CALL FOR PAPERS AND VISUAL PROJECTS: Fourth Political Imagination Laboratory

“Utopias of Sustainability – The Sustainability of Utopias”

University of Perugia, 30 September – 01 October 2022


What visions animate contemporary activism? How to uncover those utopian aspirations, strategic and/or ideological horizons that too often pass implicitly, silently or invisibly? Our “Political Imagination Laboratory” aims to interrogate the shifting political imagination of contemporary social movements and experimental forms of activism. We invite social scientists, filmmakers and activists to submit papers or visual projects (completed documentaries or works in progress). Proposed presentations should engage with ethnography and/or fieldwork related to different forms of social movement research that address the imagination of contemporary activism around the world.

The fourth Political Imagination Laboratory core theme will be “Utopias of Sustainability – The Sustainability of Utopias”. As utopias of a better world appear increasingly as ephemeral, precarious and fragile, concepts related to sustainability, the environment and rurality seem at the forefront of contemporary impulses for social change. Examples include experiments with self-production, new forms of horizontal cooperation, new understandings of rural-urban and nature-culture relations, as well as activism against mega-projects around the world.

While social scientists around the world have appreciated these forms of activism as prefigurative for broader social change, others underline how similar utopian impulses can easily be appropriated by neoliberal logics, e.g., propagated by consulting as management goal and cited by companies as advertising slogan. In particular, some voices interrogate the degree to which sustainability fits into an ethos of post-material renunciation. We ask: Which more or less visible utopian impulses haunt contemporary forms of activism? How are, for example, concepts like sustainability, rurality and nature employed by different actors? To which ideologies and/or utopias are these connected? In which context is and is not sustainability, rurality or ecology invoked? How can discourses and practices of sustainability, rurality, ecology and similar concepts be made visible by ethnographers?

Practical Information

We invite both papers and visual projects (completed documentaries or projects in progress).

PAPER PRESENTATIONS: Please submit your abstract (max. 300 words) for a paper of about 20 minutes. VISUAL PROJECTS: Please submit your audio-visual project (completed documentaries or works in progress) with a short description (max. 300 words). In order to stimulate debate, videos of ca. 30 minutes will be preferred; for longer completed documentaries, a short version accompanied by a presentation would be more adequate. Please upload your video to a cloud drive with the link. The abstract should also include your academic affiliation and role.

Please send your contribution to: info(at)

The ”Lab” will alternate paper presentations with film screenings, key-note lectures and in-depth discussion workshops, emphasizing horizontal discussions and personal interactions. The event is planned as an in-person meeting, but we will closely monitor the situation. If your presentation is accepted, we will offer you two nights of accommodation free-of-charge and some meals will also be covered. However, we cannot reimburse travel expenses. Further information on past editions can be found here:

Notification of accepted presentations: 30th July 2