Utopian Politics and Poetics

Queens University, Belfast, UK, 19-21 January 2016

What does it mean to think of politics as a poetics, and to do so through the prism of the expectant, the anticipatory, the Not-­Yet, and the futural? The third symposium of the ‘Imaginaries of the Future’ International Research Network sought to investigate the ways in which futures are both imagined and governed, projected,deferred and deterred, through different disciplinary formations,and to explore the effects of competing ways of conceiving futurity.

The ‘hope project’ at the heart of utopianism pursues a future transformed through collective agency,and develops an anticipatory register in which visions of competing futures are mobilized to orient such collective political agency. Conversely, in what ways are creative practices of agency obstructed, and how are visions of ‘the future’ deployed in reactive, prohibitory ways?How does the utopian anticipatory compare with other categories of futurity, such as precaution or pre-­‐emption, risk or threat? How, then, can we theorize the ambivalence of the anticipatory, modes of capture and recuperation?

Symposium participants may interrogate utopianism itself, exploring the poetics of utopian desire, affect, and agency vis-­à-­vis the politics of contestation, challenge, and transformation.We may also consider the specificity of politics and poetics, and the relations of connectivity between these approaches. Is politics necessarily reducible to calculative and instrumental modes of grasping the future? Is poetics more attuned to the epistemological and ontological uncertainty of the future, to what has not and might not happen?Or, is there a politics to poetics, and a poetics to politics?How can engagement with poetics help map forms of relationality and connection, and what is the role of affect, emotion, memory in creating connections and preconditions for political agency? What might be the political valence of aesthetic and sensual categories of experience – touch, proximity, intimacy, harmony and dissonance? How might technological and cybernetic invention advance both human agential capacity, as well as contribute to a critique of the anthropocentrism of both politics and poetics?And can we think of ethics (say, the Levinasian encounter with the Other,or perhaps the Spinozist endeavour to enhance capacity, agency, connectivity, and joy)as a missing third term between poetics and politics?

The programme can be found here [.pdf].

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