[csaa-forum] CFP: Intercultural Imaginaries of the Ideal: East-West Comparative Utopias

Andrew Milner Andrew.Milner at arts.monash.edu.au
Tue Apr 3 09:53:24 CST 2007

Intercultural Imaginaries of the Ideal: East-West Comparative Utopias
7 December 2007
Monash University

Utopia and utopianism are perceived to be primarily Western constructs — 
Western dreams of a better world, an ideal existence or a fantastic 
future. And it is true that the definitions, design and development of 
utopian literatures and theories have emerged from Western examples of 
the genre. Almost all cultures have foundation stories or myths 
expressing an avatar of the Golden Age, such as the Garden of Eden in a 
Judeo-Christian perspective or the Dreamtime in the Australian 
Aboriginal worldview or the Pure Land of Eternal Happiness in ancient 
Indian Buddhism, but whether or not there is concurrent or subsequent 
development of utopian writings and practices in these cultures is still 
a subject of debate. Until recently, much of the scholarship on the 
subject has privileged the Western model of utopia, and it has been 
proposed that the only country outside the West to produce a real and 
ongoing utopian tradition is China. However, there is substantial 
evidence to suggest that most cultures generate – if not utopias 
corresponding to the Western design - then at least some representations 
of an imaginary ideal place or time that do reflect similar 
preoccupations to those observed in Western utopian writings and practices.

The aim of these special sessions on Comparative Utopias is to identify 
generic tendencies as well as fundamental divergences in imagining the 
ideal society across various cultural contexts. We invite proposals from 
scholars who are working in utopian studies, but would also welcome 
contributions from researchers in comparative mythology, cultural 
anthropology, area studies, philosophy, comparative religions, 
indigenous histories and any other relevant areas. Following on from the 
Comparative Utopias workshop held at the University of Melbourne in 
December 2005, we would like to extend the East-West focus of our 
investigations to include expressions of imaginary societies and 
projections from a wider range of cultures, such as African, Caribbean, 
Islamic, Indian, Russian and Indigenous cultures of Australia, New 
Zealand, the Pacific and the Americas. We will also continue to explore 
non-Western utopian projections from Japan and China, as well as looking 
further to Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand and beyond for examples.

Some suggestions for panels or workshops:

Archetypal Utopias – including those grounded in oral histories, popular 
folklore, mythologies, religious texts
Utopia and Science Fiction - including futuristic fiction
(Re)defining “utopia” or the imaginary of the ideal society – for 
broader application to cross-cultural examples, or with a particular 
focus on certain cultures
Comparative chronologies of the development of the model for the ideal 
Philosophical Utopias
Political Utopias
Social Utopias

It is envisaged that most papers will be of 20 minutes duration, but 
proposals for workshop and round table discussions are also welcome.
Selected papers will be solicited for publication in a volume to be 
edited by Gregory Claeys, Jacqueline Dutton and Lyman Tower Sargent.
Please send a 200 word abstract by email to Dr Jacqueline Dutton, 
University of Melbourne : jld at unimelb.edu.au <mailto:jld at unimelb.edu.au>.
Your message should include your name, contact details, institutional 
affiliation and discipline.

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