& Utopia lecture series: David M. Bell review

Screenshot of David Bell &Utopia online lecture

David Bell’s &Utopia lecture ‘Utopia: Another End of the World is Possible’, recorded on 28 October 2021, is now available online. The lecture energises despite (or perhaps because of?) a focus on the apocalypse.

In this lecture Bell poses a great conversation starter, sure to bring out the existentialists in the room, when he suggests there are two types of people, those who believe the world is salvageable and those who don’t. So which kind are you, do you think the world is salvageable?

‘The world’ as Bell refers to it isn’t the physical world but our world, our civilisation. Or, as he defines it more finely, the ‘anti-black empire’ and ‘the science of the plantation writ large’. He keenly points out that utopia is borne of this modern, European ‘world’.

It’s nice to have your murky thoughts about utopia validated and be given the strength to pursue them further.

Bell’s view is that utopia will be transcended by a new social thought, appropriate to the end of this world and formation of another. The structure of this will necessarily be unimaginably different to the modern utopia. It may emerge in the moment rather than being designed, rather like free jazz. It may also be similarly unfathomable and even uncomfortable to the ears. It won’t be made for us.

When prompted on how this relates to utopia as a literary genre Bell suggests this is an open question, which is just as well as I’m planning to keep thinking about it.

Further reading

The &Utopia lecture series continues…

With several speakers yet to come and recordings of past lectures available, see the website andutopia.com/.

My hot pick is Françoise Vergès on 16 December 2021.