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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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, I want to reflect on the utopian, as read through the contributions of this book – contributions, in turn, shaped by Sargisson’s scholarship. Specifically, I want to consider what utopian studies brings to the wider, if sometimes too compartmentalized, field of radical scholarship. In what follows, I focus on attachment, care, and movement – three themes to emerge in this collection.

As utopian studies grows into a well-established field, its relationship to other literatures becomes more pressing. This collection explores the disciplinary influences of history, literary analysis, social theory, politics, postcolonialism, and environmental and women’s studies, among others, on utopian scholarship. It also demonstrates the ongoing conversations between utopia and other radical organizing frames, including prefiguration, anarchism, environmentalism, and feminism. Sargisson’s work has long been important in bridging and connecting these different fields (see also Gordon; Levitas; Pötz). Yet, for me, this collection also signifies the value in further exploring the distinctive contribution that utopian studies makes, and could make, to radical scholarship more generally. Do its terms, for instance, perform the same critical-hopeful function as prefiguration and the radical imagination? Do references to anarchist spaces, intentional ←221 | 222→communities, and everyday utopias identify common phenomena; or are there productive differences in how these terms are or might be used?

Utopia and its field of study can be distinguished from other related fields in several ways. They can be distinguished by traditions and history, including the genealogies surrounding utopia’s eponymous text. They can be distinguished by utopia’s...

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