‘Always Coming Home’: Thinking Utopia-in-Crisis

deadline for submissions: 
February 1, 2019
full name / name of organization: 
University of Alabama in Huntsville (English)
contact email: 

In 1974, in the shadow of the Vietnam War and amidst the economic and political retrenchments of post-1968, Ursula K. Le Guin published The Dispossessed. The novel’s radical innovation of the narrative utopia, with its unblinking acknowledgment of the form’s conceptual as well as practical limits, paradoxically revitalized and reactivated utopia’s uncompromising social vocation for an emphatically anti-utopian era. Again in 1985, with the neoliberalist demolition of the last vestiges of the 1930s regulatory welfare state fully accomplished, Le Guin published the post-apocalyptic Always Coming Home, a fictional ethnography of the utopian Kesh society, “who might be going to have lived a long, long time from now in Northern California.” Le Guin’s work thus exemplifies what Tom Moylan calls the “critical utopia,” a form that turns a necessarily self-critical eye on utopia itself without forsaking its core imperative to transform its present. Yet, if the foremost concern of the narrative utopia is, as Frederic Jameson claims, the self-referential account of its own impossible production, then to think utopia is properly to limn the crisis that forecloses its historical emergence. Utopia, then, thrives in situations where it is least possible or most discredited. To think utopia is therefore always to think utopia-in-crisis. Commemorating the legacy of Le Guin, we invite papers that consider utopian literary and cultural expression in all periods and genres (in all varied, partial, and intermittent forms), and especially in relation to political, economic, and ecological crises throughout history and the globe.


Send 250-word abstracts via email to Joseph Taylor (wjt0003@uah.edu) by February 1, 2019

Conference Dates: April 5 and 6, 2019 at the University of Alabama in Huntsville (Huntsville, AL)


Keynote speaker: Tom Moylan, Glucksman Professor Emeritus, School of Language, Literature, Culture, and Communications, University of Limerick

Special Guest: Tobias Buckell, author of such science fiction works as the acclaimed Xenowealth series, Halo: The Cole Protocol (2006), Halo:Envoy (2017), and Arctic Rising (2012)