Image Credit: Batik banner at the US Social Forum in Atlanta, GA (Brooke Anderson)
This week has marked the LSE’s 8th Space for Thought Literary Festival. Inspired by the five-hundred year anniversary of Thomas More’s Utopia, the Festival has hosted a week-long series of free exciting events exploring the power of dreams and the imagination and the importance of idealism, dissidence, escapism and nostalgia, as well as the benefits of looking at the world in different ways.
For the occasion, LSE Review of Books recommends eight other must-read books on and around the theme of ‘Utopia’.
This book provides a searching exploration of twentieth-century literatures of the Indian subcontinent by refocusing attention on works that engage with the village and the rural as a trope. Anupama Mohan breathes new life into Michel Foucault’s notion of heterotopia and continues a conversation about the need for recuperating the utopian potential in postcolonial writings. Gerardo Serra believes that the text can enrich the perspective of development scholars who are interested in the complexity and the dynamism of the rural village.
Karl Baker considers this unique book on contemporary issues in architecture and urbanism, centring on The Corviale Void project: a one-kilometre-long strip of urban space, immured in the notorious Corviale housing development in southwest Rome. Author Victoria Watson opens up questions about the role of the aesthetic and the monumental in the city, challenging materialist and economically rationalist ideas of city-making.
This book aims to explore Chinese, European and US eco-desires and eco-technological dreams, and examines the solutions they offer to environmental degradation in this age of global economic change. Michael Veale finds this a refreshing read.
What is to be done in the face of ‘crisis’, when this trope curtails our ability to imagine what might be possible, beyond a narrow horizon of diminished expectations? Max Haiven and Alex Khasnabish confront a ‘crisis of social reproduction’ shaped by the crash of 2008 and the war on terror. They find the imagination hobbled, tethered to individualised dreams of enrichment or escape from precarity. What seems to be missing from North Atlantic social movements – and society at large – is The Radical Imagination, a process of collectively envisioning alternative futures based on analyses of the root causes of social problems. Committed social researchers are tasked with ‘opening the time for the imagination’ in the landscape of perseverance that is populated by social movements caught between success and failure, writes Paul Gilbert.
This book differs considerably from the usual academic offerings on peace or IR, with film-maker Wim Wenders and philosopher Mary Zournazi reflecting on the need to reinvent our understandings of war and injustice. Inspired by various cinematic and artistic examples, Wenders and Zournazi engage in a provocative debate that will be of interest to those studying media and cinema, as well as to those looking for a new take on moving forward with peace, concludes Jade Montserrat.
In this book, members of the Communities Economy Collective engage with the research programme outlined by feminist economic geographers J.K. Gibson-Graham, attempting to make visible and amplify the diverse, noncapitalist economies that already exist in the shadow of capitalism. The contributors to the edited collection carry out vital work, dislocating the boundaries of what might be conceived of as ‘the economy’. Yet how Gibson–Graham’s framework might speak to those wishing to reform capitalism itself remains to be seen, writes Paul Gilbert.
In the second edition of this book, sociologist Manuel Castells conceptualises the relationship between social movements and the internet age through the notion of ‘the networked social movement’. While Castells utilises an admirable empirical dataset and shows deep understanding of the fluidity of contemporary social movements, Helton Levy wonders if his optimistic vision neglects lingering issues, including state surveillance and the digital divide.
While acknowledging the difficulties cities face, this book mounts a powerful case that cities do have tools at their disposal for ameliorating inequality, advancing social justice, promoting environmental responsibility and bolstering community empowerment. Susan Marie Martin thinks citizens of all cities will find this book readable and accessible.