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No Intentions? Utopian Theory After the Future

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Lisa Garforth


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This article examines the question of utopia and un/intention in relation to recent utopian theory and the changing socio-historical conditions of utopianism. The notion of intentionality is rarely explicitly considered in utopian theory; however, it offers to shed new light on debates about the concept, form and function of utopia in late modernity. My principal argument is that intention has become increasingly irrelevant to theories of utopia. In the last 20 years, utopia has been reconceptualised as processual, critical, reflexive, open-ended, and immanent. The utopics of heterogeneous spatialities have displaced temporal, future-oriented utopianism; utopianism has been embedded in everyday life rather than displaced into formal representation; the possibilities of transformative, collective programmes for social change appear to have ceded to the free play of critique and desire. Insofar as intention implies a purposive orientation to action in the name of a predefined goal or object, it seems to have little to do with contemporary utopianism. I conclude by indicating some directions that an explicit attention to intention promises to open up in relation to the concept and politics of utopia.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Garforth L

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Journal for Cultural Research

Year: 2009

Volume: 13

Issue: 1

Pages: 5-27

ISSN (print): 1479-7585

ISSN (electronic): 1467-8713

Publisher: Routledge


DOI: 10.1080/14797580802674787


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