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Transgressive Utopianism

Essays in Honor of Lucy Sargisson


Edited By Raffaella Baccolini and Lyman Tower Sargent

In 2014, when Lucy Sargisson was promoted to professor in the School of Politics and International Relations, at the University of Nottingham, she became the first and, so far, only, professor of utopian studies. This choice symbolized the centrality of utopianism to her life, thought, and educational practice. In three books, each in their own way groundbreaking, a fourth book co-authored by one of us, and in important articles, her work falls into four primary areas: political theory, feminism, environmentalism, and intentional communities, with much of her work intersecting two, three, or even all four. And in all her work, she brings the lens of utopianism to bear on the subject and, in doing so, illuminates both utopianism and the subject at hand. The volume honors Sargisson’s contributions to the field of utopian studies, with contributions by Ibtisam Ahmed, Raffaella Baccolini, David M. Bell, Suryamayi Clarence-Smith, Chris Coates, Elena Colombo, Davina Cooper, Rhiannon Firth, Ruth Levitas, Sarah Lohmann, Almudena Machado-Jiménez, Dunja M. Mohr, Tom Moylan, Robyn Muir, José Reis, Lyman Tower Sargent, Lucy Sargisson, Simon Spiegel, Maria Varsam, and Laura Winter.

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Bleak Bodies: Genetically Engineered Women in Louise O’Neill’s (Anti-)Utopian Patriarchal Satire Only Ever Yours



Utopian desire, inherent in human behavior, brings forth many kinds of utopias that can collide or ally to forge alternatives to a grim present. In her latest book Fool’s Gold? Utopianism in the Twenty-First Century (2012), Lucy Sargisson offers the following examples of utopianism: apocalyptic, escapist, hierarchical, practical, speculative, and prefigurative utopias. Apart from these cases of utopia, I focus on another utopian model which has been persistent throughout history: the patriarchal utopia. Sargisson states at the beginning of her book that “utopianism is everywhere but not everything is utopian,” and patriarchal utopias are highly representative examples of such a contradiction (6).

This utopian mode has been present from the beginning of the genre in Thomas More’s Utopia. It can fit in many of Sargisson’s categories: it can be escapist, in its attempt to find a lost paradise where women are never corrupted (in all senses); it can be practical, implementing an ideal conception of woman as reflected in religious or pseudoscientific gender essentialism. Patriarchal utopias can be speculative, inasmuch as they can actually provoke thought by posing alternatives to contemporary society. However, as Chris Ferns points out, “although utopias may sweep away such fundamental existing institutions as private property, money, or the Christian religion, they rely as heavily on the maintenance of patriarchy for their distinctive character as on the abolition or transformation of other aspects of society” (64). In this sense, I will refer to patriarchal utopias as any manifestation of utopian thought, fictional or real,...

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