[in this imperfect world, time moves backwards… earlier dates towards the bottom]

february 28 — black nationalisms and utopias

w.e.b. dubois, “the comet” (dubois is one of the most important american sociologists, but also one of the most important americans of all categories — he did so many significant things; started the first sociology department in the US, founded the NAACP, wrote the souls of black folk, etc etc etc. this is a short storythat is sometimes called the first piece of afrofuturist fiction)

the combahee river collective, “the combahee river collective statement” (some contextualization of this founding piece of “identity politics” — if you want something more to read to understand how they are talking about identity)

our main interest is in the ideas of the above texts, but if you want examples of actual efforts of utopian efforts by african-americans, here’s a few:


february 26 — nationalism as imaginary

benedict anderson, “introduction IC” from imagined communities

[here’s an interview with anderson, to supplement the short intro above, which you might find of use, especially as he links nationalism to utopianism. but this is only here if you want it, so skip if you want.]

kristin ross, “beyond the ‘cellular regime of nationality” from communal luxury: the political imaginary of the paris commune (don’t know much about the paris commune? here’s some quick overviews if you want them: timeline; wiki; ross’s introduction; the commune’s place in history (and in how we talk about history))


february 21 — masculinity & fascism (and race…)

katherine burdekin, selections from swastika night (read only chapters 1 and 4). [a word of warning: there’s some unpleasant references to sexual violence in these chapters.]

[[ yes, you miss the whole story, but our goal is to glimpse at worlds, not necessarily to get satisfying narrative closure (sorry!). of course, the entire thing is there for you to read as you wish, which is true for many of the texts.]]

david lane, “88 precepts” (this is considered one of the current defining texts of white-separatists/white nationalist groups. it is not a comfortable read. you’ve been warned.)

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oregon founded as racist utopia? [related: “portland isn’t portlandia: it’s a capital of white supremacy”]


february 19 — gender in equality

charlotte perkens gilman, herland (this is the main link, which gives you lots of different format options, in case you have a preference; if you have no preference, here is the HTML version).

i am going to let you make some choices of what you are interested in here. you should definitely read chapter 5 (the html link goes directly there), and you should read at least two (2) other chapters in addition. the chapters are not long, and it is easier to read than most, as it is pretty straightforward fiction. i suggest that you choose from chapters 6-11, since they give a better indication of the way the society works. you might find yourself reading more, since it is an interesting little tale (and one of the main protagonists is a sociologist, which always spells excitement!). enjoy.

for monday: select one (1) quote from the section you read and send it to me via email by 2:40 monday before class. we will use the fifteen (15) collected quotes as the basis for developing an argument about the book, with an eye towards generating a collective thesis statement. exciting! don’t forget to do this, please.

for a more recent take, here’s the manifesto from the redstockings group, a radical feminist group from the 1960s: redstockings manifesto


here’s the short documentary on the collective housing experiment in amsterdam in the 1980s. if you want to learn more the political struggles around alternative living experiments in amsterdam, you can read my book. (ha, ha, just kidding. no one will ever read my book…)


♥ ♥ february 14 ♥ ♥  class & commitment issues!

rosabeth moss kantor, “commitment: the problem and the theory

[[[this is a general theory of commitment, drawn from her research on 19th C communes. it is not too hard to read, but is somewhat abstract, which you might like or not. however, it is only 15 pp. long]]

carl guarneri, “brook farm and the fourierist phalanxes

[[[this is more or less a descriptive history of some efforts to put fourierist ideas into practice in america, with some indication of what worked, and didn’t. the details aren’t the main point, but rather thinking about why it did or didn’t work. but it’s not too long, so shouldn’t be an issue.]]]

sergei khodorovich: “1917-1987: unsuccessful and tragic attempt to create “new soviet man” (this is an archived site, since this piece seems to have vanished from the interwebs. again, the details are not critical — and this is not the definitive statement on the issue, even though i think there are some particularly interesting angles, especially the need to create the new man is also the need to destroy anyone who doesn’t fit. think about the process — how did the soviet union need “new men” and how did it try to create them? does that tell us anything about this (or other) utopian projects?)



february 12 — work horse of the world!

first, up, marx & engels, in perhaps the most significant bit of utopian writing of the  modern world, the communist manifesto.

with a preamble and 4 parts, this would appear at first blush to be long, but in fact, most of the sections are on the brief side. the most important are parts 1 and 2, but be sure to read through to the end, because there are good lines found in the back half. perhaps most importantly, we see their critique of “utopian socialists”, including charles fourier, who we will also read a bit from. [[by the way, one of the other utopian socialists they refer to, st. simon, was actually the teacher of auguste comte, the founder of sociology. comte, whom hg wells mentioned in the piece i asked you to read for last thursday  is actually an example of non-utopian impulses in sociology, since he wanted to build it up as the highest of the sciences (and, actually ended up forming his own cult, with himself as high priest). irony alert!]]

which leads us to fourier…

here are a series of short excerpts from his collected works, focusing on the role of work and the architecture for organizing a new society



trust me, this looks like more than it actually is. of course, these authors were not known for their sparkling prose (although the manifesto really pops at times), so don’t expect to fly through it moments before class.


in honor of marx/engels, a treat from this week’s swedish twitter:




february 8 (day one!)

1) the first reading is by h.g. wells, who you might not know as an amateur sociologist. here he argues for the value of utopian thought to the sociological project

[[please note there is a lot of name checking of late 19th century academics, which might not be the most inspiring thing in the world to read. feel free to skim that, since most are rightly forgotten today, and those who aren’t, are not important for you to know. the “good stuff” comes near the end, but you should slog through the beginning for it to make sense]]

2) second, if unsure about what just happened in the above, read this quick interview with ruth levitas, a sociologist writes a lot about utopias, as she discusses her recent work on hg wells. it will give you the gist of what happens above, although there is some value in seeing just how wells puts it himself.

[[don’t worry. it is not much longer than the URL.)

3) at the end of the above interview, levitas mentions the “sociological imagination”. curious what that means? read this (short!) excerpt from cw mills, called The-Promise, to find out.




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