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Transgressive Utopianism

Essays in Honor of Lucy Sargisson

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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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Entangled Utopianism in the Anthropocene

DUNJA M. MOHR

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Twenty-first century speculative fiction has taken a prominent and widely visible dystopian turn – dystopia “defines the spirit of our times” (Claeys 498). As Jill Lepore writes in a piece titled “A Golden Age for Dystopian Fiction” in The New Yorker in 2017, “[d];ystopias follow utopias the way thunder follows lightning” and relates this upsurge of dystopian fiction to a distinct disappointment with the political promises of the twenty-first century, for example, an open society, individual economical gains, and beneficial technological progress. Reading Barack Obama’s 2008 speech in New Hampshire about the utopian impetus of the American creed, “Yes, we can heal this nation. Yes, we can repair this world. Yes, we can,” as the “lightning, the flash of hope, the promise of perfectibility” then halted by the new presidency, Lepore relates politics to the reading of dystopian literature, where “polarized politics” are expressed in a “duel of dystopias,” “a proxy war of imaginary worlds.” When Obama publicly criticized a politics of objectivism, an individualism severed from relationality, his referencing of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged (1957) resulted in an upsurge of interest in Rand’s book, while Donald Trump’s election triggered a renewed interest in George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949) and in Margaret Atwood’s famous The Handmaid’s Tale (1985). The latter gained momentum as a prophetical political allegory of twenty-first century American politics with a surprising fan following, including admonitory dress-ups in Handmaiden gowns, popularized by the multi-Emmy and Golden Globe award-winning Hulu TV series adaptation (2017–) of the ←91 | 92...

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