Utopia and Nonviolence: 15th International Conference of the Utopian Studies Society. Prague, 2–5 July 2014.

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Faculty of Arts, Charles University in Prague
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The special focus of the 2014 conference of The Utopian Studies Society is nonviolence and its relationship to utopianism. Our politics and culture are built around violence and war. As already Ralph W. Emerson observed, "[t]hat the project of peace should appear visionary to great numbers of sensible men; should appear laughable, even, to numbers; should appear to the grave and good-natured to be embarrassed with extreme practical difficulties, —is very natural." Moreover, nonviolent ends are often justified by violent means; we "fight" for justice and peace. Even the word "nonviolence"—like utopia—is defined by a lack; and likewise charged with idealism or wishful thinking. The two great pacifist thinkers and activists of the twentieth century, Mohandas K. Gandhi and Martin Luther King, were both assassinated. In such a climate, how relevant is nonviolence for utopianism? How can we become "neither victims nor executioners," to echo the words of Albert Camus?

We particularly welcome presentations that concern the following areas:

  1. The concept of nonviolence; the philosophy, psychology or rhetoric of nonviolence; the relationship of utopianism to nonviolence and vice versa
  2. Nonviolence in literary utopias (how are utopian objectives achieved; what conflicts utopias resolve or include; how are disagreements settled? the search for alternatives to violence in such utopias as Octavia E. Butler's Parable series and Dorothy Bryant's The Kin of Ata are Waiting for You); the (non)violence of the pen vs. the violence of the weapon
  3. Movements for nonviolence, alternative communities and communities of resistance founded on the principle of nonviolence (from the Quakers and groups such as the War Resisters League, the Catholic Worker, and the Student Nonviolent Organizing Committee, to such post-Vietnam War groups as the Community for Creative Nonviolence, Witness for Peace, and beyond); their mutual relationships
  4. Prominent thinkers of nonviolence from different cultural, historical or religious contexts; utopian potentials of their ideas and actions considered comparatively (e.g. Henry David Thoreau, Leo Tolstoy, Martin Luther King, Dorothy Day, Thich Nhat Hanh, and Adolfo Pérez Esquivel)
  5. Utopia (and nonviolence) in Czech or other East-European traditions (J. A. Comenius, Karel Čapek, Václav Havel, etc.)
  6. The limits of non violence vis-à-vis utopianism, the critique of non violence; the separation of means and ends, the theory of the lesser evil
  7. The present and the future of nonviolence in utopian thought, from a world-wide perspective

While proposals that relate to the conference theme will be appreciated, we also encourage presentations that focus on any other aspect of the utopian tradition. The conference is open to a variety of presentations about utopias, both abstract and concrete. Students, scholars and non-academics from multi-disciplinary and international backgrounds are welcome to apply.

The conference language is English. For information how to submit an abstract (maximum 250 words) for a 20-minute presentation or a proposal for a roundtable on a special theme, visit the website http://utopiaprague2014.cz/call-for-papers.html. The deadline for submitting abstracts and proposals is April 16, 2014.