The 21st century utopia is a commercial product

Seminarium

Datum: måndag 5 september 2022

Tid: 13.00 – 14.30

Plats: B600

Research seminar with Nina Holm Vohnsen, Aarhus University, Discussant: Chakad Ojani

In this talk, I want to argue that commercial products such as the meal replacement product Soylent, the vertically integrated business model behind SpaceX’s Starlink and Starship, and the Seasteading Institute’s scheme to commercialize citizenship are of the same order as Thomas More’s Utopia, the alternative societies 19th century United States, or the European political reforms of the early 20th century. Secondly, I want to emphasize how utopian expressions throughout history has acted as political arguments and social critique pushing the border of the imaginable. Thirdly, I want to propose that we regard the utopian visions expressed in commercial products as diagnostic tools that may help us identify contemporary key tension in the political landscape by examining the ways in which they challenge the established order and present distribution of power. I want to propose, that the main critique put forward by the products I examine is that the nation state is an inadequate locus for solving global problems related to climate change, population growth and continued hunger and poverty.

Dr Nina Holm Vohnsen is a social anthropologist and associate professor at Aarhus University, Denmark. Currently Nina is interested in understanding economic effects of utopic dreaming and ‘policy-driven developments’, especially the undocumented effects of goals that are never achieved, and decisions and projects that are never implemented. One of her research projects focuses on the industrialisation of Outer Space. Another project, funded by AUFF, examines the idea of Basic Income in Scotland. Nina’s third project is a blog called Mars: A room of My Own (https://room-of-my-own.com) ,in which you can follow her work as well as thoughts about academic life. Nina is also a PI on a project, funded by VELUX, that explores the daily work that unemployed people living on a low income have to do.