There is no shortage of critiques of utopian imaginaries for being coded in colonial, Western, masculine, Christian, and extractive ideologies. Utopia has been, and continues to be, an often violent gesture that chooses the future of select groups and certain forms of life at the expense of others. Is utopia, then, still worth keeping in a world that has been so damaged through its violent deployments? Is it possible not to treat utopia merely as a model of abstract futurity based on escapist projections of a harmonious ideal? What happens when utopia is conceived not only as a way of imagining a better future but also as a way of intervening in the present by addressing the past? Can utopia welcome ambivalence, disquietude, paradox, opacity, and uncertainty?
This symposium draws on the notion of coding, which is deployed in multiple areas ranging from genetic coding and cybernetics to politics and art, and understands it as a mode of languaging that aims at engineering futures. This notion helps to reveal the difficulty of engaging with the transmissions and effects of utopian projects and the encoded logics they impose on social and environmental possibilities. It also allows for thinking about the possibility of de-coding the codes of extractive utopias by attuning to the anti- and decolonial cracks in colonial histories, practices, and discourses where new and unforeseen models of utopia might emerge. To this end, the event seeks to gather scholars, theorists, and practitioners working on the possibility of alternative models of the future and the present that account for and attempt to repair historical and contemporary colonial ecologies.
The symposium aims to develop critical approaches to the concept and project of utopia from literary studies, post- and decolonial studies, science and technology studies, comparative literature, environmental humanities, psychoanalysis, history, anthropology, sexuality and gender studies, and beyond. The ensuing discussion will emphasize the implicit biases and disparities of power built into, and often obscured by, utopian and dystopian world-making.