Utopia seminar

Utopia. Its here, if not now

To speak of utopia is always to speak of the present intolerable arrangements,

Pietr Kropotkin, "the anarchist formerly known as Prince”, quoted from Iain Boal


U - topia: No place

Eu - topia: Good place

Ude - topia: Never place

Hetero - topia: Other space

Kaka - topia: Shit place

Dys - topia: Bad place

U - chronia: No time

Eu - chronia: Good time

Eu - sychia: Good Consciousness/psychology



This course explores the history, concepts and the real and imaginary worlds of Utopia. As an extension of Nils Norman’s ongoing research of Utopia, the Utopic World will be investigated using a broad artistic, rather than academic, method of inquiry.


Utopia is nowhere, but historically and conceptually it cannot be just anywhere.The course will navigate the analytic study and long tradition of mainly Western Utopia going back to the Ancient Greeks, through the Judeo-Christian tradition of Millenarianism, sailing past the Utopias of the 16C, and on towards the mad and fantastic plans and programs of Utopian Socialists like Charles Fourier, Robert Owen and Saint Simon. From there we will steer towards the history of communalism in the United States, feminist utopias, the communitarian experiments of the 60s and 70s, and the intentional communities of the present.


The course will grapple with a range of issues which are central to any understanding of the past, and the future, of Utopia and communalism: the history of utopias; communes and sexual politics; the city versus the country; the city and public space; architectural traditions and practices; charisma, leadership and anti- authoritarianism; communes and the state; anti-capitalist movements; technology; the political economy of collective living; underground presses, music and artistic expression; reproduction and education; feminist utopias; ecology; the material bases of the commune; when communes fail; barter, potlatch and gleaning.


Week 1. Introductions and etymologies. Outline of themes, ideas and terms


Week 2. Paradise, the Golden Age and Arcadia: Early perfect states of fulfilment – Plato’s Republic and Thomas More’s Utopia.The Ideal City: architecture and design as social control


Week 3. The MillenarianTradition: GerrardWinstanley, theAnabaptists, the Ranters, Lollards, Adamites and other dissenters


Week 4. Utopian Socialism: Marx, Engels, Charles Fourier, Robert Owen and Saint Simon. The United States: Failed experiments; Étienne Cabet and the Icarians, Oneida, Brook Farm and others


Week 5. Beatniks, Hippies, alternative architecture, appropriate technology and the US counter culture of the 1960s


Week 6. Modern Utopias: Anti-capitalist movements, feminist utopias and artist colonies, contemporary utopias, intentional communities, ecological cooperative experiments and the political economy of collective living