Utopia, Now!

Chelsea College of Arts, London, UK, 29-31st August 2017

“We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now.” – Martin Luther King

“We live in capitalism, its power seems inescapable – but then, so did the divine right of kings” – Ursula Le Guin

Is it not crass to talk of utopianism at this time of crisis? Is our situation not too urgent to engage with such far-off fripperies?

Quite the opposite, we think. Our situation demands utopianism. This symposium was dedicated to thinking through what this might entail. It will 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.

‘Common sense’ has led us to ecological crisis, rising fascism, white supremacy, ongoing colonialism and growing inequality. It is not just realistic to demand the impossible, it is impossible to demand the realistic. Yet there are, of course, many groups who do — as well as demand — the impossible: activists carving out spaces of solidarity and hope; queers and gender non-conforming people whose very existence rejects and transforms the here-and-now; artists and musicians whose works gesture to unimaginable worlds; Black Lives Matter; squatters who rethink notions of housing, property and family; Indigenous peoples resisting ongoing colonialism in defence of their lifeworlds; and survivors of abuse who generate new forms of justice and accountability. In this, they reject the hegemony of ‘the now’, opening up a terrain of multiple nows upon which we might act.

The programme can be found here [.pdf].