“Imaginaries of the Future”: Militant Imaginizing

Based in the School of Architecture at Newcastle University (UK), Imaginaries of the Future: Historicising the Present is an “international research network designed to think through how we might think about the future. It does not advance specific visions of the future as such, but rather seeks to develop strategies for conceptualising ‘the future’, without doing violence to the bodies that might inhabit and (re)produce it. It is utopian rather than futurological in orientation, and believes that the utopian should not be reduced to the fanciful, impossible or authoritarian.”

The 6 symposia it has organised over its 3 years of existence (2014-2017) have a distinctly militant flavour, which makes the programme all the more powerful in looking at, and powering, utopias:

  • In the Regions of Utopia” (2015): “What place is there for the unique and multifaceted identities of regions in a globalised world? How might we theorise a sustainable concept of the local that could survive into the future? (…) Are the concepts of local and regional identity hopelessly utopian in a negative sense as inward-facing or morbidly nostalgic, or can they open up a utopian prospect in the more positive sense of being dynamic, inclusive and provisional?
  • Utopia at the Borders” (2016): “Borders have received little consideration from within utopian studies, whilst there is an understandable reticence among many of those who study (and struggle against) borders to think in terms of utopia. (…) Borders [geopolitical, conceptual, temporal…] are not permanent. They remain a key site of contestation and struggle; and must continually be remade through technology, performance and often violence. And border crossings transform subjects, the space-times they leave, and the space-times they enter; as well as borders themselves. This means that utopianism – praxis that seeks to transform space and time – has much to offer contemporary ways of relating to borders. It can educate our desire for alternatives, and by showing us these alternatives – in fiction, theory or practice – estrange us from borders as they currently exist.
  • Utopia after the Human” (April 2017): “What subjectivities exist within, against and beyond our present? Is ‘the human’ still a viable subject for an emancipatory politics? And if not, what does this mean for utopianism? Is it even possible to think utopia apart from the human? How might we distinguish between technological futurisms that (re-)centre the human and those that de-centre it? (…) We particularly welcome proposals for presentations that challenge dominant narratives regarding the ‘turn’ away from the human. Particular racialized, gendered and disabled subjects have long been excluded from the category of ‘the human’, whilst many Indigenous cosmologies reject understandings of ‘the human’ that underpin Western thought. Many such subjects have also been excluded from and by various utopianisms, even as they develop forms of knowledge and praxis that might be thought of as utopian.
  • Utopia, Now!” (August 2017): “Explore utopianisms that connect with ‘the fierce urgency of the now’ by struggling within, against and beyond that now. Common sense tells us that this is impossible, of course. We respond by saying that utopianism makes the impossible possible and the possible impossible. Common sense tells us that utopianism is necessarily violent. We respond by saying that this may be so, but that it pales into comparison with the ongoing violence of anti-utopianism. Piecemeal is complicity.

Unfortunately, the outcomes of the symposia have not yet been published. They should appear as special issues of the Open Library of the Humanities Journal. We can’t wait!

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