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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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On Being Studied: A Utopian Remembers (Chris Coates)

CHRIS COATES

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Hidden away in the news snippets page of a 1978 copy of New Society magazine was a warning to social scientists attempting to carry out research into intentional communities to “Beware the community that Bites Back!” The short piece warned that if you sent an enquiry to a small “Alternative-living-Working-Co-operative” in East Lancashire, instead of receiving a polite reply and invitation to visit, you were likely to get a reply printed on purple recycled paper requesting that you fill in a “Questionnaire for people who send out questionnaires.” The paper sent out under the auspices of the QRU (Questionnaire Research Unit) started by asking: “How many questionnaires have you written? and How many questionnaires have you filled in? (approx.),” before going on to more searching topics with multi-choice answers such as:

Do you think researchers write questionnaires mainly for:

(a) Their own interest?

(b) To provide useful info for the people questioned?

(c) Amusement?

Why is it that we fill in so many questionnaires yet only get to see very few finished reports: Is it because

(a) People are only doing it as part of an examination course & the work fades into obscurity afterward?

(b) The work is presented in such a way that it is only of interest to academics?

(c) It gets lost in the filing system?

And perhaps most impertinently – “Why is seemingly so much money spent on...

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