Architects of utopia
Tobias Kelly (University of Edinburgh)
Alpa Shah (LSE)
Appleton Tower, Lecture Theatre 5
Start time:
21 June, 2014 at 9:00
Session slots:

Short abstract:

Utopias are too easily seen as impractical. Yet people committed to different futures engage in concrete activities to bring those utopias into being. This panel understands utopian projects as inherently practical activities and explores the political, economic and ethical tensions they produce.

Long abstract:

Utopian projects aimed at improving human welfare are often seen as inherently impractical. Yet people who are committed to visions of a different future are often also engaged in practical activities aimed at bringing those utopias into being. Projects aspiring for significant change can involve sustained practical efforts to undermine, improve, alleviate, transform, or to lay the ground. However, the search for a better world always exists in tension with the here and now. In order to imagine that things can be otherwise, to avoid being caught up in compromises of the present, they must project their visions to other times and other places, create new futures and sacrifice the binds of the past. Yet in a double bind, even a separation by a hair's breadth risks being a step too far, consigning the longed for improvements to an always distant future. Endeavors aimed at producing new futures are haunted by baggage from the past and present. This panel seeks to understand utopian projects of transformation as inherently practical activities, with their own understandings of causation, temporality and possibility. In doing so, it will explore the political, economic and ethical tensions involved in the process of trying to bring utopian futures into being. The panel invites contributions that look at the utopias of social movements; Marxian revolutionary struggles; humanitarianism and human rights movements; science and technology practices; prophetic, millenarian and messianic religion; amongst others.