Brighton build up – two weeks til the Utopian Studies conference!

The Brighton build up has begun! It should have begun a bit earlier if I’m honest… Two weeks to go and my paper is definitely in progress but not exactly ready as yet…

The final schedule is appearing on the conference website. This is the time when I get my virtual pencil out to circle the papers I don’t want to miss. And realise that half of them clash with each other. Or if not with each other, then with my panel. I also sneak a look at who I’m up against and assess whether anyone will come and see me… Basically, it’s like a music festival but nerdier (and wordier).

I’m trying out a new approach to writing my paper this time. It’s kind of a devised theatre-style method. Instead of sitting down with pen and paper, I’m standing up with a stopwatch and talking to myself. Starting off with a bit of improv, then refining it from waffle into hopefully a series of concise, connected points. My aim is to end up with a presentation I can stand up and give from cue cards rather than having to write the whole thing out. While keeping to twenty minutes and not losing the thread or drying up completely. Wish me luck!

My Brighton paper on ‘New Forms of Hope’

My Brighton paper is entitled ‘New Forms of Hope: Environmental Literary Utopias in the 21st Century’. This is what I promised to talk about when I wrote my abstract… (I think we’re on track for this, but probably via the Plantationocene rather than Val Plumwood):

The ecological crises of the twenty-first century arguably originated in the sixteenth century, around the time that Thomas More wrote his genre-founding Utopia. More’s Utopia of 1516 in many ways typifies the Western European worldview of its time, which saw other lands and peoples as raw materials from which to shape the perfect civilisation.

Imbued within this worldview is a series of dualisms, to use Val Plumwood’s term: human/nature, culture/nature, master/slave and so on. These pairings have a hierarchical relationship, whereby the first-named is considered superior to the second. The ideological separation of (white, male) humans from the rest of nature has for centuries allowed Western culture to ignore ecological limits to devastating effect for human and non-human others globally.

It is becoming ever clearer even in the Western world that we need to think differently in order to tackle the climate crisis and climate injustice, where those historically ‘othered’ continue to suffer the most. As utopian studies scholars, we might hope the practice of utopia can help us imagine alternative and better ways of being. But how can utopia contribute to promoting climate justice when it is founded on a system of thought that is antithetical to this goal?

In this paper I will look at how contemporary writers N.K. Jemisin, Nisi Shawl and Rivers Solomon are innovating within the genre of utopia and how their formal adaptations are evolving the literary utopia towards addressing issues of climate justice.

I’m also working on the visuals for my presentation. As a final sneak peak at my paper check out the gallery below. (It looks a bit like the picture round in a pub quiz, but I’ve given away the answers in the captions.)

1 thought on “Brighton build up – two weeks til the Utopian Studies conference!”

  1. […] Last time I wrote a paper I trialled a ‘devised theatre’ style approach that I’m thinking of employing again. This involves quite a lot of talking to myself: improvising to start off with then refining it down to what I really want to say. This was no easier than sitting down with pen and paper/laptop but I enjoyed how when it came to presenting I was able to do so without notes. […]

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