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Exploring the Utopian Impulse

Essays on Utopian Thought and Practice


Edited By Michael J. Griffin and Tom Moylan

Exploring the Utopian Impulse presents a series of essays by an international and trans-disciplinary group of contributors that explores the nature and extent of the utopian impulse. Working across a range of historical periods and cultures, the essays investigate key aspects of utopian theory, texts, and socio-political practices. Even as some critique Utopia, others extend its reach beyond the limits of the modern western tradition within which utopianism has usually been understood. The explorations offered herein will take readers over familiar ground in new ways as well as carry them into new territories of hope and engagement.
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Utopia and the Memory of Religion



Certainly since the work of Ernst Bloch there has been keen interest in the relationship between religion and Utopia.1 This has focused on two main aspects: 1) religion as a resource of utopian material; and 2) religion as a space in which utopian material can be generated. In this context, the relevance of memory should be clear in terms of 1) the nature of religious traditions, and 2) religions as communities of memory. While there are fascinating possibilities in exploring the relationship between the three categories of Utopia, memory, and religion, there are some major problems, and in this essay I want to address elements of both.

Let me begin with religion, and somewhat elliptically with etymology. The gods are absent in the etymology of the word “religion” (see Glare; Lewis and Short; Ahmed; McCarson). The predominant interpretation grounds the word in the Latin root lig which denotes “binds” and “binding” (as in “ligature”). The archaic Indo-European source of this root is suggested by the Urdu-Hindu word lag which means “join,” as contrasted with the term alag, meaning “separate.” That this root lent itself to conceptions of social binding is indicated by the fact that lig is the basis of the Latin word lex (law). The prefix “re” suggests the possibility that bounds might come undone and thus need to be re-established; hence, the Latin word religare (to bind again) is considered by most modern authorities to be at the base of...

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