic project concerned with “creating spaces for the exploration of desires, longings, and hopes, and for drawing out utopian possibilities within concrete experience” (Webb 2019, 206) – for both staff and students. 

Rebecca Bell, Ana Baeza Ruiz:  Re-imagining the university through hope in pedagogy.

In the current neoliberal model of UK Higher Education, the disciplining effects of the market are notable: the trebling of tuition fees pits institutions against each other, and students are made to operate according to a logic of private consumption (Temple 2016; Nixon 2012: 7). As educational labour is increasingly subject to mechanisms of surveillance, routinization and time-management, the threat of discursive closure will continue to severely impact independence of thought and creative freedom. Among many educators, hopelessness has instituted itself as a modus operandi. Within this context, how can we activate ‘hope’ to imagine other (utopian) futures for university education? How can we carve serenity and quietude to develop creative, ontological approaches? In this paper, we wish to consider ‘hope’ to think, in Spivak’s terms, how ‘the teacher, while operating within the institution, can foster the emergence of a committed collectivity by not making her institutional commitment invisible: outside in the teaching-machine’ (331). We emphasise hope as the locus of possibility, but one that at once needs to be interrogated and critiqued. Hope has been a grounding concept in radical pedagogies (Freire 2017 [1973]; bell hooks 1994, 2003, 2010), but so too does it take neoliberal forms. Our interest lies in the ways in which ‘hope’ has increasingly been taken up to query the university qua institution (Amsler 2016). Hope, seen as this place of epistemological incompleteness (Bloch 1996), might offer creative re-imaginings of pedagogy that are ‘not yet’ as part of a rethinking of the university. Specifically, our focus will be on ontological methods that honour experience and reflection, plurality and relationality (Escobar, 2018) through object-focused and emotion-based approaches.

Bio:  Rebecca Bell holds a PhD in Czech craft under Socialism from the Victoria and Albert Museum and Royal College of Art (RCA). Bell is Lecturer in Visual Culture at the University of the West of England (Bristol). For over a decade, she worked in contemporary art commissioning in the public realm, with Andy Goldsworthy, DACS, and Art on the Underground. She has taught at a range of institutions, including Middlesex University, UMPRUM Prague, The School of Life, and the RCA. Her research focuses on making practices under politically controlled conditions, craft methodologies, pastoral materialities and pedagogies of hope.

Bio: Ana Baeza Ruiz is a lecturer in visual arts and cultural heritage at the University of Bristol. She also holds a research position in the project Feminist Art Making Histories (FAMH) at Loughborough University, a digital humanities project that aims to bring to light ‘untold’ stories of feminist art across the UK and Ireland from the 1970s to the present day. As a teacher, she is interested in critical pedagogies and radical approaches to teaching across feminism and decoloniality. Previously, she has worked as Curator at the Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture (Middlesex University); researcher at the Victoria and Albert Museum (for the exhibition ‘Frida Kahlo’). Her research examines historical debates of cultural democratisation and contemporary participation and co-creation practices in public arts institutions.

Thursday July 14th: Day 2

Panels in B-Session – 10.50 – 12.20pm

B1: Round Table – Utopian Pedagogies: from Practice to Theory

Co-Chairs:  Laurence Davis and Tim Waterman. Participants: Jacqueline Dutton, Tim Waterman, Laurence Davis, Heather McKnight, Darren Webb, Siân Adiseshiah.

Much of the existing scholarship on utopian pedagogy is couched in theoretical or conceptual terms, offering little in the way of practical guidance to teachers and learners. In contrast, in this roundtable we begin with pedagogical practice, both in the classroom and outside it, and work outwards to theory. Our primary aim is to explore both the possibilities and challenges of enacting utopian pedagogies in conditions that militate against any such radical challenges to the status quo. In terms of format, the roundtable will commence with six ten-minute presentations intended to provoke critical reflection, followed by a facilitated dialogue. In line with our aim, we especially welcome and encourage responses in which roundtable attendees – present either physically or virtually – share examples of their own experiences in attempting to enact utopian pedagogies.

Paper Abstracts:

(1) Siân Adiseshiah (Loughborough University)

Siân will talk about her experiences of teaching two third-year undergraduate modules. She delivers ‘Better Worlds? Utopian and Dystopian Texts and Contexts’ to English students and ‘Class, Power and Performance on Stage and Screen’ to Drama students. She’ll reflect on some of the similarities and differences in these cohorts of students, and the implications of this reflection for a pedagogical practice. She’ll raise questions about the distinctive and different affordances of literary studies and theatre studies for a politicising (if not utopian) pedagogy.

(2) Tim Waterman (University College London) /Panel co-chair

Tim will speak about teaching two architecture theory seminars that address the moral imagination, the built environment, and design practices, each of which has been taught at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels. The first is ‘The Dialogic Imagination: Landship and Practices of Worlding’ and the second is called ‘Good Things: Ethical Sociality and Materiality in the Architectures’. Both encourage embedded thinking and utopian dreaming as part of radical practices rooted in dwelling and making.

(3) Laurence Davis (University College Cork) / Panel co-chair

Laurence will reflect on some of the radical influences that have shaped his pedagogy, including anarchist political philosophy and movement history, black feminism, post-colonial and indigenous perspectives, earth-based education, and utopian studies. He will focus on the ways in which these diverse but sometimes overlapping influences have guided one of his primary teaching objectives: namely, to catalyse critical questioning of social and political imaginaries and to encourage and enable his students to evaluate critically and imagine transformative alternatives to deeply entrenched structures of oppressive power.

(4) Heather McKnight (Magnetic Ideals Collective, Brighton)

Resistance movements on campus have the potential to be prefigurative pedagogical spaces. Trade unions and students’ unions provide a powerful resource for reimagining the university system beyond the neoliberal marketised system through joint-working in campaigns, strikes, protests and occupations. However, these unions are institutions set up for public good in a now marketised system. Joint working becomes risky and undesirable as staff and students are set against each other by management and popular media. I will briefly address the potentiality and limitations of prefigurative pedagogies in spaces of joint working, questioning to what extent these can be shared spaces of learning challenging the status quo, and to what extent they replicate existing power structures.

(5) Darren Webb (University of Sheffield)

Darren will talk about his experience of working with a group of thirty 13-15 year olds in Sheffield on a University-led project called Shaping Our World. Always keen to find ways of enacting the conceptual and theoretical stuff he writes about, Darren used the opportunity to explore what he has termed ‘educational archaeology’, the process of excavating submerged desires, longings, histories, memories, knowledges. Having problematised this process in his writings, Darren will offer thoughts and reflections stemming from his practical experience that will hopefully stimulate discussion.

(6) Jacqueline Dutton (University of Melbourne, via Zoom)

Jackie will share her experiences of teaching utopian thinking via the new foundation subject ‘Arts Discovery’ designed for 2500 Arts students in their first semester of study at the University of Melbourne. Propelled by the twin motors of object-based learning and inquiry-led learning, Arts Discovery asks students working in interdisciplinary project teams to imagine New Futures that consider indigeneity, sustainability, diversity & inclusion, and technology as key drivers for ‘real-world’ impact and social change.

B2: Panel – Technology, Language, Hope

Chair: Czigányik Zsolt. Participants: Elisa Fortunato, Heather Alberro, Andrew Bridges

Elise Fortunato. Beyond Ecological Trauma. Hope and Lot in Aldous Huxley’s Theory of Language.

Aldous Huxley was one of the most incisive and erudite writer of his time, know almost exclusively for his two utopias/dystopias: Brave New World (1932) and Island (1962). From 1932 to 1962 he was concerned with one fundamental question, the question his grandfather (the famous biologist T.H. Huxley) called “the question of questions for mankind”: what is the place “man occupies in nature […]. Whence our race has come; what the limits of our power over nature, and of nature’s power over us; to what goal are we tending?” (Deese, 2015). Following this path (which might be termed an ecological path), it is not surprising that Peter Mortensen entitled his essay on Huxley Tripping Back to Nature (2016) and Dana Sawyer in 2008 called him ‘environmental prophet’ In fact, long before Paul R. Ehrlich wrote The Population Bomb (1968), Huxley, in 1929, in the essay Do What You Will, had dealt with over-population and its relationship with global resources; before the publication of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring (1962), he gave a series of lectures at the University of Santa Barbara (1959) on the  risks of pollution and depletion of top-soils and as early as 1946 and 1949, in the essays Science, Liberty and Peace and The Double Crisis, he had called the attention to the oil crisis and had suggested the development of wind power and solar power (Sawyer, 2008). Half a century before our current concern for global warming he wrote the essay Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow in which he mentions the melting of glaciers (Deese, 2015).

This paper studies the link Aldous Huxley draws between these environmental issues, Western Weltanschauung and language. In particular, Huxley, through his own theory of language, points to a path beyond the ecological trauma the Man has caused. This paper focuses, in particular, on the four essays he devoted entirely to this theme: Words and Behaviour, 1939; Words and Their Meaning, 1940, On Language, 1959 and The Politics of Ecology. The Question of Survival, 1962. Through these essays Huxley develops his own theory of language forerunning the most recent studies in linguistics and psycholinguistics. In the first two essays, he starts from the idea that ‘words’, that is, language, mould the minds of its users (von Humboldt, 1836; Whorf, 1956) and, for this reason, it is a powerful instrument of the power politics. In the third and fourth essays, On Language and The Politics of Ecology, he traces a line between the language used by the power politics and the inadequate politics of ecology of his time and shows how to change our mindset and, in so doing, how to cure the ecological trauma we caused.

What he is outlining is a prescient theory in which human beings through language create narratives and, through narratives, are able to create what Atwood (2009) has evocatively called a “collective delusion”; thanks to this unique capacity, human beings are the only animals who could go beyond the trauma and choice to point toward action and even change the world they inhabit (Baccolini, 2004).

Bio: Elisa Fortunato is Associate Professor in English Literature at the University of Bari.  The main area of interest in her research is represented by the language of irony in XVIIIth  century and the rhetoric of history in XVIIIth and XIXth centuries.  She has published essays on classical sources of Gulliver’s Travels and a book in 2014 (Le tracce del marinaio. Note ai “Gulliver’s Travels” di Jonathan Swift) and on the relationship between history and fiction in the English XIXth century (Passato e Futuro. Saggi sulla storia di Thomas Carlyle, 2011; Dove duole il tempo. Note sullo stile di Thomas Carlyle, 2013). Since 2015 she is studying the relationship between translation and patronage during fascism (Le scelte del traduttore. I Viaggi di Gulliver e il Fascismo, 2015; Un Huxley italiano nel ventannio fascista, 2018; A strange-dispos’d time: “Julius Caesar” and Fascism, 2017). Recently her interests are shifting to ecocriticism and dystopian narratives (How to Escape a ‘Subhuman Lot’: Aldous Huxley’s ‘The Politics of Ecology – The Question of Survival’, 2019; L’uomo e il pianeta. Ecologia e democrazia in Aldous Huxley, 2020; Così lontano così vicino. Note a ‘Solar’ di Ian MacEwan, 2020).

Heather Alberro. H.G Wells, Earthly and Post-Terrestrial Futures.

H.G Wells- often dubbed the ‘father of science fiction- produced a wealth of works often evincing a prescient utopian imaginary and infused by an enthusiastic embrace of techno-scientific progress. Today, as the socio-ecological dislocations of the Capitalocene increase in spread and severity, Western notions of ‘progress’ are being fundamentally challenged. In this article I draw on critical-posthuman and green utopian tributaries in order to examine Wells’s depiction of human-nonhuman relations- and the role of technology as a mediator of the former- in a selection of his works, focusing specifically on his utopian novels A Modern Utopia (1905) and Men Like Gods (1923). I critically examine a palpable shift from a humble and cautious approach to human technological interventions in service of mastering ‘Nature’ in The Time Machine and The War of the Worlds, towards a hyper-optimistic embrace of human techno-scientific mastery over nature in Wells’s two utopian novels. I then reflect on the pertinence of Wells’s timely ruminations on the role of technology as a mediator of human-nature relations through a critical discussion of contemporary attempts by a global technochratic elite to mitigate Capitalocene socio-ecological breakdown via geoengineering and what I term ‘post-terrestrial escapism’. The latter can be seen in techno-capitalist billionaires’ attempts to colonise other planets, thereby extending the necropolitics of the present to distant times and places. Both constitute politically fatalistic attempts at evading ethical responsibility for ‘staying with the trouble’ of socio-ecological decline in the ‘here below’ and building more liveable worlds with our co-terrestrials in and after the ‘end’.

Keywords: H.G Wells, Capitalocene, Ethics, critical posthumanism, geoengineering, science fiction, utopia

Bio: Heather is a lecturer in global sustainable development at Nottingham Trent University, in the Department of History, Languages and Global Culture. Her background and interests span a range of disciplines including green utopianism, critical posthuman theory, environmental ethics, and literary ecocriticism. Her publications include the chapter ‘Interspecies’ in the The Cambridge Companion to Literature and the Anthropocene (2021) and ‘In and against eco-apocalypse: On the terrestrial ecotopianism of radical environmental activists’ (2021) in the journal Utopian Studies. Heather also serves as co-convenor for the Political Studies Association’s (PSA) environmental politics specialist group and writes frequently for The Conversation UK.

Andrew Bridges. A Secular Theology Emerging from Walden Pond: Groundwork for Contemporary Hope in the Technological Singularity.

In this paper I explore the religious imaginary presented in the works Walden, Walden Two and Walden Three (the Walden Trilogy) that relate both to aspects of hope and aspects of technological achievement.   I examine how the concepts of freedom, love, and apotheosis are developed in the works of Walden, Walden Two, and Walden Three, respectively.  I focus on how the latter two works draw upon the work of the former author(s) in developing and prioritizing these three concepts.  My thesis is that there is a progression within the works—even though they were written by three different authors and written generations apart—from Thoreau’s focus on freedom and self, to Skinner’s negation of freedom through a focus on love (which he defines as positive reinforcement) and focus on intentional communities, to Catran’s negation of the human potential for effective positive reinforcement without the aid of technology, and his focus on apotheosis via technology (extra-homuncular intelligence) within the global context.  This progression from freedom, to love, to godhood (via technological achievement), provides a unique view of human nature and of human potentiality—one I find is best understood as a secular theology.  Lastly this paper explores to what extent such understanding of human nature and human potentiality in this trilogy can provide a groundwork for hope in the possibility of the coming technological singularity and with it the possibility of the transformation of society into utopia or dystopia.

Bio: Andrew Bridges holds the Bhagwan Shantinath Lectureship at California State University, Fullerton where he teaches courses in Religious Studies and Philosophy.  His research interests include comparative epistemology and utopian studies.  He is the author of the book On the Arbitrary Nature of Things: An Agnostic Reading of Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit.

B3: Workshop – Debating Humour in Utopia

Facilitators: ​​ Christopher Olk, University Roma Tre and Tatjana Söding, Lund University 

Whilst the connection between humour and utopian thinking and acting seems to be understudied, an intrinsic link between the two exists. According to incongruity theory (see Raskin 2008; Hietalahti 2020), something appears as humorous when it occurs in contradiction to the norm of a particular expectation or setting. This resembles the character of utopian thought, which expresses a deviation from the status quo. Further, humour is based upon and fosters the flexibility of the human mind (Hietalathi 2020). If we were to stick to the exact meaning of things, paradoxes implied by puns might not be understood. Humour, like utopian thought, trains our understanding of paradoxes and of the circumstances out of which they arrive. Third, humour is always relational: just as something is not objectively funny but can only be evaluated as such by another person, humor and laughter are not valuable in and of themselves but need to be judged in relation to morality (Hietalathi 2020). Commonly, relational ontologies lie at the core of much utopian thinking and stand up against ontologies of objectivity and epistemologies of rationality and individualism, which dominate the status quo. Fourth, this relational character makes humour, much like utopia, a fluid phenomenon: both are product of their time, the social context within which they occur, and change over time as well as across groups. It follows that humour, just like utopia, might be used as a method to expand our political imagination.

Generally, in the small body of literature that examines the relationship between humour and utopia, humour is understood as an umbrella term uniting different acts that ‘excite amusement,’ such as ridicule, satire, irony and witticism (Pineas, 1961).  The relationship between humour and utopia comes with three dimensions: emancipation, construction, and devaluation. Humour can be understood as emancipatory, when it enables subalterns to “resist the impositions of hierarchical society” (Novao Cipriani, 2019). It can serve to foster relations, build community and help to unveil systems of oppression not as naturally given but as socially constructed, thereby opening up room for utopian thought and action. In these ways, humour can not only be emancipatory, but even serve to construct utopia. Additionally, placing fun, laughter, and play at the centre of utopia can make utopian projects more appealing to a broader public. Humour can be a vehicle for spreading abstract ideas about utopia in an accessible way whilst making criticism of systems of oppression more digestible and relatable. In building utopia, humour pushes for constant reconsideration of the status quo, thereby allowing utopian projects to not resemble a static status quo but rather an active act of constant questioning and building. As humour is often an expression of power relations, it serves as a useful lens to question power structures, both in our current time and along the way of constructing utopia. Humour requires vulnerability, bravery, flexibility of thought, creativity, and playfulness – _characteristics which lie at the core of much utopian outlines.

 Humour and the freedom of speech have, alas, predominantly been politicized by right-wingers. Humour has often been coopted by the radical right and is often thought of as diametrically opposite to political correctness. This is because of the inherent characteristic of right-wing speech, wherein an Other is defined, demarcations are made, subalterns are spoken down upon, dehumanized, or weaponized. In this way, humour can serve to stabilize a status quo of oppression, build in-groups which discriminate an Other, and are often placed in a contradictory relationship with emancipatory politically correct speech. Likewise, cynical humor can be a sign of knowledge about oppressive circumstance but a loss in hope in the alteration thereof. In-jokes that require a certain knowledge to be understood can hamper the accessibility of knowledge and thus take on an exclusionary function. It is in all these ways that humour, besides its emancipatory and constructive power, is also a devaluating and destructive tool.

Thomas More’s Utopia has previously been analysed as a piece of writing that utilized humour and satire as a tool of controversy and conviction (Pineas, 1961). Critics hold, however, that More’s Utopia describes a “boring and humorless [sic!] place”, wherein security has been exchanged for the freedom of ridicule (Grner, 1997 in Hietalahti, 2020). Jack Halberstam’s ‘The Queer Art of Failure’ can be understood as a humorous text, wherein failure is no longer understood as something negative but encouraged, thereby leading to situations which are in a paradoxical relationship with the norm and therefore both tragical and hilarious. Fiction, a popular vehicle for utopian ideas, can be understood as utilizing what incongruency theory describes as deviations from the status quo. It makes us of exacerbation, ridicule, and humour in outlining a world that is different from ours.

As much as utopia is often held as a method of political imagination, humor can too be used as such a method. In a workshop in a scholarly-activist setting, we seek to understand the ways in which humour can or cannot be such a tool of political imagination further.

 Operational Considerations

Throughout the course of this co-creative discussion, we seek to gain a deeper understanding of the relationship between humor and utopia. We propose a typology to map different kinds of humorist expressions in their relationship to utopia and their ability to catalyze hope for utopian futures and places.

A. Ridicule and devaluation        


C. Cynicism

 a. Destructive (separationist creation of in-groups, sign of disillusion)

 b. Constructive (productive creation of in-groups, healthy distance from     oppressing realities, thereby opening space for action, accessible and light discursive reproduction of knowledge)

    D. Affirmative Laughter (opening space by ridiculing oppressive circumstances that are currently not understood as contradictory with utopian thought, building relations).

   E. Play (a variant of humour in utopia, which is non-discriminatory; as humour is based on a   contradiction with reality and utopian realities cannot be foreseen yet, play seems to be a  more adequate expression of fun in utopia)

This typology as well as participant’s endorsement or criticism towards it shall be explored by means of case studies.  We are currently working on a cookbook that uses humour and play to make academic thought on dystopias, the current status quo of various oppressive structure, and utopian ideas more accessible, spread tools of activist mobilization and spark creativity in thinking of and moving towards utopia. We would like to present several examples of the use of humour within this project and discuss the advantages and disadvantages of putting humour in relationship with utopia with the participants. As we place value on mutual learning and co-creativity, we would like to encourage participants to bring with them their own case studies to investigate the relationship between humor, utopia, and hope, may that be pieces of art, literature, satire, or beyond.

Preferably, this debate could be set in a timeframe of 90 minutes, but a lesser amount of time is also deemed suitable. The results of this workshop will be threefold: to arrive at a deeper understanding of the relationship between humor, utopia, and hope by incorporating different standpoints of participants; to allow participants to consider the usage of humour in their own work on utopia, and to generate research questions for a further investigation into this relationship. The outcomes of the debate will be documented and circulated amongst all participants.

Bios: Tatjana is a human ecologist and member of the international research group the Zetkin Collective. She researches far right environmentalism, climate denialism and the defence of fossil capitalism and is interested in energy politics and queer ecology. She is an active member of the German environmental movement and holds degrees from University College Maastricht and Lund University.  Christopher is a pluralist economic and studies at University Tre in Rome. Together with Andreas Malm, Tatjana is a member of the Zetkin Collective. Christopher and Tatjana are both socio-ecological thinkers and together are working to establish an institute in Berlin to generate metaphors of economic thinking for an anti-capitalist, socio-ecologically just, queer, and just, all in all better future.

B4: Panel: Hope’s Strange Places

Chair: Marta Olivi. Participants: Katie Stone, Manuel Sousa Oliveira, Beniamin Kłaniecki.

Katie Stone. Hungering for Utopia: Rejecting Deprivation in Nalo Hopkinson’s Skin Folk (2001)

The organisers of this conference have stated that “there needs to be something fierce in any attachment to utopian thinking in these times”. For me, this fierceness lies in the connection between hope and hunger. While hope is frequently co-opted – merging into complacent optimism detached from struggle – hunger remains rooted in a desperate need for transformation. In this paper I will build on the work of the utopian philosopher Ernst Bloch, who defines hunger as “the rejection of deprivation” (The Philosophy of Hope). As Bloch argues, it is only by grounding the dreams of the hopeful in the immediate need for material assistance experienced by the hungry that a concrete utopianism becomes possible. Hunger, thus understood, brings together utopianism’s refusal of the conditions of the present with the desire for something more. It is this definition of hunger that I seek to develop – one which is attuned to the urgency of physical hunger while simultaneously insisting on the fact that, as Bloch puts it, “one does not live by bread alone, especially when one has none” (Heritage of Our Times).

I will use a selection of texts drawn from Nalo Hopkinson’s short story collection Skin Folk (2001) to structure my analysis of hunger. These are stories of starving monsters, vampiric hungers, and culinary ingenuity in the face of poverty. By focusing on hunger I mean to show that they are also utopian stories – stories which lay bare the artificial emptiness of ‘these times’ while insisting that there are already many delicious possibilities in the present for those hungry enough to find them.

Bio: Katie Stone is a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Roehampton. She received her PhD from Birkbeck, University of London in 2021 and is in the process of adapting her thesis into a book on childhood, utopianism and science fiction. Katie has published work on vampirism in Utopian Studies, on trans science fiction in Foundation, and on time travel in Fantastika. She is a founding member of the Beyond Gender research collective.

Manuel Sousa Oliveira. “Going Westward to the Sunrise”: The Utopian Potential of Loss

Hope for the future may be one of the defining features of Utopian Studies today. Yet, interdisciplinary research suggests that hope is only one component in a larger configuration of affect that may lead to action, which includes good as well as bad feelings. This paper builds on such suggestions to ask whether bad feelings may be desirable ones for Utopia. Specific focus will be on whether there is a productive potential to those feelings associated with loss. For such, it will draw on a number of contemporary works of the utopian imagination which seem to insist that loss precedes (and sometimes supersedes) hope in the construction of Utopia. First, utopian narratives by Kim Stanley Robinson and Margaret Atwood represent the affective consequences that environmental damage has on characters. In such narratives, the emotional impact of acute events such as extreme weather or mass extinction seem to animate characters to act. The hope that they will succeed is supplemental rather than antithetical to the losses they experience. Second, narratives by Ursula K. Le Guin and Michael Schur represent the insufficiency of hope for a better future when one is confronted with eschatological matters. They suggest that an appreciation of finitude (beyond hope) may motivate empathy in and for the present. Ultimately, this paper will consider how loss is represented in the utopian imaginary as a potential moment of production, and consequentially how one is led to ask how these narratives challenge the import given to hope and futurity as defining features of utopianism.

Bio: Manuel Sousa Oliveira is a PhD candidate at the University of Porto, and a Doctoral Research Fellow at the “Mapping Utopianisms” research area of the Centre for English, Translation, and Anglo-Portuguese Studies (CETAPS) with funding by the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT) (ref. UI/BD/151368/2021). His doctoral project is a comparative study of Ursula K. Le Guin’s and Margaret Atwood’s literary utopias with a focus on ethics. Recently, he earned his MA degree in Anglo-American Studies from the same institution with a dissertation on Paul Auster. In 2018, he collaborated with the ALIMENTOPIA – Utopian Foodways research project as a trainee. He is currently the international spokesperson for the Emerging Scholars’ Forum of the Association for Canadian Studies in German-Speaking Countries (GKS) and the coordinator of the new International Network of Emerging Scholars in Canadian Studies. He received two research grants from Porto’s Portuguese British Association (ALBdoP), both in 2019, and two Margaret Atwood Society Awards, most recently in 2021.

Beniamin Kłaniecki.Queering death and utopias of hope: Roy in conversation with Emezi.

This paper considers the notion of queer utopianism in a comparative reading of Indian author Arundhati Roy’s The Ministry of Utmost Happiness (2017) and Nigerian author Akwaeke Emezi’s The Death of Vivek Oji (2020). However geographically distant, the novels exhibit similarities in their exploration of queer existence and resistance to death, and they both share the same hope-building objective; in addition, the two narratively intersect, as Roy deals with India at its heart–in Delhi, Emezi tackles diasporic Indianness through their protagonist Vivek’s Nigerian-Indian origin. However, what indeed engages these novels in a fruitful dialogue is their treatment of violence: how violence assists social marginalization and erasure of queerness, but also how it can be countered by a queer axiological reevaluation of life and death, individualism and collectivism. As such, this reading drawsinspiration from the biopolitical and queer scholarship of Agamben, Butler, Sedgwick, Berlant, Muñoz and Halberstam. Furthermore, it argues that Roy and Emezi both recognize a burning need for hope and affection in the contemporary world; however, they address it somewhat differently. While Roy translates the queer corporeality of her hijra protagonist–Anjum–into a utopia of hope, giving shelter to otherwise marginalized bare lives of India, Emezi individualizes the axiological overturn of the life-and-death hierarchy to one character–Vivek, whose queer existence narratively transgresses the commonsensical understanding of dying. Though through different means, both Roy and Emezi join the project of imagining deathdefying utopias of queer affection in India and Nigeria by giving it much-needed literary credibility.

Bio: Beniamin Kłaniecki (he/him) is an assistant professor of English at the Faculty of English, Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań, Poland, where he teaches British and postcolonial literatures. His current areas of interest include masculinity and queer studies, and their application to the study of contemporary Nigerian and Indian literatures in English. His earlier scholarship examined Bruce Chatwin’s contribution to écriture homosexuelle. He has published in edited collections and journals, including Journal of Postcolonial Writing.

