CFP Do-it-yourself Utopia

CFP: DIY Utopia

Across contemporary activism, art, and popular culture, there appears to be a flowering of utopian imaginings.  More self-conscious than past movements, today’s are often playful, whimsical, and ironic, but are still entirely earnest.  Artists create idealized maps of existing cityscapes, activists archive small, individual ideas for the future, while others generate crowd-sourced manifestos or grandiose mock-ups of worlds that do not yet exist.  All seem to have grown out of a similar Do-It-Yourself ethos and alternative culture.

The mushrooming Do-It-Yourself subculture is one that has developed largely in opposition to mainstream consumer culture.  It encompasses a wide variety of activities, from cooking, to crafting, to farming, leading to the growing visibility of anarchist knitting circles and underground supper clubs.  On the one hand, it is easy to dismiss the hipster preciousness around many such endeavors, but the DIY movement also has a political bent, positioning itself as an alternative to the dominant culture of conspicuous consumerism, corporate mass production, and ecological destruction.  It is this wider subculture that seems to have sparked the utopian imaginings that are the subject of the proposed collection.

These utopian projects take a variety of forms, from fine art to activism to viral video to open-source web collaboration.  Similar to the other D.I.Y. pursuits, their starting point is often a desire to fill in elements that one might feel are missing from mainstream culture or political life.  Far removed from the rigidly prescriptive utopian movements of the past, these projects tend to be characterized by a sense of play, a self-referential wink, or a desire for each participant to make it his/her own.  Utopia here may not be seen as ultimately attainable, but as an opportunity to pose the question “what if?”

In examining a number of individual case studies, this anthology will be positioned to consider a variety of broader questions:

*Does the trend represent evidence of political optimism and will, a feeling that if the world does not exist as one wishes, that one can begin to build it in miniature form?  Or does it represent a retreat from politics, as communities (and individuals) turn inward?

*How do these movements dovetail with or contrast the utopian/dystopian narratives produced by film and television?

*How do they overlap with or differ from past utopian movements?

*Ultimately, what does the phenomenon, taken as a whole, tell us about the contemporary moment?

If interested, please submit a 500-word abstract and short bio to Amber Day by December 21, 2014.  Notification of selection will be shortly thereafter.  Full articles are due by May 1, 2015.

Amber Day
Associate Professor
Literary and Cultural Studies Department
Bryant University

Author: Center for Intercultural Dialogue

Wendy Leeds-Hurwitz, the Director of the Center for Intercultural Dialogue, manages this website.

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