Utopia(n) Challenges in Africa? Grinding Practices, Ethical Controversies
Antje Daniel, Universität Wien
Melina C. Kalfelis, Universität Bayreuth
Concepts of utopia give meaning to imaginations in processes of social transformation. While actors claim for alternative futures, they also enact alterative norms and moralities. The panel invites presentations from all disciplines that investigate present utopias and the way social struggles challenge the core of today’s most essential pillars.
Discourses on Africa keep being dominated by reports on corruption, terrorism, social disparities as well as by an ongoing fight against poverty, causing deep disillusionment. Less visible are narratives of people and their capability to aspire and to imagine an alternative future. Utopian studies and concepts of ‘real’, ‘concrete’ or ‘everyday’ utopias reveal that such imaginations and experiments of social transformation become visible in present practices, narratives and spaces. While in some cases social struggles claim for alternative futures, others enact and perform in a way that grant other norms and moralities a right to exist. This is the case once citizens publicly decline political, economic of societal orders by creating a (quasi-)autonomous or alternative space with its own rules of coexistence (e.g. separatist movements, religious communes, eco-villages etc.) or if actors take on government tasks and thereby question the monopoly of the state. In other cases, it is cosmologies or ideas about how life should look like that cause frictions, incomprehension, and condemnation.
In this panel, we understand respective practices, events, ideas, and orders as utopian moments of the present that (in)directly criticize established structures and highlight shared visions about the future. These moments include new ways of living, decision-making and problem-solving procedures as well as new forms of production, which not only make actors move against the current, but also provoke turmoil and ethical conflict.
The panel invites presentations from various disciplines including philosophy, sociology, geography, and anthropology focusing on such utopias as well as the irritations, ambivalences and tensions they create. The concept of the ‘real’ and ‘everyday’ utopia enables a less biased reflection on alternative futures in Africa in which the very core of today’s most essential pillars is being challenged.