B5: Panel – Values of Hope

Chair: Martin Greenwood. Participants: Anitra Nelson, Terry Leahy, Dario Altobelli

Anitra Nelson. A Political Economy of Hope

John Holloway concludes his foreword to the recently published Beyond Money: A Postcapitalist Strategy (2022): ‘I hope that this book … will put the abolition of money where it belongs, at the centre of radical, rebellious hope.’ This presentation will argue that a political economy of hope for the future requires going beyond production for trade, markets and money. Money is the hub of markets, the central dynamic of capitalism. These structures have appropriated our capacity to co-govern on the basis of social and ecological values and principles. Yet, to address the two great challenges of our time — social inequities and ecological unsustainability — we need, say, a glocal community mode of production based on ‘real values’ (social and ecological values) and production on demand oriented around basic needs of both people and planet. In other words, we would create open local economies fulfilling collective sufficiency but networked across the globe. Certain practical and political models working in this direction include solidarity, mutual aid and sharing initiatives, intentional no-barter/no-exchange communities in Germany, and structures of Zapatista and Rojava communities. Moreover, the presentation offers historical anchors in various anarcho-communist, ecofeminist and nonmarket socialist utopian currents in order to engage in radical utopian thinking and revolutionary praxis.

Bio: Anitra Nelson is an activist-scholar, an Honorary Principal Fellow affiliated with the Informal Urbanism Research Hub at Melbourne School of Design University of Melbourne (Australia). Her research interests as a transdisciplinary social scientist centre on ecological sustainability, degrowth, real valuism, non-monetary economies and eco-collaborative communities. Recent works include Beyond Money: A Postcapitalist Strategy (2022) and Food for Degrowth: Perspectives and Practices (co-editor, Hardcover 2020, Paperback 2022). See more —

Terry Leahy. The Community Mode of Production and Real Valuism: Concepts and Strategies

In her recent book ‘Beyond Money: A Postcapitalist Strategy’, Anitra Nelson advocates a postcapitalist utopia — an economic order in which money (and its proposed alternatives) are absent. Instead, the economy is based on ‘real valuism’. This implies a conceptual field with three elements. First, an ethical standpoint, the raison d’etre of the utopia. Second, a strategy for running an economy and polity through the mechanism of real values. Third,  the economy and polity (this utopia) named as ‘the community mode of production’. I will interpret and elaborate all three of these conceptual elements. For example, what is the philosophy of ethics implied by real valuism? What practical measures are required to make decisions based on real values? Why call this ‘the community mode of production’ rather than using another term — the gift economy, non-market socialism, an economy of the commons, even anarchism or communism? A second issue is what action in the present is implied by this utopian goal? In a first category, as emphasized in the book itself, are strategies that prefigure the community mode of production by making decisions based on real values and avoiding the use of money – forms of direct action, immediatism or autonomous zones. In a second category are attempts to make use of the current monetary environment while also working towards real values — compromises such as workers’ cooperatives, community supported agriculture, NGO aid work. A third category is the revolution itself. How likely is this in the present context of capitalist power and military dominance?


Dario Altobelli. “The fatherland is and must be not the country of its fathers, but the country of its children”. Hope and responsibility in a twilight world.

Although the “principle of hope” of Ernst Bloch (1959) and the “principle of responsibility” of Hans Jonas (1979) have been understood as opposed in their original theoretical configuration by the same authors and by critics, in the present epoch, having overcome the impasse constituted by the philosophical-political paradigm of Marxism which compromised its possible theoretical reconciliation, it is necessary to recall them in a different and original critical synthesis to take them as precious tools to guide theory and practice in a world precipitated into a profound crisis.

In their minimal meaning, according to Bloch, the “principle of hope” indicates the tension, the dream, the aspiration to a better life for oneself and for all that the tradition of utopian thought and action have interpreted in multiple forms and expressions, but which is found in many other manifestations of human vitality. The “principle of responsibility”, according to Jonas, instead constitutes a cardinal orientation in the present, finalizing every moment lived and every decision to its possible outcome in the near and distant future.

Both principles can now be evoked to put a stop to technocratic and technoscientific drifts everywhere in place according to the attested paradigms of the “global society of risk” (Beck, 1986, 2000), of “post-democracy” (Crouch, 2000) and of “state of exception” (Agamben, 2018, 2020), manifested with unusual violence first with the global management of the pandemic and now with international policies around the Russian-Ukrainian war. The desire for a better world must be declined, with respect to these scenarios, in a continuous action, collectively participated, whose outcome is constitutively decentralized in the future, in the children and in future generations.

The paraphrase of the famous expression by Alexander Herzen taken up by Max Weber (1917), in the title of the intervention, indicates in this sense the obscurity of the present time, where the very future of the younger and next generations is mortgaged in today’s decisions; but it also constitutes a warning, to be accepted without reserve, so that every possible form of resistance to the processes of transformation of the world into a realized dystopia, gloomy realization of the “principle of despair” by Günther Anders (1956, 1980), easily recognizable in the profile of an authoritarian global government and a nuclear catastrophe, is enacted in the now (Benjamin, 1942).

Bio: Dario Altobelli, PhD| Researcher TD-B – General Sociology

Department of Legal and Social Sciences | University “G. d’Annunzio” – Chieti-Pescara – Italy

B6: The Uses of Hope

Chair: Ville Louekari. Presenters: Richard Hull, Divya Singh, Ross Sparkes.

Richard Hull. Hope is great but don’t forget the Backlash: How do we do Defence & Security in Utopian ways?

“Keep your mind in hell and despair not”

(Silouan, 1866-1938, quoted in Rose, 1997, frontispiece).

Utopian writing and practice rarely acknowledge the possibility that there may be considerable forces ranged against any utopian project (work on Jewish utopias is one exception). And yet many folk who built alternative projects had terrible experiences of backlash and revenge – just ask the descendants of the Black business-owners of Tulsa, Oklahoma, whose ‘Black Wall Street’ was deliberately burned to the ground in 1921. This paper commences with an understanding of capitalism as fundamentally founded upon deep and abiding antagonisms resulting from settler-colonialism. If we are to seriously try to build alternatives in the manner of Erik Olin Wright’s ‘Interstitial’ transformation, then we need also to acknowledge that there are many people who will do their utmost to dismantle or destroy those alternatives, so we need to think about how defend them. The paper will draw upon studies of resistance by Howard Caygill and Jacqueline Rose in order to critically explore nonviolent forms of defence and resistance, such as the various suggestions for alternatives traditional policing emerging from the ‘abolish the police’ movements in the USA; and the practice of ‘sumud’ in the occupied territories of Palestine. In addition, we will discuss those examples, such as in Rojava, where nonviolence seems impossible.

Bio: Richard Hull came out of early retirement to become Lecturer and Programme Director of the MA in Social Entrepreneurship at Goldsmiths, University of London. He explores social and sustainable enterprise and other emerging alternative ways of organising and coordinating economic activity, and is very glad to no longer be working in a Business School.

Divya Singh. Educating Resistance: Hope in Dalit Theory

This paper seeks to study Dalit theoretical writings within a framework of hope as it has been conceptualised within Utopia Studies by scholars such as Ernst Bloch in his The Principle of Hope and Ruth Levitas in her essay “The Necessity of Utopia”. Dalit theoretical writings have usually been studied within a political context that focuses on their articulation of anti-caste politics through their analysis of caste hierarchies. This paper intervenes in Dalit Studies to bring in the additional concept of hope to look at this body of work. Bloch’s idea of the education of hope and Levitas’ conceptualisation of hope as being directed towards a political programme are useful to look at Dalit theory which has a specific visionary focus and articulates alternatives to the existent structure. This paper seeks argue that these Dalit theorisations engage in a process of the education of hope through locating sources of hope in anti-caste resistance and presenting their analysis as emerging from and rooted in these sources of hope. Through a study of Dalit theoretical writings such as Gopal Guru’s “Dalit Women Talk Differently,” Omvedt’s “Labouring Intellectuals,” and Anand Teltumbde’s “Greatest Threat to Internal Security,” this paper will trace the emergence of this idea of hope as these texts lay out the scope and focus of Dalit resistance.

Bio: Divya Singh is a PhD scholar in the Humanities and Social Sciences Department of Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur. She was awarded her Bachelors and Masters in English Literature from Miranda House, University of Delhi. Her PhD research focuses on the intersection between Dalit Literature and Utopian Studies, while her larger research interests include Feminist Theory and Resistance Literatures.

Ross Sparkes. Turned out of Paradise: Cruel Optimism and Utopias of Abundance

Capitalism seduces with the promise of a utopia of future abundance. But instead of generalised abundance, capitalism delivers in its place overproduction and surplus populations. Nonetheless, we remain attached to the prospect that material abundance will set us free. As Deirdre McCloskey puts it, ‘we can have by the year 2100 another Eden.’ This is, then, a utopia always deferred to a distant future. A future which affirms the necessity of the present. This paper aims to investigate this form of ‘cruel optimism,’ to borrow Lauren Berlant’s formulation, wherein the promise of a future abundance becomes an obstacle to human flourishing, by exploring contemporary concerns around automation, surplus populations and the moving contradiction of capital. The positing of “generalised scarcity,” integral to capitalist ideology, forms the foundation for the emergence of this cruel optimism. If scarcity is the problem, then material abundance is the solution. I aim to show how the idea of “generalised scarcity” is common not only to capitalism’s most fierce proponents but even among some of its most vociferous critics, from Jean-Paul Sartre to G.A. Cohen to the left-wing automation theorists of today. In viewing abundance as, in Aaron Benanav’s words, ‘a technological threshold to be crossed’, the hopes of emancipation remain too attached to the current logic of accumulation for accumulation’s sake. Following Benanav, and other theorists such as Martin Hägglund and Kate Soper, I explore the need to reconceptualise abundance for a utopianism that does not re-affirm the present.

Bio: I am a postgraduate researcher at the University of Brighton researching Marxian critiques of work. I have a BA in Philosophy, Politics, and Ethics (University of Brighton) and an MA in Philosophy and Contemporary Critical Theory (Kingston University). My main interests include Marxism, Critical Theory, German Idealism, Eco-Socialism, and Psychoanalysis. I am interested in utopianism because I am, in the words of Ismene in Antigone, “in love with the impossible”.

Thursday July 14th: Day 2

Panels in C-Session – 1.20-2.50pm

C1: Panel – Feminist Speculations (remote panel)

Chair: Inna Sukhenko. Participants: Chiara Xausa, Valentina Romanzi, Tânia Cerqueira

Chiara Xausa. The Radical Imagination of Feminist Environmental Humanities: Interweaving Theory and Speculative Fiction

My presentation will attempt to entangle the visionary, creative, and militant capacity of feminist environmental humanities to shape sustainable futures with the active contribution of feminist speculative fiction to the conceptual debate about the climate crisis. To put it otherwise, it will explore the intra-actions (Barad 2007) between the radical imagination and the theoretical intervention provided by feminist theories on the environment on the one hand and by feminist speculative fiction on the other. As an example, I will propose a reading of Lagoon, published in 2014 by the award-winning author of African-based science fiction, Nnedi Okorafor. The novel particularly focuses on the representation of the tragic impact of

oil culture on Nigerian communities and marine ecosystems, on the consequences of neocolonial developmentalism, and on multiple sites of othering (resulting from gender, racial, and species differences) that intersect with one another. I will read the novel in dialogue with feminist and queer theories on the environment (see, among others, Barad 2007, Haraway 2016, Luciano and Chen 2015), arguing that Lagoon explores the possibility of a rupture with fossil capitalism but also with human exceptionalism, structures of othering, and mutually reinforcing dualisms that prevent us from acknowledging the interdependent agency of humans and nature. What I consider to be the most visionary contribution of this text is indeed its feminist attempt to shape alternative sustainable futures that diverge from dominant narratives of power and privilege: a visionary dream that feminist speculative fiction shares with feminist ecologies – such as ecofeminism(s), intersectional ecocritical feminism and feminist new materialism – and queer ecologies. Rather than using the postapocalyptic genre merely to warn, look back, and mourn the lost past, Okorafor proposes a feminist counterapocalypse that generate new possibilities for humans and non-humans alike.

Bio: Chiara Xausa is a research fellow in English literature at the University of Bologna (Department of Interpreting and Translation), working on young adult dystopian fiction about climate change. She is currently completing her PhD with a thesis on feminist environmental humanities and dystopian Anthropocene narratives. She has also been a visiting PhD fellow

at Bath Spa University – Research Centre for the Environmental Humanities (2020), and a visiting student at the University of Warwick (2014-2015). She earned an MA in Women’s and Gender Studies from the University of Bologna and the University of Utrecht (2018), and a MA in Modern Philology from the University of Padua (2016). Her publications include

articles on Alexis Wright, Cherie Dimaline, Jesmyn Ward, climate fiction and feminist environmental humanities.

Valentina Romanzi. “Faint Hopes Are Better Than None.” Mapping Hope in Margaret Atwood’s Gileadean Novels.

When Margaret Atwood published The Handmaid’s Tale in 1985, she condensed in it the anguish of a generation, as she answered a (terrifyingly plausible) “what if?” question that resonated with the readers of the time. Her novel has remained a staple of dystopian literature for almost forty years and its message and mood have been preserved as a memento of the fears of the Eighties, crystallized in a glum narrative that whispers of dim, resigned hope. For the better part of the four decades separating us from the time of The Handmaid’s Tale, Atwood let the novel speak to different generations but felt no need to return to it herself. Her decision to publish a sequel in 2019, then, is symptomatic of a social and personal shift that demands attention. The Testaments reads as a much different novel from its prequel. What has changed so radically, I purport, is Atwood’s approach to hope. Whereas in The Handmaid’s Tale one must actively search for it, sifting through words, thoughts, and descriptions that all seem to hint at a loss of hope, in The Testaments it exudes from every page, becoming the radical driver of change. In my talk, I set out to investigate passive and active hope in the two novels, focusing first on the diegetic level and then on their social outreach, aiming at showing how their rootedness in two (not so) different decades influences Atwood’s use of and reliance on hope.

Bio: Valentina Romanzi is Adjunct Professor of English literature at Ca’ Foscari University of Venice and of English at the University of Verona. She holds a PhD in Transcultural Studies in the Humanities from the University of Bergamo. She specializes in contemporary popular culture, focusing on utopia, dystopia, speculative fiction, and post-apocalyptic fiction. In 2021, she published Contaminazioni. Un approccio interdisciplinare, with Alessandro Secomandi and Danilo Serra. Her latest book, American Nightmares: Dystopia in Twenty-First-Century US Fiction, is forthcoming for Peter Lang. She is an editor at Iperstoria – Journal of American and English Studies.

Tânia Cerqueira.  “If I let myself hope…”: Memory and Hope in Donna Barba Higuera’s The Last Cuentista.

In Donna Barba Higuera’s The Last Cuentista (2021), a middle-grade novel featuring archetypal science fiction and dystopia tropes, scientists and their children are chosen to travel to another planet, Sagan, to rebuild humanity after it is discovered a comet is bound to collide with the Earth. Petra, a twelve-year-old girl who dreams of becoming a storyteller, is among them. When she wakes to this new planet, after hundreds of years in hypersleep, she discovers she is the only one who remembers Earth. While everyone was asleep, a new order, the Collective, took over the ship, bent on erasing the sins of humanity’s past. They have systematically purged the memories of all aboard – or purged them altogether if erasing the memories did not work. Petra, whose memory has not been obliterated, carries within her the stories of humanity’s past and, with them, any hope for building a new future. In this paper, it is my intention to explore the connection between memory and hope in The Last Cuentista. In other to do so, I will make use of Carter F. Hanson’s considerations on memory in utopian and dystopian literature(Memory and Utopian Agency in Utopian/Dystopian Literature Memory of the Future [2020]) and will explore, among others, the concept of individual and of collective memory, and critical dystopia.

Keywords: Dystopia, children’s fiction, memory, critical dystopia

Bio: Tânia Cerqueira holds a Master’s degree in Anglo-American Studies from the Faculty of Arts and Humanities of the University of Porto. She obtained it with a dissertation titled “‘Are you afraid of your own shadow?’: The Monster and the Construction of Identity in Monsters of Verity”. She is currently a PhD candidate at the same university and has been granted an FCT research studentship [Ref. 2021.04547.BD]. Her thesis’s main focus is the relationship between the Gothic tradition and young adult dystopias. She is a collaborator at the Centre for English, Translation, and Anglo-Portuguese Studies (CETAPS) and a Young Adult Studies Association member. Her main research interests include young adult fiction, dystopia, monstrosity, Gothic, and posthumanism.

C2: Panel – Gothic Marxism and the Reopening of the Possible, Gothic Marxism and the Hope in Horror (hybrid panel)

Chair: Megen de Bruin-Molé Participants: Frank R. Lopes, Jonathan Greenaway, Kyle Kern.

Panel Proposal: What does Gothic Marxism have to offer utopianism? This panel presents three ways into thinking through this idea, drawing off history, horror and speculative literature. While noteworthy for using imaginative and irrational genealogies to offer sharp scrutiny in the strongest of terms toward capitalist hegemony, Gothic Marxism grants utopian thinking a new genealogy of hope via literary presentations of monstrosity, spectrality, and violence. If the Gothic has offered Marxism new conceptual means through which to bring the 20th century into view, this panel further explicates these ideas for our current moment and those after.

Jonathan Greenaway: Utopianism has many unexpected forms of presenting itself, even in a classic example as Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Dispossessed, to add the outlook of Gothic Marxism allows us to expand on the horrors of capital via the Spectrality at play. When the main character of Shevek leaves his homeworld of Anarres to disappear as they were, in this new, hellish yet gleaming world of Urras. When he encounters the oppressed underclasses, ghosts that he knew but had not yet seen, there is a shock of specters of the past, the present, and the future. How is this connection of different times engaged by the novel both in its physics and the history it developed allows us to understand Utopianism? What Gothic Marxism offers us is the possibility to, amidst exploitation and domination, in the encounter of these ghosts of different historical times, a glimpse, a creation of utopian thinking. New horizons are outlined in multiple places in the novel. From Shevek’s encounter with the A-Io labor movement to his conversation with the Hainish man Ketho, specters of the past serve as reason for action, for hoping and for struggling. As such, by bringing together the scholarship on The Dispossessed and Gothic Marxism we hope to envision the light through the horrors, tempered by these specters of different times in History, as examples to our own reality. So we can then ask, what ghosts should we look for when building anew, what Histories do we need to build and discover, in order to build a better world for the future and, especially, the present. 

Frank R. Lopes: Horror might seem antithetical to the idea of Utopia, but this presentation seeks to make a counterintuitive argument for horror not simply as an engagement with the nightmare of the present but as redolent with the possibility of a human consciousness and social being beyond the seemingly inescapable nightmare of capitalist modernity. Drawing off two contemporary pieces of trans horror (Alison Rumfitt’s Tell Me I’m Worthless and Gretchen Felkner-Martin’s Manhunt) this paper explores the ways in which horror functions as contemporary allegory, literalising the nightmares of the present and allowing for a creative and imaginative engagement with its overcoming. In Tell Me I’m Worthless the horror of contemporary British transphobia is made viscerally real, a haunting and inescapable presence that links to the passive and pervasive fascism rife in the miasma of present day perfidious Albion. Yet, as the novel shows, trans courage and erotic love can indeed be revolutionary and those who have been made monstrous by the haunted fascist politics of Britain can triumph. In contrast, Manhunt sees the nightmare of contemporary transphobia as a violent apocalypse, in which bodies are made and remade through force and endocrinological struggle. For the survivors of the viral plague that brought around the world’s end, they are forced to confront often terrifying levels of bodily harm, but this also allows for both bodily transformation, a kind of monstrous-becoming, and the chance for Utopian social relations — a space in which those who have been most excluded might find the chance to walk upright for the first time (as Ernst Bloch would put it). 

Kyle Kern: This presentation posits a form of utopian thinking via emotionally stirring and counterintuitive evocations of violent and disabling encounters with capitalist production. The life and work of Harry Crews correctly and provocatively affirms the necessity of confrontation with capitalism’s generative violence and transhistorical hegemony. In The Gospel Singer, Crews reignites utopian thinking as a prismatic construction of class experiences to, paraphrasing Theodor Adorno, see the world as it will appear on judgment day.  Rendered in relevant social language (inspired greatly by Crews’ personal biography) and absent fundamentalist vulgarities, the fictionalized religious revivalism of The Gospel Singer utilizes the class experience of the rural poor to reignite utopian thinking honestly and uncomfortably. When explicitly oriented toward redemption and salvation for those deemed most monstrous, utopia emerges as an (un)holy declaration against the current state of things, a meaningful confrontation with the world’s original sins so we might become right in a society gone wrong. The descriptive power, useful conventions, and missional language of Crews’ big-top revival remains illustrative and powerfully descriptive of the bodily and psychic violence of proletarian subjectivity, with various states of marginalization and physical abnormality cohering into a prismatic assemblage of historical experiences and social necessities. Experience is rendered not in affirmation of the prevailing impartial, deistic social forces of capitalist realist thinking, but of a trans-historical revolutionary drive toward the reopening of the future, should we find the eyes to see it.

Bio: Dr Jonathan Greenaway is currently the researcher in theology and horror at the University of Chester. (UK) He is the author of Theology, Horror, Fiction: A Reading of the Gothic Nineteenth Century (Bloomsbury 2021), the co-editor of Religion and Horror (UWP, 2019) and the author of the forthcoming book, Capitalism: A Horror Story (Repeater Books). He is also the co-host of Horror Vanguard, a podcast on horror movies and radical theory. His research focuses on horror in all its forms, theory (particularly the work of Fredric Jameson and Ernst Bloch) and Marxist approaches to contemporary cultur

Bio: Frank R. Lopes is a Master’s student in the Social History program of the University of São Paulo (USP). He holds a Bachelor’s degree in History from the University of São Paulo (USP). He is also a member of the research group History and Literature, based in the Department of History of University of São Paulo, since 2020. His current research interests are in Science Fiction, Utopian Fiction and the work of Ursula K. Le Guin.

Bio: Kyle Kern is an independent historian and lecturer from Boston, Massachusetts. His research and writing interests include historical materialism, memory, and the philosophy of history. Kyle’s forthcoming debut (Repeater Books) utilizes a patchwork of personal narrative, archival research, and psychoanalytic Marxism to explore modern US labor history, theorize the production of historical consciousness, and hopefully inspire new planes of reflections on the revolutionary potential of working class history.

C3: Roundtable – Reimagining Queer Utopias: Voices from South Asia.

Chair: Anitra Nelson. Participants: Ibtisam Ahmed, Simoni Agarwal, Rajeev Anand, Buttertoes.

Late 2022 will see the publication of the e-book Re/Imagining Queer Utopias: Voices from South Asia published by the independent Shuddhashar press. The book is a collection of analytical essays, personal essays, fiction, poetry, and art from contributors across South Asia and the diaspora responding to the title and the invitation to explore what it means to have a queer utopia in a part of the world which is still socially and legislatively queerphobic. The book considers perspectives that are, at their heart, reclaiming both “queer” and “utopia” for South Asian voices. By turns focused and chaotic, sobering and uplifting, political and personal, public and intimate, this book hopes to be the start of an empowering and much-needed conversation that centres voices that are traditionally marginalised.

This online roundable brings together a member of the editorial team acting as a moderator, in conversation with contributors from three different South Asian countries and communities. The contributors will share what inspired them to come on board this project, as well as personal reflections of their journeys as queer people with other lived identities and experiences. Due to the sensitive nature of the topic and the security risks that are associated with this conversation, we kindly ask the audience and the organisers not to record or photograph this panel. Individual panellists may give consent for their contributions to be quoted or referenced, but please ask first.

Bio: Ibtisam Ahmed (he/him) is the Head of Policy and Research at LGBT Foundation, and a founding member of the House of Spice. He completed his postgraduate education with an MPhil from the University of Nottingham before moving into full-time activism. His publications include a chapter on the utopianism of queer immigrant superheroes in the book The Politics of Culture (2020, Cambridge Scholars Publishing), which he co-edited. As a disabled, queer immigrant of colour, he always aims to shine a light on silenced voices and multiply marginalised communities.

Bio: Rajeev Anand Kushwah (he/they) is a Queer Bahujan Gender Studies Scholar and a graduate of Master’s in Women’s Studies from TISS, Mumbai. A writer at queer feminist media platforms, he is also an overthinker, a self-proclaimed chef, and a poet. He was recently awarded the non-fiction grant by Mavelinadu Collective. His research areas include queer experiences, feminist ethics of care, and pop culture. He is also a participant at University of Iowa’s Summer Institute by the International Writing Programme.

Bio: Simoni Agarwal (she/her) is born and brought up in Nepal and has roots in India. Simoni has special interests in research and writing. She has an undergrad degree in applied psychology and aspires to become a clinical psychologist with an inclination towards writing. Currently, Simoni works as a freelance researcher, content writer and life coach. She also organizes art therapy-based workshops on a monthly basis.

Bio: Buttertoes is the Executive Director of  a volunteer-run organization that works to empower Bangladeshi youth with diverse sexual orientations, gender identities and expressions, and sex characteristics. They are also an independent consultant on communication, digital wellbeing, sexuality and gender diversity.

C4: Roundtable: Becoming Utopian as Hopeful Praxis

Co-Chairs: Tom Moylan and Heather Alberro. Participants: Siân Adiseshiah, Heather Alberro, Julia Ramírez-Blanco,  Burcu Kuheylan,  Adam Stock, Patricia McManus, Tom Moylan.

In keeping with this year’s conference theme of “Opening Utopia,” with an emphasis on the importance of utopian hope, this panel, chaired by Tom Moylan, will offer a roundtable discussion on the open-ended praxis (problematic and process) of becoming utopian, as initially presented in Moylan’s 2020 book, Becoming Utopian: The Culture and Politics of Radical Transformation, but now taken into new directions in intellectual, artistic, pedagogical, and political work.

 Becoming Utopian explores the dynamic relationship between the transformative utopian impulse and radical political action. It elucidates the utopian process through studies of sociopolitical theory and practice (utopian theory, ecological activism, nonviolence, radical pedagogy, community organizing), doing so with the help of critical theory, secular/post-secular hermeneutics, and the science fictional imaginary.  Developing his framework through a dialectical interaction with the problematics of Fredric Jameson and Ruth Levitas, Moylan focuses on the initial (utopian) political consciousness that develops out of a “break” (Badiou) with the hegemonic order and moves through a “gestalt shift” (Goodman and Perls) toward a radically hopeful horizon of a better world for humanity and nature. He traces the ways by which this utopian process produces new structures of feeling and formations (Williams) that can enable humanity to grow from alienation to action. Becoming Utopian offers a timely holistic reflection on how humans can confront and transform the conditions produced by the global environmental, economic, political, and cultural crises that beset us in this time of trouble.

Since the book’s publication, a number of scholars and teachers, activists and artists have taken up the problematic of becoming utopian and extended it in new directions and/or further developed by way of additional theoretical frameworks (including queer theory and decolonizing theory) and political practices. This panel goes beyond direct responses to the book as a range of commentators consider the praxis of becoming utopian in specific and fresh ways.

Bio: Tom Moylan  is Glucksman Professor Emeritus at the University of Limerick, Ireland. Founder of the Ralahine Centre for Utopian Studies and an internationally recognised scholar and teacher, his previous books include Demand the Impossible: Science Fiction and the Utopian Imagination, and Scraps of the Untainted Sky: Science Fiction, Utopia, Dystopia.

Bio: Burcu Kuheylan is a Ph.D. student in the English Department at the University of Florida. She holds double-major B.A. degrees from Istanbul University’s departments of English Language and Literature and Art History, as well as an MPhil degree from SUNY at Stony Brook’s English Department. Her research interests include international Modernism, Theory, Utopia, and the representation of women and children in fiction. Her dissertation project is titled Future in Crisis Tense: Neoliberalism, Dystopia, and Technologies of Generation. With an emphasis on crises of representation and reproduction, she critiques neoliberal structures and institutions while foregrounding emergent utopian alternatives that await further literary and theoretical attention. Burcu’s teaching draws on the intersections of theory, genre, narrative, and fiction’s relation to visual arts. It also explores subjects related to technology, embodiment, political activism, and more recently, fiction written by Millennials.

