Utopias in the Middle East

CFP: Utopias in the Middle East and Beyond

A workshop to be held in London, February 2022

Centre for Islamic and West Asian Studies (CIWAS), Royal Holloway University of London

Organisers: Simon Wolfgang Fuchs (University of Freiburg) and Thomas Pierret (Aix-Marseille Université, CNRS-IREMAM, Aix-en-Provence)

The Idea (Short Version):

Utopias in the most widely-accepted sense, that is, preconceived models of an ideal society that encourage, legitimise, and guide (political) action, were strikingly absent from the initial phase of the 2011 Arab uprisings. However, new political imaginaries emerged throughout the revolutionary process itself with various actors attempting to realize newborn utopias, be they short-lived, such as the encampment on Cairo’s Tahrir Square, or more durable, like Syria’s local councils. To use Gilles Deleuzes’ terms, the relative absence of “transcendent utopias” (i.e. pre-conceived political projects geared towards the establishment of a perfect society) should not obscure the presence of “immanent utopias” (i.e. try-and-fail political experiments that take place in an endless process of resistance to oppression). Considering this, we invite scholars with various disciplinary backgrounds to take stock of the many utopias that have shaped (or, at least, strove to shape) the Middle East and adjacent regions throughout the 20th and 21st centuries. We are looking for contributions

  • on utopias broadly defined as the desire for a different, better way of being, which accommodates a wide variety of forms, functions, and contents 
  • on utopian visions, produced by both state and non-state actors
  • on utopian projects stemming from a variety of ideological backgrounds such as modernism, nationalism, anarchism, socialism, Third-Worldism, Zionism, Islamism, and millenarianism
  • that focus on both “transcendent” and “immanent” utopias
  • that explain how utopias emerged, unfolded, and in some cases, disappeared
  • that explore instances of cross-pollination between utopian projects
  • that might challenge existing typologies of utopia

Proposals should be sent to ciwas@rhul.ac.uk, specifying in the email subject: “Utopias in the Middle East and beyond” by 15 October 2021. Proposals must include a tentative title and an abstract (600 words including mention of sources used).

Inquiries about the project should be referred to  simon.w.fuchs@orient.uni-freiburg.de and thomas.pierret@univ-amu.fr.

Read a longer concept note here.

For time-line, funding, and logistics, see here.


Simon Wolfgang Fuchs (University of Freiburg), simon.w.fuchs@orient.uni-freiburg.de 


Thomas Pierret (Aix-Marseille Université, CNRS-IREMAM, Aix-en-Provence), thomas.pierret@univ-amu.fr


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