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This one-day symposium will take place on 11 October 2018 at the Ruskin Library and Research Centre for Culture, Landscape, and the Environment, Lancaster University.

The symposium has been organised by Dr. Barnita Bagchi as part of her British Academy Visiting Fellowship project at the Ruskin Library and Research Centre. This project focuses on Rabindranath Tagore, 1861-1941, himself a figure who took part in building a real-life socially experimental or utopian community. The research will also consider Tagore’s associate, Gandhi, who wrote on social experimentation imbued with innovative utopian ideas and the ways in which they were in turn influenced by European thinkers, including Ruskin.

A light lunch will be provided.

Thursday, October 11, 2018
9:30am - 5:40pm
Ruskin Library Reading Room
Barnita Bagchi
Other, Seminar

Imagining a place that is imbued with the value of what is desired, utopia has been present across cultures and temporalities. ‘Utopia’, the neologism coined by Thomas More in 1516, combines the notions of a good place and no place, through a pun in ‘u’ (‘eu’ is good, ‘óu’ is privative in Greek). More’s concept came at the outset of European modernity. Indeed, the concept of utopia has been a marker of modernity: in times of felt and experienced historical change and transition to a ‘new’ age from an ‘old’ one, humanity imagines possible utopian worlds. Utopia is a place for social dreaming, to be found notably in written texts, films, other kinds of art, and utopian micro-communities. While the specific word utopia was coined at a formative moment of European modernity, the utopian mode crosses cultures. Transcultural approaches see cultures as being in process of transformation through relationships and entanglements with one another, and critique monolingual, mono-ethnic, homogeneous views of cultures.

This symposium will combine presentations and discussions on the British-South Asian interface with considerations of the concept of transcultural utopia more generally.

  • How do pasts, presents, and futures interplay in utopian writing and practices?

  • What kinds of futures are imagined?

  • By what methods, mediations and materialities do we understand transcultural utopian entanglements, and how do we communicate such understanding back to society?

  • How do these issues figure in the oeuvre of creative writers and filmmakers today?

Registration is now closed. See the events page for details of future sessions.