Bio: Adam Stock is Senior Lecturer in English Literature at York St John University. Adam’s research explores utopian and dystopian fictions, modernisms, and science fiction. His book Modern Dystopian Fiction and Political Thought: Narratives of World Politics was published by Routledge, 2019. More recent publications include a ‘cluster’ on Modernism/Modernity’s Print+ platform on ‘Modernism & SF’ (2022) co-edited with Miranda Iossifidis, and chapters in the Palgrave Handbook of Utopian Literature (2021) and the Routledge collection Intersectional, Feminist and Non-Binary Approaches to Speculative Literature, Film and Art in the 21st Century (2021). He is currently in the early stages of a project on deserts and speculative fictions.

Bio: Siân Adiseshiah is Reader in English and Drama with research interests in contemporary theatre, utopianism, and cultural gerontology, on which she has published multiple books, articles, and chapters. Her new book is Utopian Drama: in search of a genre (Methuen Drama Bloomsbury, October 2022, forthcoming). She is currently co-editing a supplementary issue ‘Narratives of Old Age and Gender’ for the Journal of the British Academy, and is joint Editor-in-Chief of the journal C21 Literature (with Caroline Edwards).

Bio: Julia Ramírez-Blanco is lecturer at Barcelona University. Her work connects art history, utopian studies, and activist movements. She has conducted research on the political iconography of social movements, with a focus on the British direct-action environmentalism of the 1990s and the Spanish 15M movement that occupied city squares with activist camps in 2011. She has also written on the relationships between contemporary art and utopia, and on the gendered history of artistic collectives. She is the sole author of three monographs – Artistic Utopias of Revolt (Palgrave, 2018), 15M. El tiempo de las plazas (Alianza, 2021), and Amigos, disfraces y comunas (Cátedra, forthcoming, 2022) – and editor of two books and a journal issue. She is a committee member of the Utopian Studies Society and belongs to the Intentional Communities Research Group. She also has co-led the research and exhibition project Grande Révolution Domèstique-Guise on feminist utopias. At present, she is working on a book on back-to-the-land communities as part of a broader project on the transversal history of artistic collectives and ecological utopias in the face of the climate crisis.

Bio: Heather Alberro  is a lecturer in global sustainable development at Nottingham Trent University, in the Department of History, Languages and Global Culture. Her background and interests span a range of disciplines including green utopianism, critical posthuman theory, environmental ethics, and literary ecocriticism. Her publications include the chapter ‘Interspecies’ in the The Cambridge Companion to Literature and the Anthropocene (2021) and ‘H.G Wells, Earthly and Post-Terrestrial Futurities’ (2022) in the journal Futures. She is also currently working on a book on contemporary critical-posthuman ecotopias for the Ralahine Utopian Studies book series. Heather also serves as co-convenor for the Political Studies Association’s (PSA) environmental politics specialist group and as EDI officer for the Utopian Studies Society.

Bio: Patricia McManus is senior lecturer in English Literary and Cultural History at the University of Brighton. She is the founder of the Dystopia Project based at the University of Brighton, and is the author of Critical Theory and Dystopia (2022).

C5: Panel – Reflections on Hope (remote panel)

Chair: Nicole Pohl. Participants: ​Ludmiła Gruszewska-Blaim, Léo Karam Tietboehl, Justyna Galant.

​Ludmiła Gruszewska-Blaim. The Soviet/Russian dream that goes out to shape the world: The Painted Bird live, in print, and on screen

In view of the border standoff between Poland and Belarus resulting in multiple deaths of child migrants from countries like Iran and Afghanistan as well as the catastrophic situation at the Russian-Ukrainian and Polish-Ukrainian frontiers crossed by millions of child exiles who have fled Ukraine since the Russian invasion, the questions first raised in The Painted Bird (1965) by Jerzy Kosinski and recently reformulated in its black and white film adaptation (2019) directed by Vaclav Marhoul have again become highly pertinent. How do real life dystopias, with their deadly, rigorously patrolled, both physical and ideological frontiers, affect the child’s worldview and expectations? What role models does the child emulate when suspended between various types of dystopia? Does the New Utopia supposedly lurking behind the regimes, violence, war and border-crossing crime redeem the survivors? The proposed paper will focus on the thrice dystopianized world constructed by the Holocaust survivor in his critically-acclaimed novel and the Czech writer/director’s reading of The Painted Bird revealing the novel’s utopian potential (“For me [The Painted Bird] wasn’t about the violence and the brutality, for me it was about the three most important things in our lives: love, good, and hope”).

Bio: ​Ludmiła Gruszewska-Blaim, PhD, habil is Associate Professor at the Institute of English and American Studies, University of Gdańsk

Léo Karam Tietboehl. What Can We Hope For? A reflection on the practice of utopia

This research debates the importance of telling stories for the construction of worlds, as well as an idea of “us”. By this premise, it intends to recognize fiction processes as significant references for establishing truth and identity regimes. Its argument will assume both utopian and dystopian perspectives in order to analyze the potentialities and point out the possibly conflicting consequences in assembling – and therefore “sharing” – different expressions of hope. For such purpose, Ernst Bloch’s proposals in Principle of Hope will be of valuable use; but also the ones established by the Invisible Committee about the conditions and possibilities for a collective insurrection, as the ones Isabelle Stengers, Eduardo Viveiros de Castro and Anna Tsing introduce when considering the impasses of thinking and working with human and non-human existences. As it is known, practicing utopia demands deliberating, conceding and assuming certain roles or points of view over pragmatic matters. What are the outcomes of such condition to the concept of hope? Reverberating the question “what does ‘living together’ mean?”, indicated by this author’s presentation in the last USS Conference, we suggest another: is it possible to hope without “hoping for” or “hoping to”? How can we think about a practical hope without enacting a specific perspective, hence contaminating it with the inevitable conditionings, eventual prescriptions, perhaps hierarchical and/or dominating structures that are sometimes associated with the functioning of a pragmatic and collective movement?

Bio: Léo Karam Tietboehl is a doctoral student at Programa de Pós-Graduação em Teoria Psicanalítica, a brazilian postgraduate program that is hosted at Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro.

Justyna Galant. Estrangement as a Utopian Tool in Stefan Themerson’s Works.

The prime interest of the paper is the utopian current in the fiction of Stefan Themerson (1910-1988)—a Polish-Jewish multilingual avant-garde novelist, poet, essayist, filmmaker, composer, and philosopher, who constituted half of a creative duo with his painter, filmmaker, publisher, academic wife, Franciszka Themerson (1907-1988). Of particular interest is the author’s employment of estrangement accomplished through the devices of “semantic poetry,” where words are replaced by their dictionary definitions, and through radical re-perspectivisation, as exemplified by the adoption of the entomological vantage point in place of human frame of reference in Professor Mama’s Lecture (1943). The two methods of estrangement—paradigmatic restatement and xenofiction—are read as expressive of the essentially utopian qualities of language as a readily-available, originative and expository tool.

Bio: Justyna Galant works at the  Maria Curie-Skłodowska University, Lublin, Poland

C6:  Panel – Figures of Hope: artistic productions in the 21st century.

Chair: Ildney Cavalcanti. Participants: Paulo Rogério Stella and Daniel Adelino Costa Oliveira da Cruz, Felipe Benicio de Lima, Fabiana Gomes de Assis, João Victor da Silva,  Elton Luiz Aliandro Furlanetto.

In a socio-historical context heavily marked by multiple crises (ecological, economic, epistemological), and still facing the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, one could say that dystopia is what sets the tone of the artistic productions nowadays. The profusion of literary and filmic works, as well as a whole range of artistic expressions may corroborate that feeling. Going against the grain, the members of the research group Literatura & Utopia are united in a collective effort to map, analyse and dialogue with the figures of hope that shimmer in the thick smokes of these dark times.  Since mid-20th century utopian thinkers like Ernst Bloch (1959) have inspired our critical imagination towards building a hermeneutics of hope, one finds echoes of such drive in later work by scholars and philosophers such as Paulo Freire, José Esteban Muñoz, Boaventura de Sousa Santos, Ailton Krenak, Donna Haraway and Tom Moylan, to mention some. Despite the different paths taken by each, their concern – and commitment to – a critical mode of figuring out instances of hope in face of our dystopic world functions as an antidote to political paralysis and as provocative catalizers of more positive ways of living together on our damaged planet. Even without a programmatic view of utopia, each paper in this panel explores dimensions of utopianism, emphasizing their role in the construction of critical thinking. Thus, the mosaic provides an overview of diverse configurations of figures of hope, informed by utopian tropes such as social dreaming, journeys, alternative societies, collective struggle and resistance, also including aesthetic experiments and anti-hegemonic practices, which can be found in many different artistic manifestations (as contemporary fiction, film, songs), being this very diversity a proof the ever-changing and plural form of utopia.

  1. Paulo Rogério Stella (Universidade Federal de Alagoas, Brazil) and Daniel Adelino Costa Oliveira da Cruz (Universidade Federal de Alagoas, Brazil). Three Lives, Three Objects: A Snapshot of the Pandemic

Considering figures of hope as ideas and images that may contribute to a better humanity in the future, we propose to reflect upon the relationship among three lives and the three respective objects that make meaning to them in Victor Lavalle’s short story Recognition. In life one, ragged slippers; in life two, the keys of a caretaker; and in life three, a pair of black and white shiny oxfords. The distant contact that the three lives are forced to endure turns out to be a metaphor of the cold relationships established in present neoliberal dystopian society. The shiny oxfords, though, become a figure of hope for a future of solidarity.

  • Felipe Benicio de Lima (Universidade Federal de Alagoas, Brazil). Politics and Poetics of Multiperspectivity in Neodystopic Fiction

One important feature of neodystopic fiction — a term employed here to designate a 21st century dystopian turn, characterised by, among other things, its explicit intertextuality with utopian and dystopian traditions and its subversive metafictional experiments — is multiperspectivity. According to Ansgar Nünning and Vera Nünning (2000: 12), the concept of multiperspectivity encompasses many “narrative processes through which an event, a period, a character or a theme is described from different viewpoints”; for Marcus Hartner, as a narrative device, the most prominent form of multiperspectivity “can be found in the novel narrated by multiple characters” (2014: 356). Such is the case of the novels The water cure, by Sophie Mackintosh, and the MaddAddam trilogy, by Margaret Atwood. An analysis of these narratives demonstrates how the formal aspects of literary fiction resonate, and are profoundly interconnected with, some political anxieties of our times, working as a critique of the present, but also as a figure of hope, a glimpse of utopian alternative futurities.

  • Fabiana Gomes de Assis (Brazil). Queertopias: Dreamed Corporealities in Contemporary Narratives

Considering that subjectivities have become increasingly complex in the context of contemporaneity, especially in relation to the categories of gender, sexuality, desire, race, and class, to mention the most common ones, and that space-temporalities also reverberate less obvious nuances from the perspective of these cultural signifiers, the analyses I propose here support a critical point of view of re-vision of the past while suggesting a fairer horizon for the future. In this sense, the notion of Queertopia as a theoretical, political, artistic and methodological device, closely linked to the tensions provoked by the process of deontologization of the “human” in the languages, is an alternative way to re-think and re-elaborate the notions of the body in contemporary culture in defiance of the truth regimes that performatively institute and legitimize coherent identities.

  • João Victor da Silva (Universidade Federal de Alagoas, Brazil). Who’s afraid of Linn da Quebrada? Utopian inventions of a ‘tranny fag’

The idea of a ‘tranny fag’ is what Brazilian multimedia artist Linn da Quebrada presents in her work. Navigating through music and performance art, the artist focuses on exploring and imagining different possibilities of existing in the (end of the) world. Questioning the narratives stablished by cis-heteronormativity, Linn’s artistic and political discourses threaten and shake some notions of gender, sexuality, and race, while empowering the ones who can relate to her ‘escrevivências’ (EVARISTO, 1994), and enjoining us to dream and to invent a new world.

  • Elton Luiz Aliandro Furlanetto (Universidade Federal do Mato Grosso do Sul, Brazil). Translating Woman on the Edge of Time by Marge Piercy into Brazilian Portuguese: overcoming the gendering of language

Even though the novel Woman on the Edge of Time was written more than forty years ago, it has never, as so many other works of utopian/dystopian tradition, been translated and published in Portuguese, thus remaining fairly unknown for a community of readers that have developed some interest in this type of fiction (especially due to the recent publication of translations of works by Octavia Butler and Samuel Delany, among other writers). In order to include more material in the discussions of utopias, in particular critical utopias, in Brazil, I will comment on my process of translation of the language of the characters of the future, a figure of hope in Piercy’s novel, taking into consideration the differences of marking gender in English and Portuguese. The translation had to cope with more strategies to neutralise gender expression because some nouns and adjectives in English are neutral and they are always marked in Portuguese, for example.

  • Ildney Cavalcanti (Universidade Federal de Alagoas, Brazil). “The Camille Stories”: reflections on Donna Haraway’s multispecies utopianism

Donna Haraway demands attention to the histories of demarcations and continuities between agents, human and non-human, organic and not organic. From her perspective, discourse (i.e., communication) between people and entanglements among companion species defy self-autonomy and the objectification of the other, naturalized cultural dynamics usually marked by colonizing ends. Inspired by feminist politics, her textual productions have circulated in genres that encompass the academic mode, the manifesto, autobiographical accounts and, more recently, storytelling. My purpose is to explore Haraway et al. “The Camille Stories” (2016) as a feminist sf rendering of a figure of hope which provides a utopian glimpse at a multispecies utopianism for the Chthulucene which relies on a feminist tradition in utopian writing and suggests counter-apocalyptic possibilities “as a practice of learning to live and die well with each other” (Haraway 2016: 1) on a damaged planet.

Thursday July 14th: Day 2

Panels in D-Session – 3.20-4.50pm

D1: Panel – Utopias in History (remote panel)

Chair: Laurence Davis. Participants: Arianna Bove, Albert Göschl, Annette M. Magid.

Arianna Bove. Hope springs eternal.

Positively, utopias provide insights into their present. A text is always an intervention in a present. And utopias are historical testimonies of the political imagination. Far from building “castles in the air”, utopias appreciate material possibilities that are available or embryonic, often synthetising the perceptions and intuitions of a political, social, technological, scientific, and economic environment that is irremediably present. Although utopia does not exist anywhere but in the imagination, the latter is a human faculty enjoying little freedom otherwise, and in itself, the exercise of the political imagination characteristic of utopian thinking offers much more than a temporary respite from a hostile world.

Negatively, utopias are disavowals of politics, their function being to pre-empt change, demonstrate its impossibility, assuage radical impulses and reorganise them into finite wholes, totalities that can be measured up against the present and confine and delimit its realm of possibility. The political imagination has to bring the manifold of its intuitions into the form of an image. As image-making, utopias are also snapshots of political desire that reproduce, in the negative, darkness as light, light as darkness, a set geometry of oppression, the contours of a present that is frustrated.

My paper will look at Thomas More’s Utopia in the light of these distinctions. I’ll show how in its very conception Utopia has an ambivalent relation to the sentiment of hope, in particular with regards to the possibility of civic engagement and the compromises that are demanded therein.

Bio: Arianna Bove is an independent scholar. She co-founded, was Lecturer in Politics and Ethics at a University of London, and now works with an independent publisher.

Albert Göschl. Opening Textual Horizons. The Transgeneric Intertextual Networks of Early Modern French Utopianism.

In Early Modern times, literary utopianism created a highly densified network of intertextual references. Those references are based not only on other existing utopias, but above all on Early Modern travel reports. Realistic travel literature and literary utopias cross-fertilize one another, especially in the context of emerging cartography. Realistic depictions influence utopian fiction and vice versa. The following article discusses this form of intertextual cross-fertilization on the basis of the first French utopia, L‘Histoire d’Antangil (1616).

The intertextual references of this early utopia can be attributed to three different sources: 1. For the idea of describing a perfect but non-existent society, the reference is obviously the utopia of Thomas More that appeared exactly a hundred years earlier. 2. As a mythological foundation, Antangil refers to the conception of the so-called terre australe and to the myth of Java La Grande, a myth that produced many, especially French utopias during seventeenth and eighteenth century. 3. As with most of Early Modern utopias, the models for the narrative frame are travel narratives, like the early modern maritime expeditions. In this article, I will focus on examining especially the last form of interrelationships. The purpose of highlighting the intertextual references between travel narratives and utopias is not to devalue the creative potential of the texts in question; on the contrary, it is to show the dense network of interrelationships between fiction and reality that is so closely intertwined; a discourse that, in the seventeenth century, transcended the world of literature and passes into general and popular culture.

NOTE: Unable to Present

Bio: Albert Göschl studied Romance Studies and Philosophy at the Universities of Graz (Austria) and Siena (Italy).  Since 2015, he is Researcher in the Department of Romance Languages at the University of Graz. At the moment he is working on his postdoctoral research project Utopographies – The Poiesis of Space in Early Modern Utopias. The project deals with the literary construction of social counter-spaces in the paradigmatic genre of utopia.  Particular attention is paid to the literary strategies of spatiality and the question of how fictional space is presented in relation to contemporary architectural theory.

Annette M. Magid. Looking for a Hopeful Resolution

Edward Bellamy hoped that his life would be happier; however, since his present life was unalterable, he had a need to create an imaginary perfect society in which all within its bounds could live in harmony.  This was the beginning of Bellamy’s search for utopia.  It was also the beginning of the development of Bellamy’s inner resolve to eventually leave the church of his father and find his own way. The popularity of Looking Backwards attests to the premise that others were also looking for an escape from their difficult lives. Through Bellamy’s utopia, individuals were presented with a venue of hope to inspire them to a more positive life. Groups embraced Bellamy’s utopia and formed discussion sessions to see if some of his propositions would help them focus their future toward the hope that tranquility might prevail in their tumultuous world. Perhaps Edward Bellamy, who was a voracious reader, may have been initially inspired by the prophecies which continually appeared in 1861 publications. For example, as it appears in the Congressional Record, regarding both Northerners and Southerners who may have been potential soldiers,[1] one soldier mentioned was the account of John Pentland who expected “fun and frolic” when he joined the Twenty-Ninth North Carolina Infantry on his nineteenth birthday. He prophesied a romantic war of “about six months.” In reality, the war lasted much longer and was far more devastating, but hope made the prospect of war less onerous. Bellamy’s utopian novel embraced transformation, innovation and societal modification. All focused on the hope of a better future.

Bio: Publications of Professor Annette M. Magid, Ph.D., retired from State University of New York: Erie Community College, Buffalo, NY, USA. include: Speculations of War: Essays on Conflict in Science Fiction, Fantasy and Utopian Literature, 2021; Quintessential Wilde: His Worldly Place, His Penetrating Philosophy and His Influential Aestheticism, 2017; Apocalyptic Projections: A Study of Past Predictions, Current Trends and Future Intimations as Related to Film and Literature,2015; Wilde’s Wiles: Studies of the Influence on Oscar Wilde and His Enduring Influences in the Twenty-First Century, 2013; You Are What You Eat: Literary Probes into the Palate, 2008 and a volume of poetry, Tunnel of Stone, 2002. In addition, she has published articles in a variety of Utopian journals and monographs. Her areas of expertise include American/ British Utopian literature and film, theater, Science-Fiction literature and film, as well as children’s literature. In addition, she has published articles in a variety of Utopian journals and monographs. Her book on the Influence of War on Science Fiction and Fantasy will be published in 2019. Professor Magid is affiliated with SUNY Erie Community College, Buffalo, NY, USA.

D2: Panel – Opening Hope.

Chair: Alwyn Walsh. Participants: Kelsey P. Mason, Giulia Degano, Jennifer Raum

Kelsey P. Mason. Who’s Leading Us Down the Road to Nowhere? Coding for Utopian and Dystopian Rhetorics in Literature and Life Writing.

How can you have hope for the future when the present is actively working to erase you? Hope can be tied to an imagining of any future; political movements in Black liberation, disability justice, white supremacy, and eugenics all adopt aspirational rhetoric. When hope is anchored by a sense of relativism and dominant structures of power, rather than by aggressive, radical politics, we must be critical of whose hope is spurring futurity.

Utopia and dystopia – and their corresponding hopes and warnings — have historically been implemented across sociopolitical lines, and the utopian impulse has echoed as various iterations and definitions in our interdisciplinary field of utopian studies as well. While celebrating utopianism’s “transformative capacity,” as urged in Tom Moylan’s Becoming Utopian and utopia’s “antagonistic edge,” as discussed in the conference theme, as scholars we wrestle with how utopia and dystopia are rhetorically used as tools of exclusion to articulate normative futures.

My research identifies analytic codes from across different American and British nineteenth-century contexts, including literature, archival documents from intentional communities, and life writing from carceral institutions. From this qualitative approach to recognize transhistorical and generic patterns, my presentation demonstrates how utopian and dystopian rhetorics are mobilized in the present-day, for right-wing utopias, billionaire desert cities, and reclamations of twentieth-century dystopias for conservative propaganda. I will define how utopian and dystopian rhetorics are leveraged as tools to maintain normative relationships to institutions of power, and, alternatively, how those same rhetorical tools can be and are mobilized for revolutionary dreaming.

Bio: Kelsey Paige Mason is a PhD candidate at the Ohio State University. Paige works with nineteenth-century literature and archival materials from intentional communities and state institutions. Her upcoming essay in Utopia on the Tabletop connects her previous work in game studies with utopian studies. Her other publications appear in the collections Diary as Literature: Through the Lens of Multiculturalism and Critical Insights: Animal Farm. She is currently an editorial assistant at the Utopian Studies journal.

Giulia Degano. Hope and Borders: two methods in dialogue. An Interdisciplinary perspective about contemporary identity from Miyazaki’s Method of Hope and Mezzadra and Neilson’s Border as Method.

Following the 22nd USS Conference’s topic, this paper will explore the concept of hope from a perspective that relates to the role played by hope in the globalized labor market and the possibilities inaugurated by a de-colonial view of hope. The paper will indeed explore this topic by proposing a tentative connection between the anthropological and philosophical view proposed by Hirokazu Miyazaki in The Method of Hope (2004) and Mezzadra and Neilson’s Border as Method, or, the Multiplication of Labor (2013) and, by doing so, with the topic of border(s). These two “methods”, one specifically centered on “hope” and the other related to this topic due to the author’s hopeful vision of contemporary border struggles as prominent among social struggles to establish and maintain commons because of their constant inquiry into questions of limitation, space scale, and capital. Both methods coincide in pointing out the relevance of independent social and cultural negotiations in the production of de-colonialized and trans-national social and political subjectivities, showing these negotiations as prominent vehicles of hope in the global era: Miyazaki by mixing an innovative narration of Western Philosophy with the anthropologic analysis of Fijian’s production of knowledge, while Mezzadra and Neilson by suggesting, from the field of Political Theory, the concept of border, with its border struggles, as a fundamental epistemic angle. The multiple productions of knowledge, and therefore of subjectivities, guided by “hope”, in the meanings that will be discussed along with the paper according to the authors’ perspective, will consequently constitute the focus of this proposal.

Bio: Giulia Degano (Pordenone, Italy, 1987) is an art historian, researcher and lecturer. She holds a Master’s degree (MPhil) in History and Conservation of Artistic and Architectural Heritage (honorary mention) from the Università degli Studi di Udine

(Italy), where she also holds a degree in Conservation of Cultural Heritage. She holds a Diploma in Museography and Museology from the Universidad Complutense de Madrid and attended the seminar ON MEDIATION/9 of On Mediation. Platform on curatorship and research of the research group Art, Globalization, Interculturality (AGI) of the Universitat de Barcelona. She has also been an exchange student of the Master in Art Studies at the Universidad Iberoamericana in Mexico City. She has been Associate Lecturer for the undergraduate careers of the Faculty of Education Sciences and Humanities of the Universidad Católica Sede Sapientiae, for the faculties of Architecture and Communications of the Universidad Peruana de Ciencias Aplicadas and for the Academic Department of Humanities of the Universidad del Pacífico in Lima (Peru). She has collaborated with the cultural association A regola d’Arte of Conegliano (Italy) as a cultural operator and collaborates as a teacher with the Yvonne Sanguineti Art Gallery, the Cultural Center of the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Perú and the Proyecto Estudios Indianos of the Universidad del Pacífico in collaboration with the Museo Pedro de Osma in Lima.

She is a member of the Red de Estudios de la Cultura Visual Abya Yala and member, for the same Network, of the research group “Fronteras”. Her research interests include the relationship between contemporary art and the global turn, eco-social crisis, memory, migration and, especially, border. She has published in Costa Rica, Spain, United States, Mexico and Peru. She is member of the research group Abya Yala Red de Estudios de la Cultura Visual and a doctoral researcher of the project Art Globalization interculturality (AGI) of the Universitat de Barcelona.

Jennifer Raum. Stepping in the Same River Twice: Utopian Worlds in Motion

Right before the beginning of the 21st century, cosmologists discovered that the universe we are living in is characterized by acceleration, an expansion of matter in every direction. In light of the rapidly increasing speed we are facing within the equivalent acceleration of utopian environment-worlds – using the term „Umwelten“ by german biologist Jakob von Uexküll, this contribution recontextualizes the focus within the utopian from a future-related representation to a present-related phenomenon of perception. Through the lens of ontological practice utopia is already here, as one of many worlds we constantly perceive through objects like images or videos. Therefore, the “internal force” of the utopian which until now has been based on processual transformation needs to be reconsidered, thinking for instance of Deleuze‘s concepts of Becoming or Bloch‘s Not-Yet. If our present is not only shaped by rapid transformation but primarily defined by consistent motion as suggested by kinetic materialist Thomas Nail, the feeling of desire or hope for change no longer seems appropriate to describe the foundation for utopian anticipation. In seeking to shift the anthropic emphasis prescribed in the emotion of hope, this contribution will therefore ontologically explore utopian worlds using the concept of feedback loops. The loop serves as a driving force – not for, but within a constant flow of movement. This flow has no direction, and so I argue that utopian environment-world-feedback-loops are non-directional as well. Their internal, non-processual forces provide the possibility for new relational loops which in turn have implications on human and non-human matter. In order to overcome anthropocentrism and the nature-culture-divide which is likewise important for utopian research, this materialist-based approach opens up a different notion of hope as force, based on a theory of movement.

‘Knotwork’ in: Nail, Thomas (2019) Being and Motion. Source: Ho, Mae-Wan (2013) Circular Thermodynamics of Organisms and Sustainable Systems. Systems. 1. 30-49. https:// [2022|04|28]

Bio: M. A. Jennifer Raum is a doctoral candidate at the chair of “Theory and History of Modern

Architecture“, Faculty of Architecture and Urbanism, at the Bauhaus-Universität Weimar.

She is currently working on her transdisciplinary dissertation on an ontological exploration

of the utopian in architecture. Her fields of research include the utopian, ontology, ecocriticism

and architectural worldbuilding. Jennifer is also a teaching assistant at the chair of

Theory of Architecture and Design, Faculty of Architecture, at the Nuremberg Institute of

Technology. There, she has been giving lectures in Design and Theory of Architecture

since 2017.

D3 Workshop – Utopian Pedagogy

Facilitator: Pilvi Porkola.

Where in more traditional discussions the term ‘utopia’ was understood as a stable destination or a target, recent research defines utopia and utopian thinking as an ongoing process or as a method (Levitas 2013, Eskelinen 2020) to deal with questions of the political change. We need political imagination and utopian thinking to reflect current political issues to be able to think and imagine the future. However, the utopian thinking does not come as granted, but need to be practiced. What kind of role the pedagogy has in utopian thinking? How hope of social change can be taught? How to think about future here and now? In this workshop I like to invite participants to try out some exercises on utopian thinking and practice. The idea of these exercises is to observe our current everyday life and its materiality as a starting point to imagine the future that is based on present moment. The exercises are based on observing, writing and discussion and do not require any prior skills. The pedagogical exercises are developed as a part of research project “Political Imagination and Alternative Futures” ( in University of Turku. It is an ethnographic research project that addresses the timely question of political alienation and the dissipation of political imagination, as well as the need for fundamental social change. The project combines sociological and art-based methods to explore current everyday utopian practices in the fields of art, activism and education. BIO Pilvi Porkola, D.A. works as Senior Researcher in a project “Political Imagination and Alternative Futures” (2020-2024) at University of Turku. Her background is in performance art, artistic research, and art pedagogy. She is interested in the materiality of everyday life and the possibilities of arts-based in the context of social science.

