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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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Auroville: An Experiment in Spiritually Prefigurative Utopian Practice

SURYAMAYI CLARENCE-SMITH

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In 1968 young people throughout Europe and North America insisted that “Another world is possible,” and sought to claim and enact it. The spirit and culture of this revolution were in part informed by the concurrent popularization of Indian spirituality, which offered tools for individual emancipation that were seen as necessary to accompany and realize the transformation sought for society at large. In the years leading up to 1968, in India, two spiritual activists – Sri Aurobindo, a revolutionary in India’s independence movement who had turned to spirituality to further the work of realizing an emancipated society, and The Mother (born Mirra Alfassa), his partner in this socio-spiritual undertaking – had begun (r)evolutionizing the yoga tradition. Rather than individual enlightenment achieved through ascetic withdrawal, the premise of Integral Yoga was the spiritualization of all aspects not only of self, but of society – and Auroville was founded in 1968 by The Mother as an experimental township dedicated to this endeavor.

This chapter seeks to further Lucy Sargisson’s work on utopian practice in intentional community, as represented in Utopian Bodies and the Politics of Transgression, based on the case study of Auroville. Sargisson is one of the scholars to have undertaken field research on utopianism in contemporary intentional communities, and in so doing, has been key to furthering our present-day understanding of utopian practice (see Sargisson, Utopian Bodies; Sargisson and Sargent). She highlights how everyday life ←139 | 140→in intentional communities, in which personal and collective practices are loci of experimentation...

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