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Accepted Paper:

At the end of hope: Utopia as telos  
Gabriela Manley (Durham University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper frames utopia as an ‘end of time’ timespace, exploring the ways in which political utopias are conceived as temporal endings that we may one day achieve.

Paper long abstract:

Utopia has always belonged to the realm of political endings. From its theoretical conception in Tomas More’s Utopia to contemporary social dystopias, the utopian imagination has sought to open up the realm of the possible, driven by the imagination of a flawless future to which society might one day arrive. In recent years however, contemporary utopian scholars have sought to overcome authoritative critiques of utopias by re-defining them as an indeterminate, unfixed future that is in a continuous state of self-improvement. This paper seeks to challenge this abstract framing by re-grounding utopian studies in the everyday ethnographic practices of political actors, who conceive of their imagined political utopias as temporal and political endings. Drawing form ethnographic work amongst Scottish National Party activists I show how the utopian dream of Scottish independence is perceived to be a finite end goal, a telos in which change, progress and the future itself cease to exist. Activists find themselves incapable of imagining a future beyond independence in which they will have achieved all the hopes and potentialities that they could have possibly concieved. Instead, a post-independence future is imagined as a space of perpetual durational time in which multiplicity and memory transpire, but no momentum towards the future exists. In this way, Scotland’s independent future emerges as an ‘end of time’ timespace which political activists orient themselves towards, driven by the hope that this utopian end inspires.

Panel Exti11a
Reconsidering an anthropology of endings I
  Session 1 Friday 2 April, 2021, -