Bio: Pilvi Porkola is a performance artist, writer and Senior Researcher at the University of Turku. They are also a Visiting Researcher at the University of Arts, Helsinki.

D4: Panel – The Bodies and Spaces of Earth.

Chair: Owen Holland. Participants: Anna Torres Malma, Emrah Atasoy and Marta Komsta.

Anna Torres Malma. Broken Bodies Walking Dystopic Cities in contemporary Latin American narrative.

My presentation revolves around the movement of precarious bodies in dystopic or post-apocalyptic urban spaces in contemporary novels by Chilean and Venezuelan writers. Defining the walker as an ordinary individual who moves in and out of (mostly urban) collective spaces, my work examines the effect of spatial dislocations on individuals and communities struggling to survive in cities on the verge of collapse in the wake of poorly implemented neo-liberal/ socialism agendas. Among those effects are physical ailments, mental disorientation, and various forms of speech pathologies (or excesses) as reflected in the writing.   These spatial dislocations are in part the result of political, economic and ecological crises brought on by both neoliberal and pseudo-Marxist governments, crises that continue to render major Latin American cities unsafe and unsustainable. These works explore the disappearance of collective spaces and, at the same time, the potential, and pitfalls of public protests as ways of reappropriating lost space and mobility.

Bio: Anna Torres Malma is a Ph.D. student in  Hispanic Literary & Cultural Studies in the Department of Hispanic and Italian Studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Their research interests are dystopian spaces (spaces of crises) and dystopian bodies (dysfunctional bodies) as new ways of materiality of this era. At this moment, they have been working as a teaching assistant in the Spanish Department at UIC and I am working on my dissertation project.

Emrah Atasoy and Marta Komsta. Straying in the Anthropocene: Critical Hope in Diane Cook’s The New Wilderness

This presentation examines Diane Cook’s 2021 novel The New Wilderness in terms of its engagement with the concept of straying in the context of the Anthropocene politics of exploitation. As Barbara Creed elucidates, “[t]o stray is a possibility for all living creatures, whether human animals, nonhuman animals—such as birds, fish, insects, spiders—or plants. The stray is an outsider, the other, an exile—the one who lives apart from the mainstream” (2017: 6). Situated—physically but also figuratively—outside the dominant socio-political configurations, the abject figure of the stray becomes a particularly viable response to the Anthropocene crisis as a reflection of its destructive potential and a powerful herald of hope.

Following Creed’s paradigm of stray ethics, established upon the intertwined dominants of “marginalisation, abandonment, resistance, empathy, and change” (2017: 76), our presentation thus argues that Cook’s novel conceptualizes the stray as an ethical component of a utopian response to the ecological cataclysm as a sympoietic model of identity that denounces human primacy in favour of the inclusion of human as well as non-human actants. At the same time, The New Wilderness relays the implications of the global collapse via the coming-of-age process of the female protagonist, which is tantamount to the assertion of her individual agency by means of which the stray reclaims her underlying sense of “a planetary totality” (Morton 2016: 22) with the environment, ultimately increasing the critical hope.

Keywords: Diane Cook, The New Wilderness, stray ethics, hope, utopia

Bio: Emrah Atasoy, an Associate Professor of English, is currently a visiting scholar at the University of Oxford’s Faculty of English Language and Literature between September 2021 and September 2022 as a recipient of the TUBITAK 2019 International Postdoctoral Research Fellowship Grant. He is the author of the monograph Epistemological Warfare and Hope in Critical Dystopia (2021). His work has appeared in journals such as Studies in the Novel, Utopian Studies,, Literary Voice, Methis. Studia Humaniora Estonica, SFRA Review, and Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts. He has also contributed chapters to The Postworld In-Between Utopia and Dystopia: Intersectional, Feminist, and Non-Binary Approaches in 21st-Century Speculative Literature and Culture (Routledge, 2021) and Speculations of War: Essays on Conflict in Science Fiction, Fantasy and Utopian Literature (McFarland, 2021).

Bio: Marta Komsta is Assistant Professor of English Literature at Maria Curie-Skłodowska University in Lublin, Poland. Her main research interests are utopia and dystopia in film and literature, cultural semiotics, and contemporary Gothic theory. She is the author of Welcome to the Chemical Theatre: The Urban Chronotope in Peter Ackroyd’s Fiction (2015) and the co-editor (with Justyna Galant) of Strange Vistas: Perspectives on the Utopian (2019). She is currently working on a book on utopia and modern Spiritualism.

D5: Hope’s Undoing.

Chair: Patricia McManus.  Participants: Richard Boyechko, Sheryl M. Medlicott, Marta Olivi and Beatrice Masi

Richard Boyechko. Between Hope and Despair: Intentional Performativity and Impermanence

In her Staying with the Trouble (2016), the biologist-turned-philosopher Donna Haraway warns against succumbing to hope as much as to despair. She suggests that “neither despair nor hope is tuned to the senses, to mindful matter, to material semiotics, to mortal earthlings in thick copresence” that she sees as our only chance of making the best of the mess humans have made. Albert Camus reached a similar conclusion in his The Myth of Sisyphus (1942), where he argued that the most honest and productive position is the uncomfortable one between hope and despair; succumbing to either pole results in an escape from that creative tension. For Camus, his central philosophy of the “absurd” consists in rejecting hope without committing suicide, that ultimate result of despair. In my article, I will explore the implications of this attitude in contemporary science fiction from China, Taiwan, and the Chinese diasporic writers in the United States that focus on what I call “intentional performativity.” Continuing to live life with the full realization of its futility, hence without hope for change, offers a productive attitude to our living in the present. And yet, the Vietnamese Zen master Thích Nhất Hạnh, in recalling the difficult times during Vietnam War when he saw no end to war but did not want to discourage people who came to him for leadership, turned toward Buddha’s teachings on impermanence that promises that nothing, even a dystopian existence, can last indefinitely. But do we actually need such hope?

Bio: Richard Boyechko is a Ph.D. candidate in Cinema and Media Studies at the University of Washington in Seattle, where he focuses on contemporary science fiction (SF) primarily from Eastern Europe and East Asia. His dissertation deals with the director Bong Joon-ho’s Snowpiercer (2013) as well as other transmedial and transnational works in its lineage, all of which invite theorizing about biopolitics, planetary limits, biodiversity, and waste.

Sheryl M. Medlicott. New Forms of Hope: Environmental Literary Utopias in the Twenty-First Century.

The ecological crises of the twenty-first century arguably originated in the sixteenth century, around the time that Thomas More wrote his genre-founding Utopia. More’s Utopia of 1516 in many ways typifies the Western European worldview of its time, which saw other lands and peoples as raw materials from which to shape the perfect civilisation.

Imbued within this worldview is a series of dualisms, to use Val Plumwood’s term: human/nature, culture/nature, master/slave and so on. These pairings have a hierarchical relationship, whereby the first-named is considered superior to the second. The ideological separation of (white, male) humans from the rest of nature has for centuries allowed Western culture to ignore ecological limits to devastating effect for human and non-human others globally.

It is becoming ever clearer even in the Western world that we need to think differently in order to tackle the climate crisis and climate injustice, where those historically ‘othered’ continue to suffer the most. As utopian studies scholars, we might hope the practice of utopia can help us imagine alternative and better ways of being. But how can utopia contribute to promoting climate justice when it is founded on a system of thought that is antithetical to this goal?

In this paper, I will look at how contemporary writers N.K. Jemisin, Nisi Shawl and Rivers Solomon are innovating within the genre of utopia and how their formal adaptations are evolving the literary utopia towards addressing issues of climate justice.

Bio: Sheryl M. Medlicott has a Master’s in Literature, Landscape and Environment from Bath Spa University. She convenes the Bristol Utopian Book Collective, a reading group dedicated to discussing utopian and dystopian texts, and blogs at

Marta Olivi and Beatrice Masi. The hermeneutics of suicide, from critical dystopias to contemporary feminist and capitalistic dystopian societies: a comparison between Notes from a Coma (2005) and The Book of X (2020) .

Suicide has always been a crucial theme in dystopian texts, and in contemporary dystopian literature its importance is far from fading. Although it can present itself variously, it has been generally interpreted as the last glimpse of hope and the extreme way out from the dystopian society, as is the case of Butler’s (1979) and Faber’s (2000) texts. This has been especially true both in feminist dystopias and in hyper-capitalistic dystopian societies, considering the extreme cooptation undergone by the body framed as a (re)productive instrument. The aim of our paper is to analyse if and how suicide as a means of hope is reconfigured in two contemporary dystopian texts which, although belonging to the two aforementioned currents of dystopian literature, escape any stable classification as critical dystopias (Moylan, 2000): The Book of X (2020) by Sarah Rose Etter and Notes from a Coma (2005) by Mike McCormack. Although presenting similarities with the conventions of the genre, in these two novels the presence of a positive, hopeful horizon is hard to find: if the suicide of Cassie in The Book of X does not effect any change in the oppressive society which she inhabits, and it clashes with the “ethics of compromise” characterising previous feminist texts (Baccolini, 2000, p. 26) the failed suicide of JJ confirms his commodity status and reaffirms the capitalistic realism (Fisher, 2009) of his society. The comparative analysis of these two novels aims to examine the evolution of the theme of suicide within the latest developments of the dystopian genre.

Bio: Beatrice Masi and Marta Olivi are PhD students at the department of Modern Languages, Literatures and Cultures (LILEC) at Bologna University.  Beatrice Masi is a World Literature PhD student. She graduated cum laude at Bologna University in 2020 with a thesis in Irish Studies. Her current research interests focus on the analysis of Hispanophone and Anglophone pseudo-dystopian narratives within the world economy system.  Marta Olivi graduated cum laude in contemporary Anglophone literature in 2021, and is now enrolled to a European curriculum focused on Gender and Women’s Studies (EDGES) which includes a planned co-tutorship with the University of Utrecht. Her research interests cover feminist dystopias, food studies, and materialism.

D6: Panel – Feminist Writing and Utopianism.

Chair: Michael Larson.  Participants:  Matthew Wilson, Sarah Lohmann, Joana Caetano

Matthew Wilson. Feminist dreamscapes: on the Positivist utopian aesthetics of Jane May Style nee Locke.

This paper examines the utopian Comtean Positivist art and writings of Jane May Style nee Locke (1853–1938). It explores how, using a subversive, mimetic feminist framework, Style developed strategies for self-expression and self-identification to contest the misogynist principles of the Comtean philosophy and to rise as a public intellectual within the sexist, racist, and war-mongering society in which she lived. This paper demonstrates that Style’s Positivist art for the Liverpool Church of Humanity sought to garner a diverse body of parishioners,

to educate children, to stoke empathy across different social classes, and to create a philosophy of art. Style aimed to guide the masses in a search for scientific, religious humanist ‘truths’ to educate them in their common being. This paper connects Style’s aesthetic creations to her denunciations of the policies of the British government that led to the Boer War, among other social and political conflicts at home and abroad. It shows that Style’s various artistic and political utterances may be viewed as devotional observances in service of Auguste Comte’s Religion of Humanity as such, but not his views that the place of women in society was the home.

Bio: Matthew Wilson is an historian in the College of Architecture and Planning at Ball State University, Muncie, Indiana, USA.

Sarah Lohmann. “True voyage is return”: the Critical Temporality of Utopian Hope in Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Dispossessed and Sheri S. Tepper’s The Gate to Women’s Country

In The Order of Time, Carlo Rovelli describes the illusion of objective temporality, due to our limited velocity on earth and placement in a gravitational field, and the reality of unique temporal experience. In this talk, I will explore subjective/objective temporality with regard to the “ideal” lived experience, particularly regarding post-individual and critical utopian hope as tied up with individual and collective temporality in Sheri S. Tepper’s The Gate to Women’s Country and Ursula K Le Guin’s The Dispossessed. Where Gate seems to place the horizon of utopian expectation at the mercy of colliding cycles of lived experience, “wheels turning in opposite directions”, The Dispossessed locates it between quasi-utopian worlds whose sociopolitical differences must be critically re-imagined via the temporal relationship between collective and individual for social justice to be pursued. I will explore the possibility of sustained hope and radical transformation both against the tragic temporal cyclicality of Gate and against the radical work of Shevek’s temporal theory in The Dispossessed, ultimately examining whether collective hoping through shared temporality is possible, desirable or even imaginable, despite or possibly because of the ultimate temporal subjectivity described by Rovelli and others.

Bio: Sarah Lohmann is a Teaching and Research Fellow under Professor Ingrid Hotz-Davies in the Department of English at the University of Tübingen, Germany. She recently completed her PhD in English literature under the supervision of Professors Patricia Waugh and Simon James at Durham University in the UK. Sarah’s research and teaching focus on feminist utopian literature, utopian studies in general, science fiction, systems theory, climate fiction, gothic literature, and analytic philosophy. Her PhD thesis presented a case for the classification of utopian literature in terms of structural Bakhtinian chronotopes based on systems theory, with a particular focus on the feminist ‘critical utopias’ of Joanna Russ, Marge Piercy and Ursula K. Le Guin. Sarah is currently working on her publications alongside teaching at Tübingen while also searching for future postdoctoral opportunities.

Joana Caetano. Is subversive ambiguity utopian? Virginia Woolf and Ursula K. Le Guin’s Gender Fluidity and Queerness.

Gender and sexuality are moral constructs utterly coded – and conditioned still – by conservative views on the body (especially women’s bodies). On the 30th anniversary of Sally Potter’s film adaptation, Virginia Woolf’s Orlando (1928), published almost a century ago, maintains its aura of originality and eccentricity, and it remains the ultimate symbol of subversive ambiguity.

Strongly influenced by Woolf, Ursula K. Le Guin trailed on Orlando’s fantastical journey and transported us to Planet Gethen. There, absolutely free from the limitations of realistic literature, Le Guin explored what human beings could fulfil or fail to achieve, when stripped off of conventional moral corsets.

But, what can utopianism, as a human construct rather than a moral one, learn from Le Guin and Woolf’s subversive ambiguities? Can these ambiguities enlighten us about the complexities and nuances of the paradox between the self and the social? And, what kind of inspiration can we draw from their examples and apply to other spheres of our societies? For instance, can they shed some light on other strategies to fight for the health of our crippling democracies?

Keywords: Virginia Woolf * Ursula K. Le Guin * Gender * Sexuality * Ambiguity * Fluidity  

Bio: Joana Caetano is collaborator of CETAPS (Centre for English and Anglo-Portuguese Studies) and a PhD candidate at the Faculty of Arts and Humanities of the University of Porto (Portugal). Her doctoral research project on utopian foodways and gender in Ursula K. Le Guin’s Hainish Universe is funded by the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology. In the last eight years, she has published book chapters, articles and reviews in the areas of Utopian Studies, Anglo-American Studies, Feminist Studies and Food Studies.

Thursday July 14th: Day 2

Panels in E-Session – 5-6.30pm

E1: Screening of Eric Judor (Dir.)  Problemos (2017)

E2: Panel – Catastrophe, Myth, Fiction

Chair: Inna Sukhenko. Participants: Ali Zar Asghar, Eleonora Rossi, Gabriel Saldías Rossel

Ali Zar Asghar. Exegesis of Varna Through the Lens of Social Dominance Theory in Sunjeev Sahota’s The Year of the Runaways.

The aim of the research is to explore the exploitation of Varna Casteism in South Asian writer Sunjeev Sahota’s novel The Year of the Runaways published in 2015. The researcher probes the role of casteism in a post-capitalistic and apocalyptic world to assess how much it has seeped in the financial sector to create a dystopia. The objectives are to unravel the hegemonic casteism; and to gauge the extent of conditioning through textual events and characters’ fates. This renders the inference of the setting of the Indian novel in the British landscape as an ideal Utopian space where the downtrodden migrants achieve success. However, the notion of hope has nuasances. The prevalence of hope for some characters is interpreted as the manifestation of hope. Whilst others are victims of a dystopic world where havoc wreaks. Hence, the significance of the study lies in unearthing the clash and coexistence of Utopia and Dystopia.

To analyze the primary text, Lewis Coser and Ralf Dahrendorf’s Conflict Theory and, Jim Sidanius and Felecia Pratto’s Social Dominance Theory with specific focus on Legitimizing Myths have been employed. As secondary sources, literary reviews, online journals, print and written material have been used. The novel has hitherto been merely studied as Dalit Literature. However, the research undertaken expands the meagre research by bringing in the complete social model of Varna system as a harbinger of Utopia/Dystopia. Research findings strongly endorse the role of Indian community itself in sustaining Varna Casteism through mythmaking strategies employed.

Keywords: Utopia, Hope, Dystopia, Apocalyptic culture, Indian Literature, Conflict Theory, Caste System, Exploitation, Unconscious.

Bio: Ali Zar Asghar is a literary scholar from University of Management & Technology, Lahore Pakistan. Asghar has the accolade of presenting his research papers & exhibiting articulate oratory skills at multifarious platforms. A Romantic at heart, Asghar’s domain of literary research lies in psychosexual studies, South Asian literature, casteism, feminism & ecocriticism.

Eleanora Rossi. After-oil Utopianism and Africanfuturism in Contemporary SF: Reading Nnedi Okorafor.

In his anthology of Energy Humanities (2017), cultural theorist Imre Szeman famously argued that, should we remain unable to produce a vigorous response to world’s addiction to oil, ‘it is easy to see that nature will end before capital’ (68). The ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine has exacerbated discussions on oil-fuelled international interdependency, and the ensuing European hesitation to halt oil imports from Russia confirms that the prospect of life with less – let alone after – oil is, at yet, unimaginable. Somewhat stubbornly, then, in this paper, I interrogate the concept and possibility of a utopian ‘after oil’ futurity, which resists, survives, and upends the current dependence on petrocultures. The locus and focus of this exploration is the work of award-winning, Nigerian-American (naijamerican) science fiction (SF) writer Nnedi Okorafor. Okorafor relies on the imaginative and thought-provoking methods of SF, which include alien intervention, human transformation, and speculative technology to problematise the presence and politics of Big Oil in Nigeria, while also elaborating new ways of thinking and acting as we inch toward the tipping point for climate change. Blending SF and Nigerian mythology and magic, Okorafor relocates hope and resistance in the unruly drives and desires of the gendered and racialised body that has unshackled itself from discourses of mastery and extraction. It is in this ‘insurgent vulnerability’ (Alaimo 2016, 4), I argue, which insistently and surreptitiously conjures pleasure even in the darkest of times, that we might still find hope within and after the age of oil.

Bio: Eleonora Rossi (BA, MA) is an PhD candidate in English at Birkbeck College, University of London. Her research examines the possibility for utopian thinking within contemporary literary discourses on environmental devastation. Focussing specifically on planetary waters and postcolonial contexts, Eleonora’s work is concerned with the possibilities opened by SF in relation to imagining human and nonhuman life after the ecocatastrophe. Eleonora is currently a member of the Beyond Gender Research Collective, with whom she has co-authored two upcoming academic articles on SF, water, queerness, and the utopian prospect of solidarity and collective action.

Gabriel Saldías Rossel. The Crisis of Catastrophic Hope in Recent Latin American Literature.

During the last 15 years there’s been a surge of Latin American literature that, either explicitly or implicitly, has sought to engage with catastrophe to highlight the fact that even the most “natural” of catastrophic phenomena can be linked to human intervention. This has led writers all over the continent to reimagine catastrophe as a complex phenomenon with many layers and implications for human life. Within this context, hope plays a major role in both the creation and motivation to come up with new social alternatives after the experience of massively destabilizing events. However, despite the overall optimistic approach of current critical theory, Latin American literature has maintained a rather skeptic and at times bleak outlook on the possibilities for the emergence of what Rebecca Solnit has dubbed “disaster utopianism”, instead portraying resignation, individualism and escapism as the most common reactions to catastrophe among the population. We posit that this tendency shows a crisis of hope in Latin America that is twofold, a crisis of the imagination and of agency, a worrisome phenomenon that compounds current neoliberal fears into a dangerous cocktail of inaction and distrust of change.  In this presentation we seek to characterize this crisis by analysing how it is portrayed in a corpus of Latin American novels, drawing on the valuable input of literary critics as well as scholars and researchers currently engaged with the politics of catastrophe and utopian theory in times of crisis.

Bio: Gabriel Saldías Rossel. (1985) PhD in Literary Theory and Comparative Literature from the Autonomous University of Barcelona, and post-doctoral researcher in Latin American Studies at the University of British Columbia. He currently works as a researcher and scholar at Universidad de La Frontera in Temuco, Chile. His main lines of research are utopian studies, prospective and non-mimetic Latin American literature, catastrophe theory and future studies, topics on which he has published extensively in different specialized journals.

E3: Workshop: ‘Hope and Fearin Creative Higher Education’

Facilitators: Chris Nunn and Lee-Jane Bennion-Nixon

Conference themes addressed: ‘Radical and revolutionary hope’; ‘Hope and the University’, as well as the application of Utopian studies and hope to both pedagogy and career development.

Format: In person, 90-minute workshop.

Educators engage in the profound process and practice of engaging minds in change — intellectual transformation. Education straddles the past — “the curriculum” — and the future — individually and societally. Education is about what we learn today so we can be better tomorrow. Education is a practice of hope. You cannot be indifferent about the future and be an educator.

                                                                                                (Watters, 2022: online)

This proposal is for a participatory workshop with educators, activists and creative practitioners – a more localised version of a workshop which will be facilitated by me at the Radical Film Network conference in Genoa in June 2022. The outcomes of this workshop are designed to help define the questions that need to be asked, and therefore the research that needs to be done, to better elucidate the ways in which hope and fear play crucial roles in the education of the next generation of creative practitioners. As Bloch notes in The Principle of Hope: ‘it is a question here of the psychological process of approaching, which are so characteristic above all for youth, for times of change, [and] for the adventures of productivity’ (Vol. 1, 1996: 12). For Bloch, as for our purposes here, a condition of art is hope. Conversely, art is also a condition of hope. This dual condition is intertwined with a range of other issues, including the extent to which future artists are moved to make radical work that can have a revolutionary impact on those engaging with it.

This workshop would be a staging ground, working towards a methodology that might help shape the future of creative education, both inside and outside of university spaces. The opportunity of hosting this workshop at the Utopian Studies Society conference is that it may engage a wider audience of creative practitioners than the earlier workshop, which is focused on filmmaking, and have more pertinence to the local context of the UK. As Gannon proclaims in the closing of Radical Hope: A Teaching Manifesto: ‘remember the “radical” part of radical hope: our teaching and learning is informed by a root-level, fundamental commitment to hope. That commitment is borne out in our everyday practices, and in the learning spaces and interactions with students those practices shape.’ (2020: 150). No doubt this describes the educators, activists and creative practitioners who would attend this workshop, and in so doing help shape the future of a radical creative pedagogy centred around hope.

Bio: Chris Nunn is Assistant Professor of Film at the University of Birmingham, and formerly Programme Leader for the BA Film and Television Production at the University of Greenwich. As the former Festival Director of Screentest: The UK’s National Student Film Festival, Chris has been championing aspiring filmmaking talent for over a decade. Passionate about filmmaking education, he has recently completed his PhD entitled Towards a New Film Pedagogy: Recrafting Undergraduate Filmmaking Education for an Expanded Field (2019) and plans to continue and broaden research in this area. Aside from education, Chris’s research interests include science fiction television, mockumentary and the effects these evolving forms have on contemporary audiences. In 2021 Chris became co-convenor of ‘Film/making Pedagogy’ a new ‘Special Interest Group’ as part of the British Association of Film, Television and Screen Studies (BAFTSS). He is also currently Associate Editor of the Film Education Journal. He is currently writing up a research bid on class, creativity and talent in film and television industries, as well as a book proposal on anarchism.

Bio: Lee-Jane Bennion-Nixon is Principal Lecturer and leads on the masters Film Production programme at the University of Greenwich. As a practice-based researcher, film director and producer she has made funded short films that have received international festival recognition. Currently, she is finishing a short film/research project called About The Night based looselyon Ernest Hemmingway’s short story A Clean, Well-Lighted Place (1933). She is also investigating the use of creative collaboration to bring about radical change using storytelling.

E4: Panel – Dystopia, or, Strange Hopes

Chair: Emrah Atasoy. Participants: Braden H. Hammer, Aristidis V. Agoglossakis Foley, Andrea Burgos-Mascarell.

Braden H. Hammer. Title: Len Deighton and the Utopian Tradition.

This presentation will argue that Len Deighton’s debut series of spy novels can be included within the utopian genre tradition. Deighton’s debut series, written between 1957 and 1966, represents a break from previous works in the spy genre with regard to narrative style and major themes, having grown out of a period of sociopolitical crisis and change in Britain. Previous advancements in popular literature that broke with the past similarly grew out of periods of crisis and change. Particularly relevant among these are the rise of the utopian genre in the early 16th century, notably with Thomas More’s Utopia, and the rise of the counter-epic novel form during the late 16th and early 17th century, notably with Miguel de Cervantes’s Don Quixote. In addition to the importance of sociopolitical background, Deighton’s debut series also shares several familiar features with works in the utopian genre. One shared feature is the pervasive feeling of questionable reality. This is accomplished on the level of the story, or through the author’s stylistic narrative techniques that create a unique experience of the text for the reader, and compel the reader to participate in meaning production. Deighton’s early novels also feature such utopian genre elements as the individual’s fraught relationship with the state, questions regarding the nature of identity, individuality, and liberty, the reality of the present versus that of the past, the horror of loss of liberty of thought through conditioning, and the conflict between personal perception and dogma.

Bio: Braden Hammer earned a Humanities MA with a specialization in English from Mount Saint Mary’s University (MSMU), Los Angeles in 2021. He has worked in the not-for-profit sector since 2003 and currently works as Associate Director, Institutional Advancement at MSMU. His interests include “slippery reality” in narration, the role of the reader, intersections of the literary canon and genre fiction, and American and British midcentury popular youth subcultures. He was born in Los Angeles.

Aristidis V. Agoglossakis Foley. The Unnecessary Existence of Dystopian Hope.

This paper will argue that the oppressive need to uncover the existence of a utopian-esque hope within the body of a dystopian literary work, or even in its milieu, is unnecessary as it may be detrimental to the power of the societal/ political critique embedded by each dystopian author. Starting with an examination of the perceived position of hope within the dystopian genre and looking at the scholarly works of Thaler, Moylan, and Baccolini, this study will engage with the application of the Blochian conception of hope as a cognitive function. Continuing, the Thucydidean perception of hope as a fool’s errand, as it appears in the Melian Dialogue in The History of the Peloponnesian War, shall be examined as an alternative understanding and explanation of the parameters and limitations that hopeful dispositions may hold. With this classical conception in mind, three dystopian works, Nineteen Eighty-Four, Brave New World, and ‘Harrison Bergeron’, will be brought to the fore to explore whether hope in dystopia may, in fact, represent an inability to properly conceive one’s dire situation. This quasi-hopeful theme is prominent in the Orwellian and Huxleyan dystopias, which will be the main focus of this section. Vonnegut’s short dystopian story, on the other hand, will be included to present a purely dystopian work: one in which no hope can be found, Thucydidean or otherwise. By examining the existence of a pessimistic perception of hope within the dystopian genre, this article wishes to highlight how unnecessary it may be to attempt to find hope in these hellish future realities.

