Utopia without Future
Utopian thinking has been largely absent from political debate since the fall of the Berlin Wall and subsequent historical events such as 9/11 and the financial crisis in 2007–8. Several people have even proclaimed the end of history and the death of utopian thinking. Rather than simply accept this interpretation, the Utopia without Future research project asks which utopian impulses have developed in the literature of the new millennium, a period of genuine crisis in political and social perceptions of the future.
The project continues a critical tradition that insists on “the persistence of utopia” (Miguel Abensour) in contemporary life and seeks to conceptualize utopia as a literary genre as well as a mode of thinking and an anthropological impulse. The first hypothesis is, however, that the utopian impulses we see materialize in contemporary literature are not oriented towards the future. Rather than trying to re-ignite our capacity for imagining a radically different future, these works instead appear interested in engendering new modes of communal feeling in the present. Examining what utopian impulses and strategies exist in contemporary literature and analyzing how utopias re-imagine kinship, reproductive life and ecological relations, the project engages with queer and feminist utopian thinking and asks how contemporary aesthetic practices position themselves with regards to the political imagination of the future.
The project will contribute to ongoing discussions – public as well as academic – of the relationship between aesthetics, critique and political commitment. It will also contribute to the development of new methods of literary text analysis at the intersection between political philosophy, affect theory and comparative literature.