Inaugural Utopian Network Seminar

The first seminar of the utopian network will take place via zoom next Monday, July 27, 2-3.15 pm (see detail below)​

Utopia and Dystopia in Australian Climate Fiction ​

Andrew Milner (Monash University)​

Climate is an important part of fictional scene setting, whether it be geographical or seasonal. And this is perhaps especially true of Australian literature, where the majority of writers are still descendants of Anglo-Celtic settlers, living in more or less uneasy relationship with a distinctly non-Anglo-Celtic natural environment. But “cli-fi” in the sense of the term coined by Dan Bloom in 2007 refers, not to climate per se, nor even to climate change per se, but more specifically to fictions concerned with the effects of anthropogenic climate change, that is, to the literature of global warming. This is a much more recent preoccupation, which dates only from the late 1970s. Most of these fictions are dystopias, but a few also contain distinctly utopian elements. The short history of Australian “cli-fi” will be traced from the first publication of George Turner’s The Sea and Summer in 1987 through to the present.​

Solarpunk: Utopian Tech with an Aesthetic and Social Conscience​

Deborah Cleland and Hedda Ransan-Cooper (ANU)

Solarpunk is a movement, a philosophical orientation and an aesthetic centred around radical optimism. It is about countering dystopian ‘it’s too late’ narratives with a wild unleashing of imagination, and creating spaces in the now for living as if a beautiful, just and abundant future is possible for the current inhabitants of Earth. Among the manifestos, science fiction anthologies and tumblr collections, solarpunks have a drive to understand the cultural and social changes that could, should and would accompany both a conversion to renewable energy as well as an equitable and sustainable redistribution of resources among human and more-than-human populations. Yet solarpunks also have their detractors; those that argue online solarpunk movements are elite and blind to the needs of the poor or people with disabilities. Much like ‘early adopters’ and other groups who pursue an ‘off-grid’ life, they can be accused of seeking expensive technological solutions that impose new costs on far-distant places. We are interested in breaking down this either/or approach and exploring a typology of ways that householders in Australia are embodying solarpunk ethics – what drives them and how do their practices intersect with other concerns around social justice? How can our research on emerging technologies and environmental justice and democracy learn from, and contribute to, the solarpunk community more broadly?

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