Bio:  Aristidis (who prefers the far easier ‘Aris’) is a PhD candidate at the University of St Andrews. His research attempts to understand the workings of dystopian thought through a genealogical study of the genre. The end goal, if possible, is to establish a dystopian tool of analysis, through which one can examine and critique contemporary political and societal phenomena. With a background in literature and political theory, Aris is particularly interested in finding links that can be drawn between the two. Additionally, he is fascinated by the study of governmentality and biopower/ biopolitics through works of Michel Foucault, and any connections to dystopia.

Andrea Burgos-Mascarell. Young adult dystopian fiction and utopian dialogue.

Turbulent times call for activism and demand a collective effort to question ingrained beliefs and established power structures; they demand, in short, critical thinking and the questioning of the status quo. Dystopian fiction has traditionally offered grim views of what society could be or could have been. These novels typically included a protagonist who had very little agency, if any, and was carried by the powerful stream of the system. However, the 21st century saw an unprecedented popularity of a particular subgenre of utopian literature: young adult dystopian fiction. While some of these novels offer traditional endings with unclear definition of the change achieved by the protagonists who fought the system, others clearly represent one of the key aspects of the utopian impulse: the process of dialogue and construction of the better alternative. While traditional young adult literature has presented them as misfits, whose world is at the margins of adult reality and of what is acceptable and reasonable, YA dystopian fiction offers some examples of the moral development and the deconstruction of set beliefs that the protagonists must undergo in order to define the world they are going to build and inhabit. These novels present their young protagonists as activists for a better future who are empowered and vocal. In this paper, I will present examples of 21st century YA dystopian novels, namely Across the Universe (2011-2013), by Beth Revis, and Divergent (2011-2013) by Veronica Roth, which underline the importance of peer discussion, dialogue and collaboration to prevent the continuity of negative societal structures and discrimination and thus offer young readers models that encourage activism for utopia.

Keywords: young adult, dystopia, utopian impulse, activism

Bio: Andrea Burgos Mascarell holds a PhD in languages, literatures and their cultures from the University of Valencia, in Spain, and works as a lecturer at that same university and the International University of Valencia. She specializes in YA dystopias and has published articles on bibliometrics, rape and safety, personal development, and the cultural and economic systems of dystopias.

E5: Panel – Gender, Disaster, Dystopia (hybrid panel)

Chair: Heather Alberro. Participants: Maria Luiza Diniz Milanez, Lucy Stevens, Sierra Getz

Maria Luiza Diniz Milanez. A Flicker of Light: Atwood’s Gilead women

The Handmaid’s Tale (ATWOOD, 1985), written by the canadian author Margaret Atwood and having its first copy released in 1985, avails itself of its epoch’s context – 2nd Feminist Wave facing a rough backlash, and the growth of conservatism – using it as an inspiration to its plot. Although it has been more than thirty years since its publication, the book once again caught the public’s attention with the première of its television series, in 2017; along with the increasing of the feminist movement and, once again, conservatism in many countries. Alongside the prominence of the plot came the release of a new book – The Testaments (2019) – portraying three different points of view on Gilead’s society and its downfall; not only concerning the ways totalitarianism may come to an end, but also reinforcing that there’s also a flicker of light inside darkness. Therefore, it became a necessity to study Gilead’s world and its influence on the 21st century, emphasizing its relevance and in which ways it contributes to feminist and utopian studies. Searching to understand how conservatism affects the feminine figure and relationships, the paper aims to analyze the way Gilead is structured to dismount relationships amongst women, scrutinizing the behavior and relationships of different female characters. Accordingly, the presentation will base itself on the studies coined by ATWOOD (2011), MOYLAN (2016), BLOCH (2005), DALY (1970), SCHULDER (1970), RICH (1980), FUNK (1993), and CAVALCANTI (1999); exploring religious, judicial, feminine relationships, and ustopian aspects, themes which permeate the characters’ and the books’ formation.

Keywords: Margaret Atwood; Dystopia; Utopia; Gender Studies;

Bio: Maria Luiza Diniz Milanez is graduated in English Language and Literature, and a master’s student at Federal University of Paraíba (UFPB), in Brazil, where she researches on Gender and Cultural Studies. She is also part of “Aesthetics and Politics: literature as a locus of resistance”, and “Christine de Pizan” research groups. Her main interests revolve on feminine relationships, resistance, and empowerment, as well as the way they present themselves through literature.

Lucy Stevens. How September 11th 2001 redefined definitions of masculinity and identity for New Yorkers in Manhattan novels.

NOTE: Unable to attend

Gendered identity is built upon the foundation of a spectrum of social codes and hierarchies which are emulated by individuals to achieve acceptance within Western society. These expectations differ and are dependent on the biology of the individual whether they are born male or female. The construction of male identity is achieved through a series of factors such as gender role, sexuality and social role which must be mastered to achieve the socially accepted version of masculinity. Once this identity has actively been established, it is necessary to be maintained through a set of codes and conventions to reassure others they have mastered their assigned role. These can differ regionally and scholars such as R.W. Connell argue that there can only be “masculinities” in the plural, rather than a single hegemonic version which governs all. Therefore, there is a version of masculinity specific to the United States of America and, more specifically, a version which is unique to New York City and has expectations for its citizens. The events of September 11th 2001 challenged gender roles and called upon everyday citizens to demonstrate heroism, so long as they fitted the criterium of traditional masculinity, developed since the conception of America itself. Images of first responders were necessary to pacify a reeling nation and were guided by President George W. Bush who became glamorised by the media as someone who would reinstate the country’s innocence. However, the impact of trauma challenged masculine definitions and left many without a solution to the strong persona they were expected to perform versus the vulnerability they were suffering. This thesis analyses how works of literature set in New York City have reported on masculinity, published before 2001, such as Tom Wolfe’s Bonfire of the Vanities, and compares it to those which came after, such as Don DeLillo’s Falling Man, to understand how 9/11 impacted the traditional gender role and transformed it into a more open definition and, in some ways, dismantling it entirely. In addition, it provides a unique understanding of how the rebuilding of Ground Zero has impacted masculinity in the present day by looking at works of literature published between 2011 and 2021, marking the twentieth anniversary of the event.

Sierra Getz. Dystopias and Disasters: Examining the Apocalyptic Nature of War within    Fahrenheit 451.

This paper engages with Ray Bradbury’s 1953 novel Fahrenheit 451 in order to examine the functions of hope and optimism within war and disaster imagery, dystopian novels, and the genre of modern science fiction. The role of dystopian literature is often associated with representations of catastrophic fears of society and a criticism on patterns of bureaucratic power and how they may attribute to such a descent. Fahrenheit 451’s use of a protagonist whose actions stem from curiosity and a trust in scholarship allows for an exploration behind the attractiveness of the apocalyptic novel. Furthermore, its scenes reminiscent of the Postwar atomic age and impending threats of nuclear warfare familiar to mid-20th century America provide evidence for a broader kind of thinking that was occurring in this transformative era in history. In analyzing this novel in conjunction with prominent science fiction scholars, the aftermath of destructive times of war and government-sanctioned violence can be understood as the igniting factor which culminated an environment of individuals eager for knowledge and dedicated to rebuilding for a better future. This research considers how the novel’s underlying anti-war sentiments and themes of American diversions of loneliness promote the utilization of modern society’s greatest fears in order to advocate for change, thus changing the dialogue surrounding themes of disasters within the acclaimed science fiction novel and providing a deeper understanding of how, despite the paradoxical nature of a defined utopia, a critical analysis of humankind’s own demise can be a source of comfort.

Bio:  Sierra Getz is a current doctoral researcher at the University of Brighton studying the effects of censorship of satirical war literature from 1950-1970 on American society, with a specific focus on the literary works of Bradbury, Heller, and Vonnegut. She holds degrees in Secondary English Education and Creative and Critical Writing from DePaul University and the University of Sussex, respectively.

E6:   Panel- Past and Future of Utopian Studies.

Chair: Laurence Davis. Participants: Antonis Balasopoulos, Caroline Edwards, Julia Ramírez Blanco, Adam Stock, Heather Alberro.

The 2022 Utopian Studies Society/Europe conference is dedicated to an exploration of radical utopian thinking and revolutionary praxis. Its title, ‘Opening Utopia: New Directions in Utopian Studies’, suggests that utopia can be a catalyst for transformative social change only if the study of utopias is itself open, or ‘opened’, to radical influences. In this panel we explore both the past and possible futures of utopian studies and consider some ‘new directions’ that might facilitate more radical utopian thinking and revolutionary praxis. Topics covered include capitalism and the utopian ‘organisational imaginary’, black futurity and the decolonisation of utopian studies, Hispanic utopianism, funding imperatives and (resistance to) complicity with the neoliberal academy, and the possibilities of fostering an inclusive, terrestrial utopianism grounded on terra, in and beyond the ‘end times’ of climate and ecological breakdown.

(1) Antonis Balasopoulos (University of Cyprus) – ‘Two Cheers for Blueprints, or, Negative Reasons for Positive Utopianism’

The indictment of both literary and extra-literary utopias during the Cold War was premised on a systematic assault on the presumed qualities that link both to totalitarian violence and tyranny: prominent among these signs of guilt is their allegedly dogmatic, unitary, overly methodical nature, which is understood as utterly incompatible with freedom and deemed unable to cope with the inescapability of differences and conflicts between individuals and social groups. There have been, of course, intelligent and constructive responses in defense of both utopias more generally and the blueprint utopia more specifically: Mark Olssen has admirably demonstrated the multiple logical and theoretical fallacies on which the Cold War liberal assault on utopia has been based; while Raymond Williams, and more recently, Darren Webb, have elucidated the cost we pay for prematurely abandoning all recourse to utopias as “blueprints for alternatives”.

I believe, however, that we have not yet adequately examined the fact that what has prevailed in western liberal democracies while social fears were being directed against the specter of excessive organization and planning was, in fact, their opposite—the gradual mutation of early-20th century monopoly capitalism to a disorganizing force (Lash and Urry). I will be touching on certain of the aspects of this hegemony of disorganization that has accompanied, as its flipside, the process of “real subsumption”: the decentralization of production, the deregulation of markets, the dismantling of the welfare state, the ideological attack on expectations of relative safety and security and the shattering of the constraints imposed on the order of international relations by concepts of state sovereignty. In effect, I will argue, the long anti-utopian period after 1945 has been one in which social cohesion and relative safety and stability have themselves become “utopian”, largely because of the unfettered power of capitalist monopoly concentration and expansion. This is an important and additional reason why the right to view utopias as exercises in what Timothy Brennan has called “the organizational imaginary” should not be ceded to the ideological automatisms of the anti-utopian consensus.

(2) Caroline Edwards (Birkbeck College, University of London) – ‘Decolonising Utopian Studies’

What does utopian studies have to say to critical race theory, black studies, and ideas of black futurity? Can utopian literary studies, in particular, decolonise itself from the inherent whiteness and embedded colonialism that persists when we ground our discussions in questions of genre and canonicity? Caroline’s contribution will sketch out some of the vital areas of contemporary theoretical debates around queer temporality, black futures, and black hopefulness that can inform our ongoing decolonising praxis of the utopian tradition.

(3) Julia Ramírez Blanco (University of Barcelona) –

Since 2016, many researchers have been working around the HISTOPIA Research Group, working on hispanic utopianism and studying its different faces. In my presentation, I will talk about the group, its undertakings and its evolution. I will also speak about my own investigations, concerning the study of utopia through art and visual culture, and the utopian possibilities of prefigurative politics.

(4) Adam Stock (York St. John University) – ‘Funding Utopia’

For my intervention I propose to discuss the place of Utopian Studies within (and in relation to) the academy from the perspective of its funding, and to consider the ethics of our working practices. Some colleagues in USS/E have had notable successes in securing funding from national councils and third sector organisations for projects relating to utopian studies. This has clear benefits to their careers, to the promotion and legitimisation of utopian studies within the academy, and in some cases to the support of junior colleagues including postgraduate researchers. More rarely, these grants have been able to provide wider benefits to activists and community organisations. These are all laudable.

More of us have devoted a lot of energy and time, including many evenings and weekends, to trying to secure research grants which have been declined. (My own record is decidedly mixed!) But should this be our goal? Or is it this the career trap of the neoliberal university, which demands we secure funding to study utopia so that it can institute ever more dystopian working conditions, for example by increasing workloads for grant holders and making conditions for postdocs and PhD researchers intolerable? Put another way, how comfortable do we, as utopianists, actually want to be in the academy? I suggest a few principles and considerations to bear in mind when we look for funding to support the “bolt holes and breathing spaces” which Darren Webb (2019) has suggested are all academia can offer us, at best, to support radical thinking and action.

(5) Heather Alberro (Nottingham Trent University) – World-building After the End: Terrestrial Utopias of the Here and Now’

In this brief intervention/provocation I’d like to discuss and explore the importance of fostering an inclusive, terrestrial utopianism grounded on terra, in and beyond the ‘end times’ of climate and ecological breakdown. It must be decolonial, critically post-human, and incorporate non-Western perspectives on ‘the good life’. This modality further recognises the urgency and indispensability of resisting the anti-utopian & political fatalism of narratives encouraging that we ‘learn to die’ in the Anthropocene. Or, similarly, the resurgence of ‘dystopia porn’ (Singh 2018) that Moylan gestures to in Becoming Utopian that fetishizes the purported unrealizability of better worlds and asserts that the deficient ‘NOW’ is all there is. Yet, to once again echo Solnit and Bloch, the future is never written. The real and not-yet are in a continual state of flux- which is precisely where transformative potential flourishes. As such, we as radical utopian scholars, in solidarity with activists and other utopian actors, must cry a resounding ‘No!’ to forces perpetuating a politically fatalistic, anti-utopianism for the ‘end times’. We must also resist the co-optation and domestication of the transformative utopian impulse effected by the logic of capitalist realism (Webb 2016; Fisher). Oppressed groups (indigenous, nonhumans, etc.) have already lived through ‘end times’ imposed by colonialism, capitalism and human supremacy. Yet after ‘the end’ (Whitehead 2020) there is always the possibility for new modalities to emerge. What modalities do we wish to create together in the ‘here below’?

Bio:  Laurence Davis is Director of the BSc Government in the Department of Government and Politics at University College Cork, specialising in the areas of political theory and ideologies. He has published widely on radical political thought and imagination, including The New Utopian Politics of Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Dispossessed (with Peter Stillman), Anarchism and Utopianism (with Ruth Kinna), and ‘Grounded Utopia’ (published in Utopian Studies 32.3, 2021). He is a Series Editor of the Manchester University Press Contemporary Anarchist Studies book series, a member of the Steering Committee of the Irish Genders and Sexualities Research Network, and a longstanding Steering Committee member of the Utopian Studies Society Europe.

Bio: Adam Stock is Senior Lecturer in English Literature at York St John University. Adam’s research explores utopian and dystopian fictions, modernisms, and science fiction. His book Modern Dystopian Fiction and Political Thought: Narratives of World Politics was published by Routledge, 2019. More recent publications include a ‘cluster’ on Modernism/Modernity’s Print+ platform on ‘Modernism & SF’ (2022) co-edited with Miranda Iossifidis, and chapters in the Palgrave Handbook of Utopian Literature (2021) and the Routledge collection Intersectional, Feminist and Non-Binary Approaches to Speculative Literature, Film and Art in the 21st Century (2021). He is currently in the early stages of a project on deserts and speculative fictions.

Bio: Julia Ramírez-Blanco is lecturer at Barcelona University. Her work connects art history, utopian studies, and activist movements. She has conducted research on the political iconography of social movements, with a focus on the British direct-action environmentalism of the 1990s and the Spanish 15M movement that occupied city squares with activist camps in 2011. She has also written on the relationships between contemporary art and utopia, and on the gendered history of artistic collectives. She is the sole author of three monographs – Artistic Utopias of Revolt (Palgrave, 2018), 15M. El tiempo de las plazas (Alianza, 2021), and Amigos, disfraces y comunas (Cátedra, forthcoming, 2022) – and editor of two books and a journal issue. She is a committee member of the Utopian Studies Society and belongs to the Intentional Communities Research Group. She also has co-led the research and exhibition project Grande Révolution Domèstique-Guise on feminist utopias. At present, she is working on a book on back-to-the-land communities as part of a broader project on the transversal history of artistic collectives and ecological utopias in the face of the climate crisis.

Bio: Caroline Edwards is Senior Lecturer in Modern & Contemporary Literature at Birkbeck, University of London where she is Director of the Centre for Contemporary Literature and Director of Postgraduate Research in English, Theatre & Creative Writing. Her research focuses on utopian possibility as it intersects with questions of aesthetic form, genre, temporality, political subjectivity, and post/inhuman agency – in literary as well as popular, cultural, and performative texts. She is author of Utopia and the Contemporary British Novel (Cambridge University Press, 2019), co-editor of China Miéville: Critical Essays (Gylphi, 2015) and Maggie Gee: Critical Essays (Gylphi, 2015) and editor of The Cambridge Companion to British Utopian Literature and Culture, 1945-2020 (forthcoming). Caroline is currently writing her second monograph, Hopeful Inhumanism: The Elemental Aesthetics of Ecocatastrophe, which examines strangely hopeful moments of inhuman collaboration within the elemental contexts of the lithic, the mycological, the arboreal, and the hydrological. Caroline is co-editor of C21: Journal of 21st-Century Writings and Editorial Director for the Open Library of Humanities. Her research has featured in a number of non-academic publications, broadcasts, and venues, including the New Statesman, the Times Higher Education, the Guardian, SFX Magazine, BBC Radio 4, BBC Radio 3, BBC One South East, the Barbican Centre, the Institute of Contemporary Arts, Whitechapel Gallery, and the Museum of London.

Bio: Antonis Balasopoulos is Associate Professor of Comparative Literature in the Department of English Studies at the University of Cyprus. His most recent research output has dealt with sovereignty, Marxism and utopianism, daydreaming and the city, and anti-anti-utopia. He has also been involved in writing a long history of literary utopia and dystopia for the Oxford Research Encyclopaedia and plans a book of selected essays and a new edition of A.L. Morton’s The English Utopia.

Bio: Heather Alberro  is a lecturer in global sustainable development at Nottingham Trent University, in the Department of History, Languages and Global Culture. Her background and interests span a range of disciplines including green utopianism, critical posthuman theory, environmental ethics, and literary ecocriticism. Her publications include the chapter ‘Interspecies’ in the The Cambridge Companion to Literature and the Anthropocene (2021) and ‘H.G Wells, Earthly and Post-Terrestrial Futurities’ (2022) in the journal Futures. She is also currently working on a book on contemporary critical-posthuman ecotopias for the Ralahine Utopian Studies book series. Heather also serves as co-convenor for the Political Studies Association’s (PSA) environmental politics specialist group and as EDI officer for the Utopian Studies Society.

Friday July 15th: Day 3

Panels in A-Session – 9-10.30am

A1: Round Table: Dancefloors and Silly Sissies: Queer Performance and Queer Futures.

Chair: Joe Parslow. Presenters: Ben Burratta, Alyson Campbell, Stephen Farrier, Nando Messias, Joe Parslow.

Theatre and performance is a space where we can do the impossible; it is a place where utopias are often glimpsed through spaces of hope, with deeply profound connections to the communities who frequent them. We are a group of researchers and performance makers (at different stages in our careers) who all make and write about queer performance. We are interested in exploring how queer performance does utopia, stages hope and enacts dreams of better pasts, presents and futures.

This roundtable discussion starts with a performance from renowned performance artist and academic Nando Messias. From this starting point, we place performance at the centre of queer ideas and practices. In starting from performance, we consider how the practices we undertake and explore offer articulations of queer utopias or, perhaps more concretely, begin to stage alternative queer worlds. These queer worlds might be the “no place” of utopia’s etymological roots, the “no future” of Lee Edelman’s queer negativity or the horizonal always-deferred queer futurity.

Utopia has a rich history of being sought and found in performance where, for example, Jill Dolan’s (2005) Utopia in Performance provides critical frameworks to understand how hope can be found in theatre. Within queer performance, utopia is now a well-thumbed concept with, for example, José Muñoz’s (2009) Cruising Utopia offering insightful and affecting meditations of the potential of/for queer futures.  Queer studies often turns to performance in its exposition, from Judith Butler’s notions of gender performativity or Jack Halberstam’s queer failure.

Our discussions will examine some of our recents projects in queer performance, including: the work of feral queer camps, an international project where  the resources of the university are redirected to the streets during queer performance festivals; the role of the dancefloor as a dramaturgical framework in creating queer performance; the practice of creating queer spaces in and through performance work where queer spaces don’t already exist (for instance, the generation of the Museum of the Sissy); deeply serious silly drag practices that offer queer communities hope in the face of apparent hopelessness. These discussions articulate our concerns with making queer utopias and the embodiment of queer hope in performance.


Ben Burratta (he/they), Senior Lecturer, Royal Central School of Speech and Drama (University of London), Director of Outbox Theatre

Bio: Ben Buratta is a Senior Lecturer and Course Leader for BA Acting: Collaborative and Devised Theatre at The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. As Artistic Director of Outbox, Ben has directed and made work for many of the UK’s leading theatres including The Bush, NT, Royal Court, Birmingham REP, Contact, Leeds Playhouse, The Yard, and Southbank Centre. Ben’s practice research explores and creates new rehearsal strategies and dramaturgies in order to make theatre queerly.

Professor Alyson Campbell (she/her), Professor of Theatre Victorian College of the Arts, University of Melbourne; artistic director wreckedAllprods

Bio:  Alyson Campbell is a theatre-maker and Professor in Theatre at the Victorian College of the Arts, University of Melbourne, where she leads the dramaturgy strand of the Master of Theatre. Her research, artistic practice as a director, teaching and activism converge around gender and sexuality, particularly queer performance and dramaturgies and contemporary representations of HIV and AIDS. She now likes to write about feral pedagogies and is passionate about Feral Queer Camping.

Dr Stephen Farrier (he/him), Reader in Theatre and Performance, Royal Central School of Speech and Drama (University of London)

Bio: Stephen Farrier is a Professor of Theatre and Performance at Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, University of London.  With Alyson Campbell he co-edited Queer Dramaturgies International Perspectives on where Performance Leads Queer (2015) and with Mark Edward, Contemporary Drag Performers and Practices, Drag in a Changing Scene Vol.1 (2020) and Drag Histories, Herstories and Hairstories, Drag in a Changing Scene Vol.2 (2021). He has published on lip-syncing; queer utopias and temporalities; drag training; Joe Orton and queer history, and intergenerational queer work.

Dr Nando Messias (he/she/they), Lecturer, Contemporary Performance Practice, Royal Central School of Speech and Drama (University of London), Performer and Live Artist

Bio: Nando Messias’ work straddles performance art, dance and theatre. Their performances combine beautiful images with a fierce critique of gender, visibility and violence. Nando has performed at prestigious venues such as the Royal Court, The Gate, Hayward Gallery, V&A, Tate Britain, Roundhouse, Royal Vauxhall Tavern and ICA, among other spaces across the UK and internationally. As well as a performer, Nando is a lecturer and researcher of queer theatre and performance.

Dr Joe Parslow (he/they), Lecturer, Contemporary Performance Practice, Royal Central School of Speech and Drama (University of London

Bio: Joe Parslow is a queer researcher, writer, teacher and producer. They are a Lecturer in Contemporary Performance Practice at The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. Outside of Higher Education, they produce queer performance events in queer nightlife settings. Their research focusses on contemporary queer performance and communities. Their monograph, Their Majesties: Drag Performance and Queer Communities in London (Routledge, 2023), examines London’s drag scene between 2009-2019. Their current research projects explore drag performance and Artificial Intelligence (AI) and a larger ongoing project examining contemporary queer hope.

A2: Histopia – Critical Hopes 2 – Panel: Dystopian paradoxes: where is the light?

Chair: Elisabetta Di Minico. Participants: Francisco José Martínez Mesa, Ana Clara Rey Segovia.

In this panel, we would like to present three papers aiming to underline the utopian lights that lie beneath the dystopian nightmares. Describing “bad places”, the genre creates an imaginary cartography that also save some spaces for hope and resistance and support a narrative that promote criticism and activism in real life, using fiction as a potentially utopian medium of social transformation. As Margaret Atwood affirmed: “Our problem right now is that we’re so specialized that if the lights go out, there are a huge number of people who are not going to know what to do. But within every dystopia there’s a little utopia”.

  1. Elisabetta Di Minico. The destruction and the resistance of hope and otherness in dystopia

In the “bad places” of dystopia, hope is generally one of the first victims of power, control, and repression, together with otherness. Dystopias as 1984, Kallocain, V for Vendetta, The Handmaid’s Tale or Westworld depict realities where diversity, emotions, consciousness, and knowledge are annihilated by power and uniformity. Quoting Moylan and Baccolini, “the official, hegemonic order of most dystopias […] rests, as Antonio Gramsci put it, on both coercion and consent”. To secure and protect its power and to suppress disobedience and resistance, dystopia needs not only “useful and docile” bodies, citing Foucault, but also aesthetically and ideologically similar individuals. Generally, dystopian authorities exploit linguistic, spatial and psychophysical subjection to repress or manipulate individuals, to fit them into their social, ethical and political standards, excluding, blaming and repressing the non-aligned and the outcasts. In order to repress the different, the homologated must be built first. Authority exploits fear, consent, surveillance and violence to maintain population in a constant situation of stress and psychological conflicts, preventing riots and conspiracies and deleting possible oppositional forces as individuality, feelings, creativity, and hope. But, even if thoughts and emotions are criminalized, some characters, wonderful examples of courage and often otherness, such as Linda (Kallocain), Valerie (V for Vendetta), Offred (The Handmaid’s tale), and Dolores (Westworld), still try to take concrete actions against the power, also using and promoting hope, a hope of humanity, intimacy, connection, and freedom (among others), as an antidote against “bad places”. The proposed paper aims to analyze how dystopia damage (more or less utopian) hopes and how an often fool, desperate, and impossible hopeful resistance still survive and/or arise.

  • Francisco José Martínez Mesa. From hope to gratification: an approach to the complex relationship between dystopia and the audience.

The pessimism prevailing in our societies seems to have secured the triumph of the dystopian discourse. The uncertainty and the distrust generated by the idea of living in a very different future from the one previously imagined have triggered a generalized panorama of unprecedented demoralization and hopelessness, that has been increased by the traumatic events of recent years, including a pandemic and a (potentially atomic) war. In the past, the anthropological optimism of utopia inspired humanity to look for a better life. But now, this is radically changed. We live in a new dark and bleak setting where security is the absolute value and minimizing losses is the maximum priority. In this context, dystopia appears as a sign of the times. His continuous presence in the media has led to consider it as one of the last strongholds from where humanity has tried to exorcise the ills of its time. Its authors, by imagining worse scenarios than the present time, were considered to question the dangerous direction of their currents societies and encourage their fellow citizens to think about and fight against (react to) their problems. This was a perception essentially critical that allowed us to keep alive the hope for the ability of the human being to become aware of our reality and work towards a better world. The humanist trend inherent to utopia, therefore seemed to keep alive in dystopia. Today, however this reading involves some subtle points. Or, at least, new evidence. One of the most important has to do with the need for a more comprehensive vision of the dystopian phenomenon that considers all its components. As Kenneth M. Roemer already suggested for the case of utopias in his classic Utopian Audiences (2003), the role of the audience, the true recipient of the message contained in dystopias, is essential to appreciate its true value, in a context that is also dynamic and unstable. In this regard, the subject of our proposal is to offer a methodological approach for the study of dystopia based on the different functions that could be performed for its audience and could range between an attitude of criticism and extreme questioning of the things and the social conformity and the obedient resignation of accepting status quo.

