Bodies Politic: Utopian World-making between Carnality and Corporeality (Seminar)


Women's and Gender Studies / Cultural Studies and Media Studies

Emily Ming Yao (Columbia University)

Blase A. Provitola (Trinity College (Hartford))

How do we embody utopia in 2018? Which modes of embodiment can be written into utopian projects, and which bodily disciplines must be excluded? How can we ground utopian aspirations in the body without yielding to the self-authoring politics of what Elizabeth A. Povinelli has called the “autological subject?”

This seminar addresses the challenge of a utopia become flesh in the contemporary moment by orienting discussions of bodily practices, performances and representations towards visions of utopian collectivity. We contend that conceiving of the body as a space or site of utopian world-making recognizes that the body’s political situation is always doubly ambivalent: the body is as much the primary target, or vehicle, for the social reproduction as it is the first principles of a disruptive modes of being. At the same time, it often represents a first order indicator of difference and individuation as often as it dissolves such boundaries in models of connectivity, sharedness and intimacy. How, then, can we imagine of utopian collectivity as a bodily practice, and not merely a collection of bodies? Can thinking through the practices of the body help us articulate trajectories towards the utopic without being seduced by logic of identity? How we conceive of utopian polities not in transcendental terms, but embodied ones, and how do we imagine collectivity within and upon our necessarily demarcated, disarticulated and differentiated bodies in space?

This seminar hopes to foster a sustained cross-disciplinary conversation about the future landscapes of a utopia “enfleshed.” As such, we welcome papers from across NeMLA’s areas of inquiry, addressing topics including, but not limited to: the sociality or corporeality of contemporary protest movements, imaginative labor around the body and utopia in contemporary literature and/or film and television, neoliberal short-circuiting of utopian bodily practices, cybernetic or digital imaginings of the body as a utopian space, “subversive” bodily practice in literature and media, technologies of inclusion, exclusion and boundary drawing for imagined utopic communities and differently-located models of collective intimacies around the globe.

The seminar addresses the challenge of utopia-become-flesh in the contemporary moment by orienting discussions of bodily practices, performances and representations towards visions of utopian collectivity. Topics may include: the sociality or corporeality of contemporary protest movements, imaginative labor around the body and utopia in contemporary literature and/or film and TV, neoliberal short-circuiting of utopian bodily practices, cybernetic or digital imaginings of the body as a utopian space, “subversive” bodily practice in literature and media, technologies of inclusion, exclusion and boundary drawing for imagined utopic communities, and differently-located models of collective intimacies.