CfP: Utopia - Whither the Future?

Call for papers, deadline 30 June 2016

Call for Papers

Institute for Comparative Literature and Society Graduate Conference
Columbia University, New York
September 22nd & 23rd, 2016

With keynote speaker Michael Hardt, Duke University Professor and Director of the Marxism & Society Certificate Program and Bass Fellow

What are the stakes of utopia today? How can we understand utopia in history, whether in theory or practice? Are utopias possible, or even desirable? This year's Columbia ICLS Graduate Conference will confront some of the challenges posed by various utopian visions and projects: we want to emphasize the value of comparative perspectives in thinking about utopias, whether across historical periods, societies and imaginaries, or from different academic angles.

Those interested in participating may want to consider the following categories:

The Past. What can we learn from historical utopias? Why have so many utopian visions produced dystopian realities? How have utopian theories related to attempts to put them into practice? To the extent that we can talk about discrete utopian models, how can we learn from them? Are they always predisposed to fail?

The Present. From Athens to Cairo to Hong Kong to New York, discontent with the present order has been palpable. But where are the alternatives? Where are the potential, and perhaps even practicable, visions for a better world? How is our present conditioned by past visions of the future? Reflexively, what is the role of academia in utopia? Is there a tension between the rigor of academic approaches and the drives of utopian desires?

The Future?

The Institute for Comparative Literature and Society (ICLS) at Columbia University invites a variety of approaches, both applied and theoretical, from the worlds of academia, art and activism for its Graduate Conference 2016. The panels will be moderated by Columbia faculty.

Possible subjects include:

  • Planetary studies; The Politics of Cosmos; Religion; Justice;
  • Posthumanism; Animal Studies; Vegetable life; Ecology, Cybernetics;
  • Political Economy; History of Economic Thought; Capitalism; Communism;
  • Society; Empire; Commonwealth; Nationalism; Cosmopolitanism; Democracy;
  • New media and technologies; Science and Technology Studies; Technophilia;
  • Premodern utopias; Ancient radicals; Utopias in Antiquity;
  • The afterlife of More’s Utopia;
  • Dystopia; Heterotopia;
  • Human Rights; NGOs; Humanitarianism; Philanthropy; New Utilitarianism; ...

Please send a 300-word abstract and 100-word bio to by June 30, 2016. Decisions will be made and successful applicants informed by mid-July. Successful applicants will be required to submit the final draft of their papers by September 1, 2016.