Posted by: HAT | September 15, 2010

Utopian Space

evidence of nectar

Hi, Gang!

The conference is over!! The conference we hosted at our tiny Women’s Center, at considerable cost to my putting the finishing touches on the miserable CHAPTER V, that is. But the conference itself was great, albeit small. Then again, if it had been large, we would have had a harder time doing it at all.

Much was said about “utopian space” at this conference, using the remarks made by Elizabeth Castelli on the ekklēsia of women as “an alternative space within which the future might be reimagined and renegotiated in light of a critical vision of the past and present” as the relevant notion of utopian space.1 I think there is a lot to be said for this idea. Of course, the space of a little interfaith conference of women, mostly Christians, not even very diverse racially, almost no class diversity, strictly according to the rules of the Marketing and Events Planning department at the seminary, etc. falls well short of utopian in many ways. It’s not utopia, it’s utopi-an.

And even this little moment of unreality doesn’t last. It’s a lot of work to orchestrate, too, and to clean up after. I have been craving a nap since Monday night for that very reason. I hope this will not be anyone’s response to utopia proper.

There is still some truth-content in calling what we manage to fashion in a conference like this “utopian space” even with all those qualifications. It is precisely that such an exercise puts some people who wouldn’t ordinarily have a conversation together, with the idea of exploring what would be desirable, and dream-able because desirable. What alternative beautiful and enjoyable futures could we imagine or design, even if only partial, provisional, or suggestive? And then, we manage to manage it for a day and a half, more or less — something out of the ordinary, something moving and delightful. A memorable symbol, maybe.

But memory plays a role in the metaphysical experience that’s inseparable from the faculty for imagining in the direction of utopia. (At least, I’d contend this. I think this is part of Adorno’s point about the origins of metaphysical experience in childhood delight. ND p. 373-4.) Making memories of something really marvelous can’t be entirely discounted. It doesn’t change the world enough — hardly at all, in fact. But the tiny change may be a critical one. Memories are seeds, and if they are the right sort of seeds, which we hope they are, they will grow up to be something like honeysuckle or tansy: invasive, ineradicable, sweet.

1. Elizabeth Castelli, “The Ekklēsia of Women and/as Utopian Space: Locating the Work of Elizabeth Schüssler Fiorenza in Feminist Utopian Thought” in On the Cutting Edge: The Study of Wo/men in Biblical Worlds (New York: Continuum, 2004) 36-52, 45.


  1. Yes, indeed!

  2. very nice 😀 poetic, even :p


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