STS 219
Realizing Utopias Fall 2022
Division II
Cross-listed STS 219 / REL 219

Class Details

Our world can be better. We are faced with unfolding global catastrophes, such as the pandemic, anthropogenic climate change, economic crises, racialized injustice, and political polarization, and many people seem to have lost their capacity to imagine better futures. Perhaps that is why we as a society have no problem picturing the end of the world–fictional dystopias and apocalypses are abundant while (e)utopias are scarce. This a problem because, as numerous political theorists have observed, it is hard to organize meaningful change around cynicism and nihilism. But our dystopian present makes it even more important to imagine and even realize utopias. This course will help us do so. Our core collective goal will be to explore pragmatic realizations of radical hope. Complementing urgent efforts to resist or mitigate intense injustice in the present, we will aspire to articulate bold visions for emancipatory communities of the future. Rather than primarily focusing on the limitations of existing institutions, this seminar will treat these as problems to be solved rather than as reasons to accept the status quo, and we will embrace affirmative projects of designing the frameworks for better worlds. But we also don’t want to blind ourselves to the challenges of being visionary. In brief, we will engage in serious explorations of the underlying principles and rationales for various emancipatory political communities while also pragmatically assessing their potential difficulties. We will spend the first part of the course reading political theory (on issues such as resource allocation, collective decision making, and social justice) alongside various artistic and political manifestos. We will spend one week reading utopian novels (including as possibilities socialist, anarchist, techno-futurist, ecotopias, Afrofuturist, queer utopias, and many more). But the majority of the course will be project-based. Students will form small teams to engage in radical thought experiments and then construct and refine their ideas of better possible societies/political communities. These teams will produce 1) policy papers to address how their utopian societies would deal with real world issues, and 2) artifacts (such as art, manifestos, pamphlets, short stories, videos, or the like) that might appear in the futures they envision, exploring both their ideals and their limits. The semester will culminate in a public exhibition of these works. Thinkers to be considered may include: Marx & Engels, José Esteban Muñoz, Boaventura de Sousa Santos, Lucy Sargisson, David Schweickart, Colin Ward, Erik Olin Wright, and others.
The Class: Format: seminar
Limit: 20
Expected: 15
Class#: 1332
Grading: yes pass/fail option, yes fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: attendance and participation, short writing assignments, group policy papers, and artifacts (e.g., art, manifestos, pamphlets, short stories, or videos) for end of semester exhibit.
Prerequisites: none.
Enrollment Preferences: If overenrolled students will be asked for a statement of interest and utopian project idea.
Distributions: Division II
Notes: This course is cross-listed and the prefixes carry the following divisional credit:
STS 219 Division II REL 219 Division II

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