  • Ana Clara Rey Segovia. From dystopia to utopia? Possible utopian openings in contemporary dystopias

Academic debate on mainstream dystopia has brought to light the anti-utopian discourse underlying many of these narratives. Resignation and defeatism regarding the possibilities of transforming reality have undoubtedly been a constant within the dystopian tradition, from Zamyatin to our days. In view of this, we would like to ask ourselves about the possibility of formulating utopian visions based on dystopian scenarios. Based on the contribution of authors such as Ursula K. Le Guin or Kim Stanley Robinson we want to delve into this question. We consider their “ambiguous” proposals serve to establish a dialogue that recover the spirit of openness of utopia itself.  Is it possible to reproduce this dialogue on the mainstream audiovisual dystopian scene? We propose to explore this question by approaching some television series such as Sweet Tooth or Station Eleven, in which hope constitutes one of the main motifs.

Bio: Elisabetta Di Minico (UNA4CAREER postdoctoral researcher, Complutense University of Madrid) works on the relationship between fiction and history. She primarily deals with dystopia, control, otherness, and violence (racial and gendered). She uses novels, comics, movies, and TV series to provocatively analyze the real “bad places” of contemporary society on a historical and sociological level. ​​Di Minico also teaches Comic History at IULM – University of Milan and is part of the HISTOPIA research group (Autonomous University of Madrid).

Bio: Francisco José Martínez Mesa is Ph D. History from the Autotoma University of Madrid. Associate Professor of Political Theory at The Faculty of Political Sciences (University Complutense of Madrid). Recent works: Martinez Mesa y Urraco, De Esclavos y robots y esclavas (Madrid, La Catarata, 2019), “Dilemas y puntos ciegos en el discurso distópico actual: aproximación a una nueva tipología del género” en Distopía y Sociedad, 1 (2021).

Bio: Ana-Clara Rey Segovia holds a PhD in Communication and Interculturality from the University of Valencia.  Graduated in Audiovisual Communication and Master in Communication, Interculturality and European Studies by the same university, her doctoral thesis analyzes the role of the utopian and dystopian imagination throughout the history of Western modernity, with special emphasis on the observation of the contemporary cinematic panorama. Particularly focused on what has come to be called the “crisis of imagination” in today’s world, its main concerns revolve around the need for the reconceptualization of utopia, understanding its importance in the current context of crisis.

A3: Reimagining Academic Freedom: Limitations and Possibilities

Chair: Sierra Getz.  Participants: Heather McKnight, Alice Corble, Audrey Verma.

We are arguably in dark times where rights to academic freedom have been conflated with expedient conceptions of free speech, its interdependence with other freedoms ignored, and its use as a tool to silence and oppress increasingly apparent. Contemporary media discourse, alongside current legislation in the UK seeks to erase the historical connection and contemporary relationship between academic freedom, student protest and industrial action. This co-optation of academic freedom to uphold racist, sexist, classist, ableist, transphobic and other overlapping oppressive infrastructures is, however, not lost on academics. This panel discussion on academic freedom is a starting point for bringing together a working group of scholars looking at the problems and possibilities around academic freedom. This panel proposes starting points for reimagining academic freedom from a utopian perspective that is open, generative, critical and decolonial.

We will present critiques of academic freedom and invite broader consideration of whether academic freedom can be liberatory or is necessarily always oppressive. How can we work with, generate, or formalise overlaps between academic freedom and utopia? Can we centre responsibility and care over the right to offend? How can we raise awareness and understanding of its inter-determinacies with other rights? What new definitions have emerged of academic freedom when it is considered in relation to resistance? How should we counter moves that threaten academic freedom, or should we be arguing for radical alternatives?

The panel will ask attendees to consider whether academic freedom should be extended to all, and be used in defence of all workers, students and the communities in which our institutions exist, thus making visible the roots of knowledge production. We propose that we should be considering the new definitions of academic freedom emergent in discourses of resistance in the institution, and consider the prefigurative potential for academic freedom not just as a fixed definition, but an open category, one that is subject to ongoing critique and change.

Bio:  Audrey Verma (University of Newcastle) addresses academic freedom in relation to neoliberalisation, precarity and digitisation, speaking to issues raised in her recently published article ‘A one-sided view of the world’: women of colour at the intersections of academic freedom. See Blell, M., Liu, S.-J.S., Verma, A., 2022. ‘A one-sided view of the world’: women of colour at the intersections of academic freedom. The International Journal of Human Rights 0, 1–20.

Bio: Alice Corble (University of Sussex) will address academic freedom within the context of library and archival work, exploring tensions between control and liberation in librarianship, particularly when it comes to decolonial practices. She will address the invisibility and marginalisation of these workers in processes of knowledge production, and the exclusion of professional service staff in the right to exercise academic freedom.

Bio: Heather McKnight (Magnetic Ideals Collective) – Will address how through joint resistance between staff and students, new narratives of academic freedom are emerging and how these sit at odds with institutional practice, media discourse and legislative changes. She will address new definitions arising through resistance to prevent, suggesing a prefigurative legislative approach to address the difficulties presented.

A4: Panel –  Hope in Catastrophe

Chair: Emrah Atasoy. Participants: Nicole Pohl, Diane Morgan, Joe P. L. Davidson

Nicole Pohl. Utopia and hope(lessness).

In this paper, I will reassess the juxtaposition between utopia as seemingly ineffective, idealistic, and utopia as deep/transformative adaptation. I propose that responses to the chronic climate emergency and the Anthropocene can be and are in fact utopian, based not on the too common misrepresentation of utopia as a perfect state and world (Schlaraffenland), but utopia as a form of ethical witnessing (Haas). Ethical witnessing not only gives meaning to our lives, even in the face of extinction and emergency, it makes ‘tolerable one’s moment between beginning and end” (Kermode). Ethical witnessing can exist even in hope(lessness), as it creates meaning, a sense of responsibility, agency, and potentiality, even if it is for a post-human world. 

Bio: Professor Nicole Pohl is the Editor of Utopian Studies and a member of Faculty of Humanities and Social Oxford Brookes University.

Diane Morgan. “The Be All and End All”: “Is this the Promised End?”, “Or Image of that Horror?”

In his outline for “Travail sur la gravitation universelle” (1814), Claude-Henri Saint-Simon , all too often presented as an overenthusiastic promulgator of technocratic “progress”, paints us a haunting picture. In a section on the future of the human species, he evokes “the last man, who is about to die, after having drunk the last drop of water on the globe”. Saint-Simon suggests that “the last man’s sensation of death will be far more onerous [pénible] for him than it will be for any of us, as his particular death will be at the same time the general death of the species as a whole”.

Whilst remaining fully cognizant that many people die “anonymously”, are wretchedly dying right now of thirst -as well as of hunger-without significantly impacting on the human species as a whole (the case might be different for other life forms whose numbers are smaller), I would nevertheless like to focus on this, by comparison, “privileged” figure of the Last “Man” (sic) who stands at the end of time. In what ways will he be dying for “us”, in “our” name as it were?

Engaging with thinkers such as Kant, Derrida, Anders, Hartog, Foessel, Latour, Horvat, Chakrabarty, as well as Shakespeare, this paper will explore the possibilities of an “apocalyptic utopianism” in a planetary era.

Bio: Diane Morgan works in the School of Fine Art, History of Art & Cultural Studies (FAHACS), University of Leeds, U.K.

Joe P. L. Davidson. Two cheers for collapse? Societal collapse, climate-induced breakdown, and catastrophic hope.

There is nothing new about predictions that climate change will cause serious social problems in the twenty-first century. However, in recent years, some environmentalists have made an even stronger assertion: the climate-induced collapse of industrial society is almost inevitable and potentially desirable. This claim, which I term the societal collapse thesis, is associated with two increasingly influential currents in the environmental movement: deep adaptation in the United Kingdom and collapsology in France. For proponents of the societal collapse thesis, it is too late; there is nothing societies can do to divert or deflect breakdown. At the same time, utopia may follow on the coattails of ruin; in the aftermath of collapse, humanity can build a sustainable society. Critics have suggested that the thesis overemphasises the seriousness of the environmental crisis, induces feelings of fatalism and hopelessness, and ignores the unequal effects of climate change on different people around the world. Yet, are there aspects of the societal collapse thesis that survive these critiques? I argue that the thesis is most productively understood not as a prediction about the future or a political strategy for the present but as a form of cognitive estrangement. The imagination of collapse has value insofar that it fosters a particular way of looking at the world that allows those who adopt its perspective to, in a negative sense, pinpoint the unstable ecological preconditions of everyday life and, in a positive sense, posit a utopian world that is radically other to the existing social order. 

Bio: Joe P. L. Davidson has recently completed his PhD at the Department of Sociology, University of Cambridge. His work focuses on the relationship between literary utopias, temporality, and social theory. He has published articles in journals including The Sociological Review, the European Journal of Social Theory, Theory, Culture, & Society, and Feminist Theory.

A5: Panel – Theorising Hope, Theorising Utopia (hybrid panel)

Chair: Patricia McManus. Presenters: Andrew Milner, Martin Greenwood, Greg Claeys

Andrew Milner. Progress versus Catastrophe? Utopian Hope in Georg Lukács and Walter Benjamin.

When utopian studies and SF studies explore inter-war German Marxism, their attentions are invariably concentrated on Ernst Bloch, typically seen as a utopian exception to the anti-utopian Marxist rule. But both Georg Lukács and Walter Benjamin were also inclined toward utopia. Lukács’s The Historical Novel (1937) and Walter Benjamin’s ‘Theses on the Philosophy of History’ (1940) were each written in response to the rise of Fascism, but they develop along very different lines. The concluding chapter to The Historical Novel is devoted to the ‘historical novel of democratic humanism’ and, as Lukács himself would conclude, its politics were ‘too optimistic’. By contrast, Benjamin’s ninth thesis famously represented history as a storm blowing from Paradise. Perry Anderson identifies the contrast between Lukács and Benjamin as that between hope in ‘progress’ and hope in ‘catastrophe’. This paper will argue that, during the years when Lukács and Benjamin were writing about history writing, external history had indeed become catastrophic rather than progressive, but that the Allied victory in 1945 effectively reversed this judgement. It will pose the question of whether our world – a world confronted by global pandemic, global heating, the threat of nuclear war between Russia and NATO, and the possibility of AI finally becoming self-conscious – inhabits a moment of crisis and hope akin to that confronted by Benjamin. It will argue that the key theoretical question, as humanity struggles to survive into the twenty-second century, will be: what kind of hope? Lukács or Benjamin? progress or catastrophe?

Keywords: Lukács * Benjamin * Utopia * Hope

Bio:Andrew Milner is Professor Emeritus of English and Comparative Literature at the School of Languages, Literatures, Cultures and Linguistics,Monash University.

Martin Greenwood. The Post Office versus the Army as a vehicle of utopian hope: Real utopia as a method in the search for revolutionary dual power.

This paper argues that Frederic Jameson’s An American Utopia: Dual Power and the Universal Army implicitly suggests a means by which the work of two key utopian sociological thinkers might be brought together in a fruitful complementarity. The paper also challenges Jameson’s dismissal of the Post Office as a potential vehicle of utopian dual power. By browsing through such potential vehicles (the Mafia, religions, the Post Office, etc.), before settling on the US Army, Jameson to some extent follows methodological elements of Eric Olin Wright’s Real Utopias Project: assessing extant alternative socioeconomic forms for their broader social-transformational potential. By engaging in imaginative consideration of what a society transformed through universal conscription into a dual power utopian army would entail, Jameson to some extent follows elements of Ruth Levitas’ Utopia as Method: bringing utopia’s ‘speculative holism’ into play regarding the logical social implications of a posited program of social organisation. The paper demonstrates the potential complementarity of these two aspects of utopian sociology through a sociological account of the UK’s Post Office which takes in its history, current condition and its imagined future as a vehicle of utopian dual power. To challenge the suitability of Jameson’s Universal Army as such a vehicle, in favour of the Post Office, the paper evaluates each utilising two key concepts from utopian studies: concrete utopia and education of desire.

Martin Greenwood is a final-year PhD Sociology student at the University of Manchester. His PhD Postcapitalism and the Post Office: The role of public services in radical futures uses critical theory and walking ethnography to explore the constraints upon utopian consciousness presented by everyday life and considers ways in which reimagined public services might reorient societies towards utopian possibilities.

Greg Claeys. Defining Realistic Utopias.

Utopian scholars generally are aware of the pitfalls of providing a definition of utopianism which bridges the three “faces” of the subject, the literary, theoretical, and communitarian. This presentation attempts to resolve some of the more troubling objections which often arise from such efforts. It describes the “ism” in terms of two functions, one which permits us to emerge above and beyond the bubbles which define our everyday life – I call this the “alterity” function. The other demands that we envision what life looks like in reasonably distant futures, beyond four or five year electoral cycles or corporate profit returns. This is the “futurity” function of the concept of utopia. Finally, I want to define “utopia” as possessing a discernible content or aim, namely the promotion of much greater and closer sociability or “belongingness”. The essence of the utopian tradition, in my view, is its projection of bringing people together to associate peaceably with one another, with a closeness which on a small scale approximates an idealised family, but with larger numbers, an amiably-disposed group of neighbours. So we view one another as friends, or friends of friends, rather than as rivals and antagonists. We trust, rather than fear, one another. We aim to help, rather than hinder, each other. We are kind, rather than cruel. These attitudes give us a sense of place and proximity as well as comfort and reassurance.

Key words: utopia; dystopia; utopianism

Bio: Gregory Claeys is Professor Emeritus at the University of London. His eleven books, translated into nine languages, include Machinery, Money and the Millennium: From Moral Economy to Socialism (Princeton University Press, 1987); Citizens and Saints: Politics and Anti-Politics in Early British Socialism (Cambridge University Press, 1989); Searching for Utopia: the History of an Idea (Thames & Hudson, 2011), Mill and Paternalism (Cambridge University Press, 2013); Dystopia: A Natural History (Oxford University Press, 2016); Marx and Marxism (Penguin Books, 2018), Utopianism for a Dying Planet: Life After Consumerism (Princeton University Press, 2022); and John Stuart Mill: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford University Press, 2022). He has edited The Cambridge Companion to Utopian Literature (Cambridge University Press, 2010; Turkish edn., 2017) and several editions of utopian primary sources.

A6: Exploring Forms of Hope.

Chair: Richard Hull. Presenters: Morna Laing, Inna Sukhenko, Rachel Bosler.

Morna Laing. The ‘Green Cloak’ of Fashion Media: Utopia, Micro-utopia, and Iterative Hope

Clothing has been a feature of utopian thinking, from Thomas More’s Utopia to political movements and contemporary fashion practice (Burcikova, 2017). This paper builds upon that thinking by exploring how the concept of utopia can be used to analyse fashion media and its representations of sustainability. In one way, the fashion media can be understood as the greatest barrier to changing consumption patterns. Practices of greenwashing drape a ‘green cloak’ (Hari 2010) over unsustainable industry practices, obscuring them from consumers and leading to a lack of clarity when it comes to making eco-responsible choices. This potentially leaves the planet open to some of the more dystopian outcomes of climate change and pollution. Yet, on the other hand, the newness built into definitions of fashion might be turned on its head when it comes to independent media and their capacity to promote progressive social change. We will always need to clothe ourselves so the question then becomes: how can we do fashion differently? And what role might the media play in iteratively crafting, and contesting, a more sustainable set of fashion practices? The importance of diverse, local solutions falls in line with John Wood’s concept of micro-utopias, which are ‘more tentative, temporary, pluralized or truncated’ versions of Utopia (2007). If we accept Thiele’s (2011) assertion that sustainability is not a universal, fixed idea but rather ‘an iterated practical exercise’ then it seems that the (independent) fashion media will have an important role to play in shaping a more hopeful future. This paper will address these ideas through situated case studies such as Atmos magazine, Ganni Lab, and The Slow Factory.

Bio: Dr. Morna Laing is Assistant Professor in Fashion Studies at The New School, Parsons Paris. She gained her PhD from University of the Arts London in 2016, where she also formerly worked as Senior Lecturer at Chelsea College of Arts. Her first monograph is entitled Picturing the Womanchild, published with Bloomsbury in 2021. She has a particular interest in media spectatorship and recently co-edited a collection of essays entitled Revisiting the Gaze (2020). Her current research focuses on sustainability and the fashion media, and will later form part of a monograph published with Routledge (forthcoming).

Inna Sukhenko. ‘Slow Hope’ and Nuclear Knowledge Management in Nuclear Fiction: On ‘Hope Narrative’ in Communicating a Nuclear Disaster.

The focus on studying the narrative tools of communicating ‘a nuclear disaster’ for communicating nuclear knowledge management within ‘literary energy narrative’ frames helps reveal the cultural and literary dimensions of (non)emoting ‘nuclear energy’ in the context of energy storytelling (Szeman, 2018) by defining the critical perception of energy related issues in the perspective of transmitting scientific knowledge through fictional writings to the public.

The study  on (non)emoting ‘nuclear energy’ as a societal value against the utopian and apocalyptic debates on climate change and natural/human-made ecological disasters not only raise discussions on ‘the nuclear’, while ranging from ‘disappointed, scared and doomed’ narratives till ‘the sustainable clean energy’ level, but also fosters the social movement, encouraging the  shifts of individual and collective ecological reflections as well as developing new fields, vocabulary, methodology,  which define a strive for hope and survival. Under such apocalyptic and utopian debates the contemporary nuclear fictional writings storytelling tend to trigger hope and show ‘alternative’ narratives, among which is ‘slow  hope’ (by Christof Mauch, 2018), stressing that the lack of hope for survival and no way out of the coming apocalypse can paralyze us in our critical thinking and actions, and highlighting ‘knowledge’ management as a component of ‘hope’ narrative.

In my presentation I intend to show Maunch’s ‘slow hope’ concept within the contemporary Norther-American and Eastern European nuclear fiction, where critical thinking perspective on nuclear knowledge management is regarded as a component of ‘hope’ narrative for framing ‘nuclear/energy literacy’. This approach helps distinguishing the literary and cultural parameters of communicating a nuclear disaster in nuclear fictional writings from intermedial ecocriticism’s perspective (Bruhn, 2020) with its emphasis on transforming scientific knowledge into other media where ‘hope narrative’ is in the focus on post-traumatic energy storytelling. On the example of nuclear writings such as Bobbie  Ann Mason’s An Atomic Romance (2005), Andrea White’s Radiant Girl  (2008), Orest Stelmach’s The Boy from Reactor Four (2013) and James Reich’s Bombshell (2013) I indent to show not only the frames of profiling ‘slow hope’ for situating nuclear knowledge management in the contemporary nuclear fiction , but also the literary/cultural dimensions of ‘hope’ in narrating nuclear history and nuclear knowledge among the shifts of ‘nuclear’ narratives by demonstrating the weakness of ‘apocalyptic’ rhetoric and encouraging nuclear literacy/awareness initiatives within energy humanities’ agenda.

Keywords: energy humanities, intermedial ecocriticism, nuclear criticism, literary energy narrative, nuclear fiction, nuclear narrative, nuclear literacy, nuclear knowledge management,  hope narrative, slow hope, Chernobyl

Bio: Inna Sukhenko is a research fellow of Helsinki Environmental Humanities Hub, the Department of Cultures, the University of Helsinki. Her current project is focused on researching the literary dimensions of nuclear energy within energy literary narrative studies. She teaches courses on nuclear narrative studies and Chernobyl studies. After defending her PhD in Literary Studies (Dnipro, Ukraine), she has been a research fellow of Erasmus Mundus (Bologna, 2008; Turku, 2011-2012), Cambridge Colleges Hospitality Scheme (2013), SUSI (Ohio, 2016), Open Society Foundation/Artes Liberales Foundation (Warsaw, 2016-2017), JYU Visiting Fellowship Programme (Jyväskylä, 2021). She is among the contributors of The Routledge Handbook of Ecocriticism and Environmental Communication (2019). Her general research interests lie within environmental humanities, energy humanities, petrocultures, ecocriticism, nuclear criticism, Cold War studies, literary energy narrative studies, nuclear fiction, energy ethics. She is a member of the Association for Literary Urban Studies (Finland), HELSUS (Finland), the Finnish Society for Development Research (Finland), and Nordic Association for American Studies (NAAS).

Rachel Bosler. Can we be Radically Happy in the face of Climate Breakdown.

Discussions of climate breakdown are often characterized by the doom and gloom of inevitable extinction. In addition to criticisms that this rhetoric sparks elitism, authoritarianism and Malthusianism rather than “cooperative, collective and democratic” responses (Harvey 2000, 217), negativity, I argue, does not provide the tools for imagining or constructing an alternative world. This concern is compounded by the hope-filled framing pushed by elites—that unproven, untested and unrealistic technology is the solution. Therefore this paper will conceptualize a utopian environmentalism (based on Segal 2017’s ‘utopian spirit’) that emphasizes interdependency for radically rethinking how we live.

First, I briefly outline the neoliberal hope inherent in the technology-driven utopias of ‘smart cities’ by drawing on theory on ‘theme-parking’ as a mode of producing space (Hannigan 1998, Sorkin 1992). Referred to elsewhere as ‘degenerate utopias’ (Marin 1973), the abstract, placeless ‘city- as-theme-park’ sacrifices community and connection in favour of increasing consumption and maintaining order and control.

As an alternative I am keen to explore Harvey’s ideas about spatiotemporal utopias (2000) in relation to work on trespassing (Hayes 2020, 2022). I focus specifically on this collective practice’s capacity for reinvigorating Segal’s ‘utopian spirit’ (2017). In her work on the political importance of collective joy and happiness, a willful, utopian spirit is essential for cultivating and reaffirming our ties to one another and the world—and creating space for change. Therefore I will explore how this utopian spirit and the affective bonds it instills can influence environmental thought, practice and action.

Bio: Rachel is a PhD candidate doing interdisciplinary research at the University of Essex, based in the Government Department. Her critical theory based work draws across the humanities and social sciences, incorporating insights from a range of disciplines including feminist theory, heterodox economics, cultural theory, architectural theory and urban geography in order to understand the ecological and affective consequences of privatizing space and argue for the need to rethink the design of public space.

Friday July 15th: Day 3

B-Session – 10.45-12pm

Jack Halberstam – Keynote: Unworlding: An Aesthetics of Collapse

In my recent book, Wild Things: The Disorder of Desire, I proposed that wildness is a deeply ambivalent form of power, one that cannot be harnessed neatly by human intention but that spins away from human will towards other forms of engagement. I offer ambiguous figures who stand in for the potential for wildness to either unmake the world or become a site of ferocious and often erotic appropriation.

In new work, under the title of unworlding, I ask whether we can think with wildness on behalf of different ways of engaging with non-human life. Rather than holding out for new worlds, revitalized notions of life, or remade utopian dreams, my project begins from the premise that utopian aspirations as we currently conceive of them can only proceed by way of unworlding, world unmaking in which concepts such as the human, subject, object, animal, vegetative are tipped out of their hierarchical formations and disordered in meaning and in their relations to one another.

Bio: Professor Jack Halberstam is Professor of Gender Studies and English at Columbia University and Director of the Institute for Research on Women, Gender and Sexuality, who will be discussing Queering Utopia.

The author of seven books, Halberstam’s latest book, out in 2020, is titled Wild Things: The Disorder of Desire. Places Journal awarded Halberstam its Arcus/Places Prize in 2018 for innovative public scholarship on the relationship between gender, sexuality and the built environment. Halberstam is now finishing a second volume on wildness titled: The Wild Beyond: Music, Architecture and Anarchy.

Friday July 15th: Day 3

C-Session – 12.45-2.15pm

Utopian Studies Society (Europe) Annual General Meeting (AGM).

Friday, July 15th: Day 3

Panels in D-Session – 2.30-4pm

D1:Flash Papers, Round Table and Workshop – What Happens to Hope in Dystopia: Anarchism and Architecture Beyond Utopia.

Chair and Co-Ordinator: Nathaniel Coleman.  Participants: David Boyd, Dora Farrelly, Sarah Al Hasan, Rob Lloyd, Holly Veitch, Ufuk Ersoy, Inês Nascimento.

In my first meeting with Lefebvre in 1978 I clumsily asked him, ‘Are you an anarchist?’ He responded politely, ‘No. Not now.’ ‘Well then,’ I said, ‘what are you now?’ He smiled, ‘A Marxist, of course … so that we can all be anarchists some time in the future.’

Edward W. Soja, Thirdspace: Journeys to Los Angeles and Other Real-And-Imagined Places (Oxford, UK & Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishers, 1996), page 33, footnote 8.

The Anarchism and Architecture session is in parts a panel of multiple presentations, a roundtable, and workshop. As such, it mirrors — as much as possible — the sorts of dialogues that can take shape in university based architecture studios, so long as they are utopian-minded. While the session is organized in conference-ready recognizable ways, it will be as free-form and open-format as possible — mirroring the session topic: anarchism and architecture beyond Utopia. Session Participants  include former and present students, as well as PhD students and architecture teachers.

The architecture and anarchism panel largely draws upon the design studios I facilitate in the Master of Architecture Program at Newcastle University. In its current iteration, the studio themes can be summarized as Architecture and its Education Redux: Remapping the Neo-Avant-Garde. With the studio providing the framework for the session, four participants —  students graduating this year — will flash-discuss their own work developed over the past two years, while also referencing that of other students in their cohort. Another flash-presentation will be made by my teaching-partner in the studio, who is also a former student  currently researching a PhD by creative practise under my supervision. Two additional respondents  include an architecture educator from the US and a PhD student from Portugal.

The seven interventions (five presentations + two interlocutors) will be no longer than 5-7 minutes each. I will introduce and chair the session. Each participant  will work with one short Anarchist text, or extract, as a means of framing their discussion of the work and in response to it. Possible reference texts will include writing  on Anarchist Aesthetics (whatever that might be), amongst other topics. In short, the session topics, studio, works, and individual propositions are developed, and discussed, framed by specific texts, with the students’ design work, the studio ethos and studio brief constituting the primary reference. The 90-minute session is organised in a manner to leave ample time for open discussion amongst the session contributors and audience participants. In the spirit of the session, no one is expected to have expert knowledge of Anarchism. A synoptic view, or working understanding, of Anarchism is fine, perhaps even ideal. If anyone in attendance happens to have a more developed understanding of Anarchism than that, fantastic! Overall, the emphasis is on action, rather than academicism, with use, the concrete, and works the focus of a kind of developing utopian pragmatics.

Although not explicitly declared, the various iterations of the Remapping studio has been working on the anarchism + architecture topic together for  at least five years, it’s just never  quite called it that. The studio’s interest in remapping the neo-avant-garde and how, reflections on Gordon Matta Clark, on Aldo van Eyck’s playgrounds, on Constant’s New Babylon, and on Junk Playgrounds, as well as on informal architecture (in its myriad manifestations), including DIY (PUNK) approaches, and our interrogation of professional architecture culture (and its capture by the building industry) have all been in the spirit of Anarchism (albeit prefiguratively). Likewise, reflections on Lefebvre, and of course on Utopia, Ruskin and Morris have brought us close to the intersections between DIY and anarchism. While survival and resilience are central to the studio (as in the proposed session), Anarchism is a conception of (open though not entirely de-structured) social relations, which differs from street-level construals of anarchy (as the absence of such relations, and the chaos that would ensue). Since almost all the work produced in the studio during the past 5-7 years could be understood as pushing beyond Utopia toward Anarchism, the time is right to out this (oft unrealised) aspect of our endeavour, especially in contradistinction to the production of space almost that takes shape almost entirely within the dystopic world interior of capital.

The  session also marks a significant development in my own utopian studies, not least by moving towards anarchism (explicitly) but also in emphatically blurring the lines between research and teaching, as well as between experts and novices, not least by acknowledging and foregrounding the disciplinary knowledge of the participants, including very recent graduates. The session is also conceived of as prefiguring directions the Remapping studio will take beginning with the 2022-2023 academic session, to say nothing of my own developing research agenda. In this way, the  session is as much a workshop on utopian-anarchistic architectural subjectivities and practices, as it is a roundtable for developing the topic, and a flash paper session for airing steps so far in both directions.

