The Association of Social Anthropologists of the UK and Commonwealth’s 2019 conference
This panel on utopian thought in anthropology seeks contributions from scholars whose research participants consciously fashion themselves as "others" or position their missions/goals as alternatives to the climate (economic, political, financial, or religious) of their hegemonic realities.
In the current era where nation-state primacy dwindles as corporations and borderless economies take its place (Brown2010), it would seem that utopia has no place beyond science fiction, and certainly not to be taken seriously in any practice. Preeminent scholar of utopia, Frederic Jameson (1996,xii) famously pointed out that "[i]t seems to be easier for us today to imagine the thoroughgoing deterioration of the earth and of nature than the breakdown of late capitalism." So what do we do with the people who try anyway? How can we characterize examples of social actors who fight against or disengage from the current world order? Ruth Levitas (2017,3-4), writes that "the Utopian approach allows us not only to imagine what an alternative society could look like, but enables us to imagine what it might feel like to inhabit it, thus giving a greater potential depth to our judgements about the good." This panel thus explores two questions about utopian thought in anthropology: How do communities intentionally design and mobilize alternative futures? And, what is the role of anthropology as a discipline in imagining alternative futures for our world? This panel seeks contributions from scholars whose research participants consciously fashion themselves as "others" or position their missions/goals as alternatives to the climate (economic, political, financial, or religious) of their hegemonic realities. We welcome contributions about contemporary movements that explicitly try to make "alternative worlds possible" through intentional community projects, conversion to fundamentalist or New Age religions, political activism, and other such projects.
Convenors: Teruko Mitsuhara (University of California, Los Angeles) and Matthew McCoy (Anthropology)