There is a widely held assumption that any intellectual or artistic labor oriented towards liberation must have the function of increasing the amount of hope in the world: that it must be motivated by hope, and must produce hope in its interlocutors. But what do we lose, and lose sight of, when hope is our sole criterion for what motivates people to action and what makes cultural production worthwhile?
This seminar’s aim is to examine what the absence of hope makes possible. What kinds of politics can arise, what cultural forms can emerge, and what judgements or observations can be made in the absence of an anticipated “happy ending”? As the planet hurtles toward the point of no return with respect to rising temperature thresholds predicted to set off a feedback loop of climate disasters, we want to ask how resistance is to be conceived outside of the framework in which the future holds the promise of resolution, of fulfillment, or even of bare survival. Does the foreclosure of hope necessarily entail nihilism, political quietism, or resignation? What kinds of political action, what forms of resistance against reality as is can be enabled when hope is suspended or given up? What do we learn or notice in the absence of hope, and what makes such knowledge valuable? What does hope stop us from thinking, feeling, registering, or doing in particular sites of struggle?
We also encourage papers that reflect on the literary and cultural forms that can give hopelessness shape and meaning: fragmentary genres, indeterminate endings, modes of writing and expression that resist closure while not extending the promise of infinite possibility as its alternative. What kinds of art and theory are produced under conditions of hopelessness, and what effect do they have--and hope to have--upon the world? What are the poetics of hopelessness, and how do they intervene in a world ordered by the presumed necessity of hope? What kinds of new archives and canons are opened up if we stop thinking about hopelessness as equivalent to failure? How does hopelessness signify differently in comparative analysis: does the teleological orientation of Western modernity produce a different experience of hopelessness in the Global North and the Global South?
Topics may include, but are not limited to:
Environmentalist critiques of growth
Affect theories of hope and hopelessness
Apocalypse and post-apocalypse
Challenges to remediation and repair in disability studies
Hopelessness in critical theory
Thinking against redemption
Mass extinction and climate change
Narratologies and poetics of hopelessness