Session participants

Nathaniel Coleman, Newcastle University: Session Chair. Will introduce and facilitate session. (5-7 minutes)

David Boyd, Newcastle University: Presentation on Anarchism & the Crises of Representation, reflecting on his PhD by creative practice work, teaching in the studio, and the studio work. (5-7 minutes)

Dora Farrelly, Newcastle University: Presentation of her Masters work, especially her thesis project, in relation to the work of the studio cohort, the brief, and DIY aspects of anarchist self-organization. (5-7 minutes)

Sarah Hasan, Newcastle University: Presentation of her Masters work, especially her thesis project, in relation to the work of the studio cohort, the brief, and DIY aspects of anarchist autogestion in the form of co-production and community self-build practicesas means to resisting gentrification. (5-7 minutes)

Rob Lloyd, Newcastle University: Presentation of his Masters work, especially his thesis project, in relation to work of the studio cohort, the brief, and tensions between architects’ obsessions with diagrammatic good forms and human desires for self-organization, especially in relation to mass housing, informed by Colin Ward’s work on housing. (5-7 minutes)

Holly Veitch, Newcastle University, Presentation of her Masters work, especially her thesis project, in relation to work of the studio cohort, the brief, and overcoming the limits of professional practice, with anarchism suggesting alternatives to architecture, informed by William Morris. (5-7 minutes)

Ufuk Ersoy, Clemson University (USA): Respondent. Reflections on the preceding presentations, framed by critical historical perspectives on architectural theory, informed by his developing conceptions of critical phenomenology (as a form of anarchist praxis).

Inês Nascimento, ISCTE – IUL (Portugal): Respondent. Reflections on the preceding presentations, framed by her developing research on Utopia and Radical Pedagogies in Architecture Education, investigating the potential of utopian imagination and radical pedagogies in the education of  architects, particularly in the Portuguese context.


David Boyd is a PhD by Creative Practice student at the School of Architecture in Newcastle University, UK. He currently teaches as a design studio tutor within the MArch programme. His research aims to scrutinise the philosophical roles and mechanisms of architectural representation within the cultural context of contemporary practice, with particular focus on hand drawn parallel projection.

Nathaniel Coleman is Reader in History and Theory of Architecture at Newcastle University, UK. He leads design studios and theory seminars, concentrating on the limits and possibilities of architectural neo-avant-gardes. He has written extensively on the problematic of architecture and Utopia. His books include Materials and Meaning in Architecture: Essays on the Bodily Experience of Building (2020); Lefebvre for Architects (2015); and Utopias and Architecture (2005);and Imagining and Making the World: Reconsidering Architecture and Utopia (2011), as editor.

Ufuk Ersoy is an Associate Professor at Clemson University. He completed his PhD in Architecture at the University of Pennsylvania, the same institution from which he received his M.S. in Architecture and MArch degrees. Ersoy’s research revolves around the subject of architectural imagination; he examines alternative metaphors and paradigms used to reinterpret architecture. He recently received the Robert Mills Professorship title at Clemson School of Architecture.

Dora Farrelly is a recent graduate of the MArch course at Newcastle University. Working within the master’s design studio Remapping the Neo-Avant-Garde, she has a developing interest in DIY, co-production, and continuous construction within the realm of Anarchism.

Sarah Al Hasan is a recent graduate of the MArch course at Newcastle University. Working within the master’s design studio Remapping the Neo-Avant-Garde, she has a developing interest in notions of co-production and community self-build practices as methods for resisting gentrification, a view rooted in DIY practices situated within the realm of anarchism.

Robert Lloyd is a Masters of Architecture graduate from Newcastle University, UK 2022. He studied under Nathaniel Coleman and David Boyd with an interest in domestic architecture as part of the MArch course Re-mapping the Neo-Avant-Garde. His thesis project aims to investigate the tensions between architects’ obsessions with diagrammatic ‘good form’ and human desires for self-organisation, especially in relation to mass housing.

Inês Nascimento is a Portuguese utopian woman. She’s an architect, who has a Master’s degree in Architecture from ISCTE-IUL with a thesis focused on Utopia and Architecture in Lisbon. She is currently a PhD student in a Doctoral Program in Architecture of Contemporary Metropolitan Territories at ISCTE-IUL and a researcher of DINÂMIA’CET. Her research interests focus on Utopia and Radical Pedagogies in Architectural Education, especially in Portugal.

Holly Veitch, a recent graduate of the MArch programme at Newcastle, carried out her work within the Remapping the Neo-avant-garde Atelier. She is interested in the translation of architectural imaginaries to reality by way of an alternative anarchist approach to conventional architectural practice. Holly’s work reflects an engagement with architectural literature such as  Calvino’s Invisible Cities and Morris’ News From Nowhere.

D2: Round Table – Culture, Catastrophe, Politics.

Chair: Patricia McManus. Participants: Heather Alberro, Mark Bould, Richard Seymour.

Perturbations of a Planet in Peril: Utopian interventions in biodiversity and climate breakdown.

This interdisciplinary roundtable explores the role of hope, utopian theory and praxis amidst mounting and intersecting socio-ecological crises, not least the sixth mass extinction and climate chaos. Hope and strivings for the ‘better’ do not vanish but rather fervently (re)surface and become especially important during dark times. Indeed, exploitative systems such as colonial-capitalism and Anthropocentrism, which continuously end worlds, are not inevitable; a boundless horizon of potentiality always surrounds the ‘now’ as presently constituted. This is what makes building worlds more conducive to a mutual flourishing always possible, though never guaranteed. We ask, what modalities of hope and utopianism are most suitable for helping us build habitable dwelling places after the end? How to direct utopianism’s double-edged sword of denunciation and annunciation in the service of more liveable and liberated futures? How do we ensure that these visions of- and strivings towards- better worlds are inclusive of all terrestrials?

Possible question: Is the time for/of Utopia over?

Bio: Heather is a lecturer in global sustainable development at Nottingham Trent University, in the Department of History, Languages and Global Culture. Her background and interests span a range of disciplines including green utopianism, critical posthuman theory, environmental ethics, and literary ecocriticism. Her publications include the chapter ‘Interspecies’ in the The Cambridge Companion to Literature and the Anthropocene (2021) and ‘In and against eco-apocalypse: On the terrestrial ecotopianism of radical environmental activists’ (2021) in the journal Utopian Studies. Heather also serves as co-convenor for the Political Studies Association’s (PSA) environmental politics specialist group and writes frequently for The Conversation UK.

Bio: Mark is Professor of Film and Literature at University of the West of England. A former editor of the journals Historical Materialism and Science Fiction Film and Television, he now co-edits the book series Studies in Global Science Fiction. He has published widely on radical film, crime cinema and science fiction, for which has been awarded both the SFRA’s Lifetime Achievement Award for Critical Contributions to the Study of Science Fiction and Fantasy (2016) and the IAFA’s Distinguished Scholarship Award (2019). His most recent book is and The Anthropocene Unconscious: Climate Catastrophe Culture (2021), and he is currently working on a sequel, probably called Climate Monsters.

Bio: Richard Richard Seymouris a writer and broadcaster from Northern Ireland and the author of numerous books about politics including Against Austerity and  Corbyn: The Strange Rebirth of Radical Politics. His writing appears in the The New York Times, the London Review of Books, the Guardian, Prospect, Jacobin, and innumerable other places including his own Patreon. He is an editor at Salvage magazine. His book The Disenchanted Earth: Reflections on Ecosocialism & Barbarism was published on 22 April 2022 His book, The Twittering Machine, was published in August 2019.

D3: Panel – Out of Empire (hybrid panel)

Chair: Emrah Atasoy. Participants: Burcu Kuheylan, Barnita Bagchi, Gabriella Vöő

Burcu Kuheylan. The Monstrous Fabric of Revolution in Karen Russell’s ‘Reeling for the Empire.’ (2012).

“Reeling for the Empire” tells the revolutionary transformation tale of twenty-two Japanese women leased by their impoverished fathers to the silk factories of their freshly industrialized nation. The story’s narrator Kitsune is an exception as she forges her ailing father’s signature to work at the Nowhere Mill and voluntarily drinks the tea that transforms her into a hybrid reeler: “part silkworm caterpillar, kaiko, and part human female.” This very exercise of agency that initially causes Kitsune’s enslavement makes her a revolutionary by the story’s end, just as the labor practices that standardize these otherwise disparate women in their dehumanization simultaneously render them a formidably monstrous historical subject capable of revolution.

The story’s blending of production with reproduction is fundamental to its feminist, anti-capitalist praxis of hope. On the one hand, it reflects the link that Marx establishes between revolution and technology in Capital, where revolution strictly means “the introduction of new and more productive and destructive kinds of machinery.”[1] Informed by Donna Haraway’s cyborg theory, on the other, it redefines technology to include the physical transformations that render the kaiko a hyper-specialized yet inhuman labor force. Realizing that Japan’s industrialization depends on their self-sacrificial metamorphosis and (re)production, the kaiko seize the means of production by reclaiming, mastering, and asserting control over their monstrously fertile bodies. Once their reproductive strike and self-induced metamorphosis liberate them from Japanese patriarchy and the West’s creeping capitalism alike, they also anticipate modeling a creaturely subjectivity with neither precedent nor a limit on its future.

[1] Jameson, Fredric. Representing Capital: A Reading of Volume One. New York: Verso, 2011. p. 38.

NOTE: Unable to present

Bio: Burcu Kuheylan is a Ph.D. student in the English Department at the University of Florida. She holds double-major B.A. degrees from Istanbul University’s departments of English Language and Literature and Art History, as well as an MPhil degree from SUNY at Stony Brook’s English Department. Her research interests include international Modernism, Theory, Utopia, and the representation of women and children in fiction. Her dissertation project is titled Future in Crisis Tense: Neoliberalism, Dystopia, and Technologies of Generation. With an emphasis on crises of representation and reproduction, she critiques neoliberal structures and institutions while foregrounding emergent utopian alternatives that await further literary and theoretical attention. Burcu’s teaching draws on the intersections of theory, genre, narrative, and fiction’s relation to visual arts. It also explores subjects related to technology, embodiment, political activism, and more recently, fiction written by Millennials.

Barnita Bagchi. Utopian Hope in Dystopia: A Consideration of British and South Asian Speculative Fictions from Feminist and Decolonizing Perspectives.

This presentation will focus comparatively on British, South Asian, and diasporic South Asian texts that can be analyzed in the utopian as well as in the dystopian mode, examining how ‘the wrongs of woman’ (part of the title of Mary Wollstonecraft’s classic, unfinished 1798 text Maria, or the Wrongs of Woman) have been discussed in fictions about and/ or women, delineating enormously difficult, even dystopian conditions, and asking if and how patterns of hope in their future-making are delineated. The paper will make show the interplay of hope and dystopia, and will link questions of gender to questions round emancipation and decolonization. Maria, or the Wrongs of Woman takes us into Foucauldian heterotopias such as the lunatic asylum as/ and the prison, through which the disempowerments of women’s lives and possible scenarios of potentially hopeful futures are delineated, through, for example the solidarity and friendship between the working-class wardress Jemima and the incarcerated gentlewoman Maria. The paper will zoom in on the context of the “failed marriage” narratives, critiquing South Asian patriarchy, in Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain’s Padmarag, or the The Ruby (1924; 2005), and on recent speculative fiction by Indian American physicist and writer Vandana Singh (notably The Woman Who Thought She Was A Planet and Other Stories, 2008). The paper will conclude with a consideration of Vandana Singh’s recent essay “Utopias of the Third Kind” (2022), arguing for a kind of utopian hope which is not shaped in the mould of colonization, and the importance of this in today’s very difficult world.

Bio: Barnita Bagchi is Associate Professor in Comparative Literature at the Department of Languages, Literature, and Communication at Utrecht University. Educated at Jadavpur, Oxford, and Cambridge universities, she was previously on the faculty at the Institute of Development Studies Kolkata in India. She is a Life Member and former Visiting Fellow at Clare Hall, a graduate college and centre for advanced studies at University of Cambridge.

She is considered an international authority on women’s writing and the cultural history of women’s education and on utopian studies, in transnational and transcultural perspective, with South Asia and Western Europe as nodes. Her academic work has been awarded prestigious grants and fellowships, inter alia by Jadavpur University in India, the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung in Germany, Heidelberg University in Germany, the Maison des Sciences de l’ Homme in France, CNRS in France, York University in Canada, Trinity College, Cambridge, University of Cambridge, University of Winchester, Lancaster University, and the British Academy in the UK. She has offered Keynote Lectures at prestigious international conferences at the universities of Helsinki, Geneva, and  Winchester, among others. Her academic work on the South Asian Bengali Muslim writer Rokeya S. Hossain’s female and feminist utopias (articles, book chapters, and a Penguin Classics critical edition and part-translation of two of Hossain’s narratives) is widely used in courses globally.

Gabriella Vöő. Gardens in the Dunes: Leslie Marmon Silko’s “Sober Utopia.”

By the end of the twentieth century, Native American writing moved beyond the cultural stereotype of the Ecological Indian and engaged in Western modernity’s critique. An increasing interest in environmental issues emerged in sociology, addressing economic, ideological, and ethical issues within global capitalism. This essay offers an interpretation of Leslie Marmon Silko’s novel Gardens in the Dunes (1999) in the theoretical context of historical sociology, specifically Immanuel Wallerstein’s World-Systems Analysis. By concentrating on humans, plants, and animals’ global mobility, Silko offers a clear-eyed view of world capitalism’s economic processes. As female characters in her novel struggle to cope with the traumatising challenges within the hierarchical system of core, semi-periphery, and periphery, the requisite need for change becomes clear. The historical system of capitalism, Wallerstein states, has “no exit” and calls for a vision of a “sober utopia.” In one of her interviews, Silko also deems capitalism to be “irredeemable.” As if in response to Wallerstein, she highlights existing indigenous agricultural practices that both keep the “old” ways alive and anticipate new ones which serve the survival of life on the planet. Her perspective on a possible future articulated in Gardens in the Dunes resonates with Paul Ricoeur’s definition of utopia as a vision in the process of being realized.

Bio: Gabriella Vöő is Associate Professor at the University of Pécs, Hungary. Her fields of research are US-American Studies, American literary studies, and Reception Studies.

D4: Panel – Utopia and Anti-Utopia: Political and Theoretical Forms (hybrid panel)

Chair: Ross Clarke.  Participants: Alexandre Christoyannopoulos, Sorin Antohi, Onur Acaroğlu and Ufuk Gürbüzdal

Alexandre Christoyannopoulos. Pacifism and Nonviolence: Delineating the contours of a new research agenda.

Despite having long been dismissed as utopian and ineffective, what advocates of pacifism and nonviolence have been recommending is increasingly proving to be both effective and no less realistic than more violent alternatives. The scholarship on pacifism and nonviolence has also been burgeoning. However, plenty of research is still needed on a wide range of topics including: the varieties of approaches to nonviolence and pacifism; central accusations against pacifism; the tensions between pacifism and nonviolence; theories and practices outside the Global North; the multiple direct and indirect consequences of violence; the place of violence and nonviolence in political thought; the relationship between violence/nonviolence and gender, race, and other social identities; the religious roots of pacifism and nonviolence; the place of violence and nonviolence in popular culture (and the interests this serves); the potential for practical nonviolent policies of governance; predominant assumptions concerning violence in IR (about e.g. terrorism, the international order, just war); what makes an act ‘violence’ and when direct action becomes ‘violent’; and methodological challenges in the study and pedagogy of nonviolence and pacifism. The aim of this intervention is to make the case for an ambitious multidisciplinary research agenda that will address these topics and their relation with utopianism, and to articulate some of the concrete research questions which it gives rise to.

Keywords: pacifism, nonviolence, nonviolent protest, research agenda

Sorin Antohi. Putin’s Dystopia: Russian State Utopianism, Eurasianism, Apocalypse.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine is a tragic opportunity to discuss the afterlives of several Russian cultural, intellectual, ideological, and political traditions that were largely considered extinct or dormant. The current war will not erase, rewrite or stop a history that started more than a millennium ago. In this history, Putin is but the latest avatar. And possibly not the last. This is why we need a long-term, interdisciplinary perspective. I hereby propose one revolving around the twin tropes of utopia and dystopia, but remaining strictly historical.

The paper revisits three of the above-mentioned traditions, briefly exploring their interactive Western, Eastern, and local connections: (a) Russian state utopia, which runs from Peter I and Catherine II, via the Soviet epoch, to this day; (b) Eurasianism, both a culturalist-metaphysical extension of (a) and a response to their related ideologies, including the Slavophile controversy, the fantasy of the Third Rome, and Panslavism; (c)  Apocalypse, the basso continuo linking medieval Russian popular millennialisms to a series of catastrophic visions (i.e., apocalypses), with or without eschatological implications (i.e., religious/spiritual or secular/ideological forms of hope), that constitute probably the most striking common denominator of all of the above, from folk legends to identity narratives to strategic thinking.

Bio: Sorin Antohi (b. 1957) is a historian of ideas, essayist, translator, and consultant. He has taught mainly at the University of Michigan, the University of Bucharest, and the Central Euroopean University in Budapest (where he served as Academic Pro-Rector and founded Pasts, Inc. Center for Historical Studies, under the honorary presidency of Paul Ricoeur). He has conducted research at institutes of advanced study and other institutions in Paris, Bielefeld, Stanford, Vienna, Essen, Berlin, Leipzig, etc. He has published widely on intellectual history, history of ideas, historical theory, and history of historiography, utopianism, etc. He has lectured, attended and (co)organized conferences in thirty countries. He has served on various academic, editorial, and civic governing or advisory bodies, e.g., member of the Board, International Committee of Historical Studies, and secretary general of the International Commission for the Theory and History of Historiography. Member of the Committee, Utopian Studies Society Europe (2018-). Member, Academia Europaea.

Onur Acaroğlu (in-person) and Ufuk Gürbüzdal (remote). Transitional Politics from Fatsa to Dersim: Past and Present Socialist Governance in Turkey.

This article aims to illustrate a conceptualisation of socialism as a latent transitional tendency within capitalist societies. To this end, we draw from Marx’s theories of alienation and the real coexistence of multiple modes of production, along with Balibar’s Althusserian theory of transition. We then turn to two cases of embryonic post-capitalist governance, the Fatsa ‘Commune’ of 1979 and the current municipal government of Dersim – officially known as the Tunceli province – to delineate how their practices manifest a transitional impulse amid wider capitalist domination. Specific policies such as the ‘End to the Mud’ campaign in Fatsa, organised with popular participation to resolve a chronic social problem, and the ongoing efforts to clear the snowswept streets of Dersim in a collaboration between the local population and municipal workers, will be among those highlighted practices. The empirical element of our study involves interviews with figures in these local governments, along with local participants of ongoing social movements and left-wing political parties. We hypothesise that through their achievements and shortcomings in terms of overcoming alienation and transforming social relations towards collective popular control over the reproduction of society, these developments reveal a subterranean current of resistance against capitalism and inspire the public as a function of their defiant existence. Our analysis of these cases serves to inform the third and final section of the article, wherein we bring theories of transition to bear on our findings. We conclude with a formulation of transition that is decisively severed from an understanding of the socialist future as an abstract point at an unspecified time, and we call for its reinstatement at the heart of critical social analysis.

Keywords: Marxism, transition, Dersim, Fatsa, Turkish politics

Bio: Dr. Onur Acaroğlu is a Lecturer in Sociology at the Faculty of Health, Education, and Society, University of Northampton. His interests include Western Marxism, temporality, left party politics and social movements. He primarily focuses on questions of social and political transition in general, and the prospects of ‘post-neoliberal’ transition in particular.

Bio: Ufuk Gürbüzdal is a doctoral researcher in the Political Science and Public Administration doctoral program of the Middle East Technical University. Gürbüzdal completed his undergraduate and Master’s education at the Department of Communication and Design in Bilkent University. He also works as a Research Assistant in the Faculty of Communication at Hasan Kalyoncu University.

D5: Real Utopia: Foundation for a Participatory Society.

Chair: Anitra Nelson. Participants: Real Utopia Team: Eugene Nulman, Michael Albert, Alexandria Shaner.

Eugene Nulman. Real Utopia: Participatory Theory

Eugene’s session on Participatory Theory will cover a basic outline of our conceptual framework and how this informs our organisational efforts at Real Utopia: Foundation for a Participatory Society.

Michael Albert. Real Utopian: Participatory Vision

Michael’s session on Participatory Vision will cover some general considerations when working on vision plus some specific examples on participatory economics.

Alexandreia Shaner. Real Utopian: Participatory Strategy

Alexandria’s session on Participatory Strategy will also cover some general considerations regarding strategy and relate these again to the organising we are doing at Real Utopia: Foundation for a Participatory Society.

Bio: Eugene Nulman is co-founder of Real Utopia and member of the Skills and Education Team and the Site Team. He is currently on a career break from Birmingham City University where he was a Senior Lecturer in Sociology. He is author of the books Climate Change and Social movements and Coronavirus Capitalism Goes to the Cinema. He is also the director and co-writer of the documentary film The Psychosis of Whiteness.

Bio: Michael Albert is a member of Real Utopia, steadfastly advocates participatory economics and participatory society. His main work has for many years been in media, for example ZNet, and in writing, for example his most recent book, No Bosses: A New Economy for a Better World, as well as countless articles, interviews, and public talks. He currently hosts the weekly podcast titled RevolutionZ that primarily addresses issues of social vision and strategy and which is closing in on its 200th episode.

Bio: Alexandria Shaner is a sailor, writer, organizer, and activist. Based in the southern Caribbean, she is an instructor at the School for Social and Cultural Change, active with The Climate Reality Project and

Friday, July 15th: Day 3

Panels in E-Session – 4.30-6pm

E1: Panel – Hope’s Styles

Chair: Manuel J. Sousa Oliveira.  Presenters: Regina Martin, Andrzej Stuart-Thompson, Pavla Veselá

The radical potential of literary realism has long been understood to lie in its attempts to think reality as totality—to locate connections between seemingly unrelated phenomena. It is said that literary realism can expose these complex relationships, but ultimately, it is doomed to reproduce them. However, two recent monographs on literary realism—Elaine Freedgood’s Worlds Enough and Anna Kornbluh’s The Order of Forms—call this assumption into question. For example, Kornbluh argues that realism should be read as an internally consistent semiotic system whose meaning is derived from a relationship between elements within the system rather than as an imitative relationship to the philosophical real. Just as mathematical formalism provides the raw materials for economists to build models of human behavior, literary realism provides the raw material to model various social forms and imagine new ones. While Freedgood’s and Kornbluh’s arguments grow out of their analyses of Victorian realism, this paper turns to two novelists of the Caribbean diaspora—Paule Marshall and Zadie Smith— who summon literary realism’s totalizing potential to address questions of intersectionality, and in doing so invite an analysis of the utopian potential of literary realism from the Euro-American imperial periphery. In both novels, the utopian potential of literary realism lies in what they depict as the profound silence of aesthetic formalism as they both conclude with an image of silent aesthetic contemplation. In these novels, the world has not yet provided the architecture for imagining a reality that can account for and include intersectional identities and experiences, so silence becomes the placeholder for hope. 

Note: Unable to Present.

Bio: Regina Martin is associate professor of English at Denison University, where she teaches British literature, Caribbean literature, literary theory, digital humanities, and global commerce. Her research focuses on intersections between economic history/theory and British literature, with a specific focus on how those intersections manifest in novelistic form. She has published articles in PMLA, Modern Fiction Studies, Modern Language Studies, Criticism, and other journals. Her book manuscript is entitled “Modernism and Finance Capital, 1870-1940.” 

Andrzej Stuart-Thompson. A Humanity of Cockroaches and a Gesturality of Dolphins: New Worlds for Nonhuman People in Ecotopian Portuguese Poetry.

Portuguese writers Adília Lopes and Ana Luísa Amaral provide fertile ground for imagining utopian worlds beyond the human. In Irmã Barata, Irmã Batata (‘Bug Sister, Spud Sister’, 2000), Lopes envisages a post-cataclysmic Earth exuberantly repopulated by a “humanity of cockroaches”. In this post-human paradise, “cockroach Eve and cockroach Adam” enjoy their apple uninhibitedly. Shifting to an intimate, personal memory, the poem’s charitable speaker recounts helping an overturned cockroach reground herself. De-centring Anthropos, while lending poignancy to humans’ kin-making with other mortal creatures, Lopes conceives possibilities of nonhuman utopias and (inter-species) fellowship.

Amaral, facing a dystopian European present, articulates alternative futures in Escuro (‘Dark’, 2014). She gestures towards a world that could be borderless and unpeopled, except for thriving aquatic life-forms, “magic” and “micro-sounds” all auguring new grammars for knowing the world. She writes an “apocalypso” (An Ecotopian Lexicon, 2019): a non-despairing, creatively joyful response to apocalypse, displacing fears for humanity’s future with hopefulness of nonhuman potentialities being unleashed. Staging human absence in eerily beautiful terms engenders insights into newly-invigorated forms of nonhuman agency and life: dolphins expressing through gestures and salty language; tectonic plates moving artfully in arabesques. Mirroring the semiotic charge of poetry itself (a form gesturing towards the intangible, beyond signification), the semiotic communications denoted by these aquatic/rocky speaking-bodies are revealed to be not solely human but all-pervasive.

Ecotopian Portuguese poetry blends apocalyptic thinking with optimism. These apocalyptic worlds emptied of human agency serve as imaginative windows onto nonhuman lives and suggest that the human is not the end-point of the utopian. 

Bio:Andrzej Stuart-Thompson is a third-year DPhil student in Modern and Medieval Languages (Portuguese) at Jesus College, University of Oxford. His research interests include twentieth and twenty-first century Portuguese women’s poetry; vulnerability as a positive form of resistance to patriarchy; and the possibilities for dis-anthropocentric thought emerging from posthumanism, ecofeminism, critical animal studies and plant philosophy. His thesis examines the ambiguous (anti-)epic poetry of Natália Correia, Luiza Neto Jorge and Ana Luísa Amaral in relation to the Portuguese canon. He is a co-creator of the Jesus College Digital Hub Reading Club, a community exploring robotics, AI and digital technologies in contemporary fiction.

Pavla Veselá. Words in the Apocalypse: From “Speech Sounds” to Earthseed

Although Octavia E. Butler’s novels and short stories oftentimes imagine complex interplanetary relations, her narratives about the collapse of civilization on Earth are not always related to extraterrestrial beings. Apocalyptic stories such as “Speech Sounds” and the unfinished Parable series reflect Butler’s frequently deeply-pessimistic view of human nature, evident also in the Xenogenesis trilogy, even if specifically the Parable novels advance the author’s perhaps most detailed depiction of building a (however ambivalent) utopian society in a crushingly dystopian setting. While The Parable of the Sower and The Parable of the Talents describe the destruction of the protagonist Lauren Oya Olamina’s gated enclave, the construction of Acorn and, in the second volume, the emergence of the movement towards settling other planets, this narrative is paralled with verses from Earthseed, a religion invented by Olamina. In my presentation, I will discuss some of the ambivalences of the novels’ narrative juxtaposed with the apocalyptic religion of Earthseed, with a focus on language and hope.

Bio: Pavla Veselá teaches in the Department of Anglophone Literatures and Cultures, Faculty of Arts, Charles University Prague. The focus of her research has been modern Anglophone and Slavic (Russian, Czech) literature, particularly utopia and science fiction as well as minority and migrant writing. She has presented her work at international conferences and other cultural events in the Czech Republic, Portugal, Ireland, Poland, the United Kingdom and the United States, among others. Her publications include articles in the journals Utopian Studies, Bohemica litteraria, Open Library of Humanities, Acta Universitatis Carolinae Philologica and Science Fiction Studies.

E2: Panel – Speculation, Salvage, Fiction.

Chair: Andrew Bridges.  Presenters: Daniel Davison-Vecchione, Sean Seeger, Megen de Bruin-Molé

Daniel Davison-Vecchione. A modern-tragic kind of hope: Max Weber and dystopian fiction.

Max Weber’s social theory is often seen as pessimistic. In his view, modern life’s tendencies towards rationalisation, disenchantment, and bureaucratisation trap the individual within a ‘shell as hard as steel’ (‘stahlhartes Gehäuse’). As he famously puts it in Politics as a Vocation (1919), ‘Not summer’s bloom lies ahead of us, but rather a polar night of icy darkness and hardness’. In this respect, Weber’s social theory has strong dystopian resonances. However, Weber also affirms that ‘man would not have attained the possible unless time and again he had reached out for the impossible’, stressing the need to arm oneself with ‘that steadfastness of heart which can brave even the crumbling of all hopes’.

This paper considers the nature of hope in dystopian fiction in light of Weber’s social theory. It argues that one can understand both enterprises as a distinctly modern translation of a tragic sensibility. They highlight the deeper tensions, conflicts, and dysfunctions of modernity that defy straightforward resolution. Recognising these affinities between dystopian fiction and Weber’s social theory benefits our readings of both. On the one hand, the resemblance to dystopia suggests that sociologists have underappreciated the speculative dimension to Weber’s social theory. On the other hand, by incorporating an acknowledgment of the importance of envisaging something better but impossible into an otherwise bitterly realist outlook, Weber’s approach to hope in modernity’s tragic conditions complicates the distinction that many literary scholars draw between anti-utopia and critical dystopia.

Bio: Daniel Davison-Vecchione holds a PhD in sociology from the University of Cambridge. His research interests include social theory and the history and philosophy of social science. Since 2019, he has been collaborating with the literary scholar Sean Seeger (University of Essex) on a series of journal articles on the relationship between speculative fiction and social theory.

Sean Seeger. “A living reminder of William Morris”: Yanis Varoufakis’s Another Now and the Utopian Socialist Novel.

Abstract: This paper situates Yanis Varoufakis’s recent work of economic speculative fiction, Another Now: Dispatches from an Alternative Present (2020), in the context of the tradition of the utopian socialist novel. It argues that Varoufakis’s novel shares many of the tropes and conventions of the genre and that it represents a retrieval of this kind of fiction. It is also argued, however, that in updating the utopian socialist novel for the twenty-first century, Varoufakis necessarily diverges in key ways from elements of the work of precursors like Edward Bellamy, William Morris, and H. G. Wells. Drawing on science fiction criticism and social theory, the paper goes on to consider how and to what extent Another Now manages to revive the utopian socialist novel as a literary form for today.

Bio: Dr Sean Seeger is Senior Lecturer in Literature at the University of Essex. His research focuses on modernism, speculative fiction, utopian studies, and queer studies. Since 2019, he has been collaborating with the sociologist Daniel Davison-Vecchione (University of Cambridge) on a series of journal articles on the relationship between speculative fiction and social theory. He is also working on a book on the same topic.

Dr Megen de Bruin-Molé.  ‘Salvaging’ Utopia: Building Activist Imaginaries Against Hope and Futurity.

In both the political Left and in mainstream science fiction there has been an apparent turn towards the post-apocalyptic. This has led some to suggest that we inhabit a world in which nostalgia reigns and utopian fiction is no more. In response to the suggestion that mainstream science fiction has become stuck in presentism and apocalypticism, this paper examines how hope and futurity are expressed and salvaged in fantastical genres like salvagepunk and theoretical frameworks like salvage-Marxism—a leftist perspective that aims to productively revisit and recuperate utopia, while also insisting that ‘all is waste’, that we living in the aftermath of the apocalypse, and that there is no future (Salvage Editorial Collective 2015).

Building on previous work linking salvage-Marxism and the fictions of Rivers Solomon (de Bruin-Molé 2021), and engaging closely with critical perspectives in the conservation and heritage industries (Tsing 2015; DeSilvey 2017; Claus 2020; Phillips 2021), this paper considers the concept of ‘salvage’ as utopian and explores how this practice has been implemented and theorised in architecture, conservation, activism, and the heritage industry. These fields and texts offer potentially rich frameworks for imagining a utopia – and utopian activist practice – that is not as firmly defined by problematic ideas about hope, futurity, or universalism.

Bio: Dr Megen de Bruin-Molé(@MegenJM, she/her) is a Lecturer in Digital Media Practice with the University of Southampton. Her book Gothic Remixed (Bloomsbury 2020) examines remix culture through the lens of monster studies, and her co-edited collection Embodying Contagion (UWP/Open Access 2021) explores how fantastical metaphors of contagion have infiltrated the way news media, policymakers and the general public view the real world and the people within it. Megen is also an editor of the Genealogy of the Posthuman, an Open Access initiative curated by the Critical Posthumanism Network. Read more about Megen’s work on her blog:

E3: Panel – Architecture’s Imagination (in-person panel)

Chair: Laurence Davis.  Presenters: Franziska Kopf, Thomas Kelly, Inês Nascimento

Franziska Kopf. Utopia as a Hope of Architectural Mediation.

Unfortunately, many architectural utopias known in professional circles are perceived as too abstract to be relevant to lay people because their own identification with the proposed fiction is missing. However, since architecture depends on public appreciation, the participation of non-professionals in the architectural discourse is fundamentally necessary, as only in this way can a profitable exchange about our built environment take place and thus non-architects can perceive it as a pleasure(Rambow, 2010). If architecture is to function as a carrier of meaning, it must be talked about in an understandable and stimulating way. Therefore, it is necessary to lower the inhibition threshold towards the subject of architecture (Rambow, 2010). For this reason, I appeal for architectural fictions that are characterised by their proximity to reality and everyday life. By taking up familiar situations and combining them with fictional elements, a reflection of the viewer or reader on their own approach to architecture can be achieved. The vicinity to reality can be the impetus for further (more intensive) engagement with the built environment. In the sense of Carrie Lambert-Beatty, we can speak here of parafictional moments that require a direct authentic emotional reaction (Lambert-Beatty, 2009). I would like to discuss this using the novel Technophoria (2020) by architecture critic Niklas Maak as an example. In his utopian fiction of a technologised and networked city, he integrates elements of reality (Alexa, Apple Watch, etc.) and interweaves them with fantasies of a near future. In this way, he blurs the boundary with reality. This immediately triggers authentic feelings that can ideally lead to a reflection on our environment. In this sense, I consider architectural fantasies as hope for a successful mediation of architecture.

Bio: Franziska Kopf is a research assistant at the Faculty of Architecture, at the Nuremberg Institute of Technology. There, she has been giving lectures in ‚Theory’ since 2021. She has a Master’s degree

Thomas Kelly. Remembering Up-topia: Modernist Imaginaries of Urban Verticality and the Crisis of Contemporary Cities.

NOTE: Unable to attend.

Modernist fantasies of towering buildings and sci-fi vertical cityscapes held an indomitable hold over the imagination of futuristic geographies. In response to the growth of high-rise urbanisation and the period’s technological, geopolitical, and socioeconomic changes, a new consciousness emerged that began to speculate on the transformational impact verticalisation would have on modern life. This trend manifested in popular media, which oscillated between upward ascension as a source of utopian progress, aspirational triumph, and transcendence and countervailing symbols of apocalyptical catastrophe, socioeconomic inequality, and secessionary and fragmentary urbanism. The act of remembering can have two functions: a nostalgic visualisation of an idealised past or rediscovering lost lessons to learn how to avoid making the same mistakes in the future. In either case, remembering can be a useful tool of utopian projection to imagine and construct better worlds in the present. My contestation is that we have forgotten the utopian, or rather up-topian roots of modernist vertical urbanisation, which had taken on anti-utopian and dystopian qualities under twenty-first neoliberalist ideology. I will demonstrate how speculative works of architectural and technological verticalisation can be used to confront and, in some cases, transform the dominant paradigm of capitalist urbanism that has created a crisis in global cities. As Arjun Appadurai put it, I will argue that ‘the imagination is a staging ground for action and not only escape’ and by looking back at up-topian narratives of modernity, we can also look towards a brighter bolder approach to contemporary futuristic elevations.

Bio: PhD researcher in the English department at King’s College London investigating the critical intersections between vertical imaginaries, speculative architectural design, and technological utopianism in twentieth-century modernist art and literature. Chief Editor of HFRN (Historical Fictions Research Network) in charge of producing two issues and an international conference annually. Co-founder of the Global Architectural Fantasies conference and research collective. Accomplished private tutor with over 10+ years of experience teaching students a variety of arts & humanities subjects, including English Literature, Language, History, Philosophy, Politics, and Film Studies, from primary school to university level. Professional and freelance copyeditor, copywriter, and proofreader having worked as an editorial assistant for two world-leading publishing companies, Penguin Random House, and Ingram Content Group.

Inês Nascimento. Searching For Utopia In Portuguese Architecture Education: Dialogues And Visions About Its (Non) Place In The Academy.

Born in 1516, the word utopia defined a concept that materialized itself in literature and has disseminated throughout the human thinking until this day, generating along the way several and different theories. As a sine qua non human condition, utopia is an intrinsic part of our dreams and realities, being deeply rooted in our memories and in our history.

Since its first thinker, this word has been evoked and written in the form of cities, societies and their ideals, as well as criticized for its ingenuity or disapproved for its restlessness. Associated to dream, hope, imagination, delirium or fantasy, this multidisciplinary concept has spread in the most diverse areas and refined contexts – from philosophy to politics or from imagination to Architecture –, but its theoretical limit remains fragile.

The history of Architecture is also made of utopias and dystopias, revolutionary ideas and futuristic visions or, in its genesis, dreams and ideals that we yearn to realize.

After a series of intellectual rebirths and some death threats, utopia appears to be alive andaligned with the new challenges we face today. Despite its potential has already been recognized, this concept seems to be missing from the curriculum of Architecture education in Portugal, alarming us to the urgency of its rescue.

This essay aims to reflect about the concept and on the potential of utopian imagination in Architecture education, mainly in Portugal, embodied by an analytical conclusion of a study using interviews with experts from the areas of study, confirming the relevance of the questions and connections that are intended to be shown.

Bio: Inês Nascimento is a Portuguese utopian woman. She’s an architect, who has a Master’s degree in Architecture from ISCTE-IUL with a thesis focused on Utopia and Architecture in Lisbon. She is currently a PhD student in a Doctoral Program in Architecture of Contemporary Metropolitan Territories at ISCTE-IUL and a researcher of DINÂMIA’CET. Her research interests focus in Utopia and Radical Pedagogies in Architectural Education, especially in Portugal.

E4: Panel – Anti-Utopia and Dystopia.

Chair: Jennifer Wagner-Lawlor. Participants: Mary Cook, Liam Benison, Meltem Dağcı

Mary Cook. Upside-down and scattered: The representation of Oceania in the anti-utopian works of Robida and Souvestre.

With the geographic expansion of the West, European philosophers began to cast their thought-experiments upon the little-known landscapes beyond the horizon, using the far-off colonies to explore their social theories. Oceania in particular offered the ideal imaginary landscape for 18th-century social reformers, since the geographic position and supposed “isolation” of these islands so closely resembled the preconceived utopian topoi of terra australis incognita and the paradisiacal island. The anti-utopians who followed in the 19th century critiqued the utopian genre that had preceded them, satirizing utopias—not by destroying all sense of hope, but rather by holding onto a fundamentally hopeful belief in humanity, which they felt was threatened by the utopists’ apparent obsession with technological progress. French anti-utopists Émile Souvestre and Albert Robida both chose the Pacific as a key setting for their satirical works, focusing particularly on the islands of Tahiti and Borneo. Le vingtième siècle by Robida and Le monde tel qu’il sera by Souvestre use fictionalized constructions of the Pacific to overturn pre-existing utopian tropes; nevertheless, these tongue-in-cheek works perpetuate the representation of Oceania as “upside down” and “scattered”, with real-world ramifications for this region even today. Imperialists profited from this topsy-turvy portrayal to depict the islands as unfit for self-autonomy and thus justify colonial domination. However, the decolonization discourse emerging from the Pacific in the 20th and 21st centuries maintains at its core a radical hope for a new Indigenous utopia—one that is neither upside down nor scattered, but inherently interconnected and perfectly oriented within its universe.

Liam Benison. Hope and Time in Premodern and Modern Utopia.

One of the most compelling evocations of hope in modern literature is Anna Semyonovna’s last letter to her son from the Stalingrad ghetto in Vasily Grossman’s Life and Fate. Anna observes that ‘hope almost never goes together with reason’. Modern utopian thought consists of a particular mix of reason and hope, which might be explained by the emergence of uchronias during the Enlightenment; whereas Renaissance utopias were animated by a wish for a better world, an Enlightenment faith in human reason’s capacity to reshape society occasioned a shift to works set in

the future, enervated by hope. 

But how essential is a sense of a possible future to utopian notions of hope? Life and Fate is not a utopia, but Anna’s future is as unlikely as Winston Smith’s, for example. Yet, although many regard Nineteen Eighty-Four as hopelessly dystopian, Gregory Claeys and others argue that Orwell’s hope for a socialist future is present in the novel. In the case of some notable pre-Enlightenment utopias, even where the temporality is invested with the notion of a ‘golden-age’ past, traces of hope can be found. In this paper, I will examine the treatment of hope and its relationship to time and the utopist’s vision in a small selection of premodern and modern works, and consider the implications for efforts to address present social and political challenges.

Meltem Dağcı. Political Perspective on Hope as the Representation of Resistance in Dystopian and Post-Apocalyptic Fiction.

Dystopia usually deals with oppressive regimes. The powers at the head of these regimes can vary. Sometimes a powerful computer, sometimes a vague “Big Brother”. In order to further strengthen the dystopian fiction, it is necessary to think carefully about the person at the top. “Who is causing and sustaining all this?” Of course, it is the people who keep the system going, but who owns the power that governs these people? Just one person? To a computer? To the oligarchs? To companies?”

In the majority of dystopian fiction, we see a war against the system. Sometimes at this point the resistance has been successful and the characters have managed to break free from the clutches of dystopia or have been able to radically change it. At this point, a hint can be left that after the dystopia has collapsed, the previous dystopia is actually much better than the upcoming new order, or the failure of the resistance and the absolute victory of the dystopia can be addressed.

In this study, the concept of hope, which is the representation of resistance in dystopian and post-apocalyptic fictions, will be approached from a political perspective. In this context, George Orwell’s dystopian and political novel Ninetten Eighty-Four will be evaluated within the framework of the possibilities of hope as a concept.

Keywords: 1984 Dystopian Novel, Dystopia Policy, George Orwell, Hope, Post-Apocalyptic.

Bio: After graduating from Ondokuz Mayıs University Computer Programming, Meltem Dağcı graduated from Anadolu University, Department of Turkish Language and Literature. Her stories, book articles and interviews have been published in various magazines and newspapers. She has been on the team of the Edebiyat Nöbeti Magazine for six years. She has been continuing her conversations with the Writer’s Room in Edebiyat Haber for three years.

E5: Food-Sovereignty, Sustenance, Hope.

Chair: Tim Waterman  Participants: Piotr Szpunar, Adrien Plomteux, Dupla Molcajete [Beatriz Paz and Zoë Heyn-Jones], Alessandra Piccoli, Carlo Murer.

Piotr Szpunar. Mediating Hope: Memory, Circulation, Storage.

The Svalbard Global Seed Vault was inaugurated in 2008. Built into a mountain in an Arctic Archipelago that utilizes the natural permafrost and location (along with artificial cooling) as protection against worstcase scenario sea level rises and nuclear attack, optically it is the stuff of dystopia, nicknamed by the media, “the Doomsday Vault.” But its official purpose, built atop regular access by commercial flight and an endowment dependent on a robust market, is to act as a backup to other seed banks, safeguarding the world’s biodiversity (much like digital server farms similarly located in cold climates). 

“It is easier to imagine an end to the world than an end to capitalism.” Often attributed to Frederic Jameson, the phrase isn’t exactly accurate. As Svalbard highlights, it seems that because we cannot imagine the end of capitalism, we cannot adequately imagine the end of the world in the face of climate catastrophe. The vault attempts to manipulate time, slow decay with the hope that technologies of the future could better use biomatter of the past. It is the hope of technofuturism. 

In contrast to such ex situ projects, other efforts such as the Experimental Farm Network (Philadelphia, PA) keep seeds in circulation in the hope of future stabilization via sustainable farming. This paper utilizes the “elemental turn” in media studies (Peters, 2015; Starosielski, 2019) to consider the constellations of mediated hope beyond representation, focusing on issues of memory, circulation, and storage.

Bio: Piotr Szpunar is an assistant professor in the Department of Communication at the University at Albany, SUNY. His research centers on conflict, media, and memory with a specific focus on political violence and mediated futures. He is the author of Homegrown: Identity and Difference in the American War on Terror (NYU Press, 2018). He is currently working on a book that looks at how our mediated engagement with physical space in the service of imagined futures comes to bear on the past. 

Adrien Plomteux. Hope for avoiding ecological collapse? Imagining pathways towards sustainable futures based on “frugal abundance.”

If drastic reductions of human-induced impact on the environment are not achieved in the coming years, ecological collapse seems inevitable. One of the central debates revolves around economic growth. Some argue that it is possible to decrease humanity’s overall environmental impact while continuing to achieve economic growth – a strategy called (absolute) decoupling. However, this strategy has, so far, not been successful.

Another option is to reduce humanity’s overall consumption to a level that is in line with planetary boundaries. Empirical evidence suggests that some societies live well with low levels of consumption. For instance, the Maasai indigenous people in Kenya have been assessed to be very satisfied with housing, food, income, material goods, health, social life, their life as a whole, etc. I refer to these societies as being in “frugal abundance”, a possibly hopeful scenario for the future. Nevertheless, many consider that a scenario based on low consumption is unrealistic. Hence, it is crucial to imagine pathways to attain sustainable futures based on frugal abundance.

In my PhD project, I explore this topic using “utopia as method”. Three communities – intentional and indigenous – in Kenya, Scotland and Iceland will be involved in participatory workshops to imagine pathways for their national society to move towards frugal abundance. By subsequently analysing these pathways with policymakers, activists and academics, I hope to move from “abstract utopia” to “concrete utopia”. Since my fieldwork activities will only start in May, I intend to focus the presentation on the project’s theoretical framework and methodology rather than on the results.

Keywords: “Global ecocide and catastrophic hope”; “Radical and revolutionary hope”

Bio: Adrien is a PhD candidate at the Institute for Global Prosperity at University College London. He is an interdisciplinary researcher specialised in ecological economics. He has a background in mathematics and statistics but transitioned to social science a few years ago, focusing on mixed and participatory methods to build just and sustainable futures. He is active in the degrowth and post-growth spheres.

Dupla Molcajete (Beatriz Paz and Zoë Heyn-Jones). Prefigurative Food Sovereignty: Indigenous Knowledge and Technologies of Care.

“Prefigurative Food Sovereignty: Indigenous Knowledge and Technologies of Care”

Food sovereignty is a matter of prefiguration. We ask ourselves daily, “What am I going to eat?” This is an overwhelming question, considering the challenge of feeding the world population of 9.9 billion people estimated by 2050. Talking about food systems necessitates talking about socio-political systems, and we cannot achieve food sovereignty without biodiversity. In 2021, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reported that the COVID-19 pandemic worsened hunger and food insecurity, with one-tenth of the world’s population undernourished [1]. Today’s industrial food systems are responsible for 29% of greenhouse gas emissions, 35% of food waste, 80% of biodiversity loss, 80% of deforestation, and 70% of all freshwater used [2].

Decolonizing food commodification and agriculture is therefore intrinsic to anti-racist pedagogies. Following an ecologically responsible diet requires cutting across different epistemic systems: the ancestral and the futuristic, the rural and the urban, the Indigenous and the colonial, the industrial and the artisanal. How can we resist our cravings and strengthen our relations? How can we read the memory of a territory in a seed?

This presentation reflects on ways to radicalize our resistance by learning from and protecting the revolutionary technologies of care of Indigenous people, critical to preserving the biodiversity of the planet. Food is a language of hope: it nourishes traditions, builds communities, shapes the natural world, and expands culture. Indigenous territories and cultures are lighthouses yearning against dystopian backdrops; therefore, in them reside beacons of hope.



Bio: Dupla Molcajete, an emergent collaboration between Mexico City-based researcher-artists and cultural workers Beatriz Paz Jiménez and Zoë Heyn-Jones, is a space for experimentation at the nexus of art, food, and culture. Beatriz works in the mediums of collage, writing, book-art and social engagement on topics related to Indigenous land defense and the politics of food. She is currently a grantee at the Institute for Anarchist Studies (USA), producing research and artwork related to Indigenous anarchism and food sovereignty. Zoë is currently a SSHRC postdoctoral fellow at the Centre for Sustainable Curating in the department of Visual Arts at Western University (Canada) where she is developing an interdisciplinary arts-based project on food security, sovereignty and justice in Canada and Mexico. Zoë is also currently working on a short film, publication and site-specific installation on vernacular architecture in Oaxaca, Mexico in collaboration with architect Octavio Castro Gallardo, supported by the Canada Council for the Arts.

Alessandra Piccoli and Carlo Murer. Alternative Food Networks as Radical Utopias.

Alternative food networks (AFN) are “Those forms of marketing chain for which (1) the consumer-producer relationship is not only mediated by purely commercial operators, (2) the product has special symbolic values for consumers linked to its origin and to the type of trade, and (3) the marketing chain spans a short distance and implies personal relationships” (Corsi & Barbera, 2018, p. 12). AFN can be seen as “a diverse range of interconnected and multilevel (individual, social, socioecological) processes that are deliberately activated in order to ‘make space’ (temporally, spatially, materially, and/or symbolically) for radical alternatives that are incompatible with dominant modern capitalist configurations” (Feola, 2019; p. 979). It is, then, possible to formulate the question Can we consider these spaces for counteract capitalism as revolutionary praxis and radical utopias? Through the analysis of field research evidences, conducted as participatory and transformative research, I will explore the utopian dimension of Community supported agriculture and Participatory guarantee systems. These experiences, connected to food sovereignty and social justice, have often a political claim. What has to be understood is if they have even a pre-figurative capacity to establish a collective dream (McBride, 2005).

Bio: Alessandra Piccoli is post-doc researcher at Free University of Bolzano in the rural studies group. After the master in management of social economy, she got her PhD in social pedagogy. Her research interests are social and solidarity economy, eco-femonism and eco-social transition.

Bio: Carlo Murer: Forester and agronomist, working as agricultural marketing expert for companies and NGOs. Very passionate for processes of community development in rural mountain areas, pursuing concepts of food sovereignty and spreading the use of organic and biodynamic agriculture.

E6: ECR Panel/Provocations – Working with(out) Hope in Higher-Education.

Chair and Co-Ordinator: Allison Norris. Participants: Allison Norris, Phil Hedges, Nicola Field

Allison Norris. Producing Hope from Despair: Autoethnographic Notes on the Affective    Labour of Optimism.

The expectations of academic institutions for high productivity from emerging and experienced scholars are broadly understood and accepted. Working while experiencing particularly difficult feelings requires and produces something more than academic research: hope. Productivity, and the work produced, often fail to demonstrate or account for the affective labour required to generate work and how that work is generated while contending with difficult emotions. Feelings such as depression, anxiety, pain, fear, happiness, and failure have been taken up to examine culture, politics, and institutions (Ahmed, Cvetkovich, Halberstam), along with cycles of optimism and disappointment (Berlant). Cvetkovich moves to depathologize depression and employ ‘bad feelings’ as points of departure to embrace hope and a “utopia of ordinary habit”. Muñoz characterizes utopia in terms of imagination and potentiality. Both offer hopefulness to people whose ‘bad feelings’ must be managed in circumstances where such feelings are deprioritized relative to productivity, or simply ignored.

Working autoethnographically from experiences as a graduate student, this paper examines the difficulty, labour, and conditions of generating hope, characterized by a willingness to work with and through profound feelings of despair. Exploring encounters with affect and queer theories, including aforementioned theorists, this paper articulates the ways feelings of despair conflict with institutional demands and how hope itself is located and/or produced in order to meet them, sometimes by meeting them. This paper also refuses an ideology of cure (Clare), that these feelings need remediation, to instead question the conditions in which and to whose benefit this hope is produced.

Bio: Allison (A.b.) Norris is a PhD student in Communication who holds degrees in Creative Writing, Film, and Cultural Studies and has taught university courses in Women’s and Gender Studies, new media activism, and popular culture. Informed by her creative practice as a writer, director, and producer, Allison’s academic work has focused on cultural and material conditions of production. Her research at Carleton considers the distribution of media via various platforms and uses Queer theory and research methods along with intersectional frameworks to explore distribution contexts.

Phil Hedges. Quit lit and desertion, resistance and hope.

Quit lit’ is a genre of confessional blogging that outlines the author’s reasons for exiting academia. Inspired by sympathetic readings of these testimonies, I reframe quitting as what James C. Scott labels ‘desertion’. Rather than stay and openly protest to improve conditions in the higher education sector, the deserter steps quietly away from their career, resolving their situation through exit. Quit Lit testimonies are then written from a space beyond sanction where the author is freer to reveal their experiences of the ivory tower. I begin by outlining Quit Lit before introducing Scott’s work on convert resistance – what he labels ‘infrapolitics’. I discuss his theoretical framework in order to present on desertion as an infrapolitical act. Having done so, I argue that Quit Lit offers a novel way to access the covert space away from the dominant where actors can express their feelings more openly. I conclude by considering how desertion relates to hope, suggesting that these acts of resistance highlight the possibility of a more positive future.

Bio: Phil Hedges is finishing his 4th year of part time PhD study at the University of Brighton in the School of Humanities and Social Science. A graduate of the International Labour and Trade Union Studies MA at Ruskin College, Phil’s PhD focuses on the day-to-day experiences of trade union activists in higher education.”

Nicola Field. Recovering (through) Solidarity: fighting for the future of knowledge itself.

Having returned to the UK university environment after an 18-year gap, I feel I have entered an environment that is full of pain, isolation and grief, where the joy of sharing ideas and expanding knowledge is being submerged in a tidal wave of neoliberal cuts. Devastating workloads, low pay and precarity are precipitating a mental health crisis in the sector, exacerbating the race/gender/disability inequalities which serve our bosses in their divide and rule agenda.  Post-92 universities, often on the cutting edge of interdisciplinarity and innovative methodologies, are facing an effective amputation with arts and humanities departments and courses effectively deleted at short notice.  A denial-narrative from HR and management sidesteps material concerns and plunges dialogue into meaningless mantras of concern for ‘well-being’ and commitment to ‘excellence’. Using Jane Hardy’s analysis of the postmodern concept of ‘The Neoliberal Self’ and Paul Brook’s critique of Jane Macalevey’s ‘Supermajority’ theory, this autoethnographic, reflexive presentation will offer an alternative vision of sectoral and class solidarity as a basis for defending the right to knowledge, access and individual development through an assertion of the role of working-class contribution.

Bio: Nicola has completed her first year of a multidisciplinary practice-based PhD on representations and poetics of family trauma at Kingston University.  She is a lifelong socialist activist, writer and artist living with ME/CFS and late-diagnosis neurodivergence.   Nicola was an original member of the group Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners, whose story feature din the feature film ‘Pride’, and her book ‘Over the Rainbow: Money, Class and Homophobia’, a Marxist critique of identity politics and the pink economy, was republished in 2015.  She has master’s degrees in modern literature and creative writing, and is an active member of the UCU and the wider UCU Solidarity Movement network. Dr Duckie’s Grand Finale 7pm King and Queen Pub Friday July 15th.