(The original deadline for abstract submission has passed, but please contact the organiser to see if there is a place available)

Call for Papers

Urban Utopianism workshop

An International Workshop on Urban Utopianism

Organised by Department of Geography, Hong Kong Baptist University in collaboration with Urban Research Plaza, Osaka City University on 12-14 May, 2011 at Hong Kong Baptist University, Hong Kong

The Objective

Today, while most of us have already lived in cities and towns, the world is still urbanising at an alarming rate. While most of the policy-makers are busy with mundane, daily life, they advocate the ‘end of utopia’. On many occasions, policies are merely old wine in the new bottle. They cannot merely tackle many burgeoning urban problems. Even worse, many policies, once implemented, create more problems than they were intended to resolve. In sum, without any utopian vision, it is difficult to debate about the way that our cities should proceed in the future.

The utopian perspective, according David Pinder, is one that involves “the expression of desire for a better way of being and living through the imagining of a different city and a different urban life?. David Harvey charts a course to construct the future, or what he calls a ‘dialectical or spatiotemporal utopianism’. This approach underscores a study of the historical geography of capitalism to provide clues as to how a dialectical utopian project can be grounded in both the present and the past. In particular, it requires us to unravel the internal contradictions and then consider how to develop the collective mechanisms and cultural forms necessary for the realisation of alternative urban visions based on these contradictions. For Henri Lefebvre, the world space has been colonised by commodity capitalism and state management and planning. Nevertheless, out of the isotopias in urban space, there are heterotopias developed out of contradictions. Heterotopic spaces can further be developed into utopia, as the May 1968 Movement in central Paris, a utopia, originated from the earlier heterotopia of Nanterre has illustrated. More specifically, for Lefebvre, our utopia is the differential space. This search can be achieved by his much-celebrated regressive-progressive method. For the non-West, the search for utopia must work harder to counteract the hegemony of current urbanisation in co-determination with the world. It is the objective of this international conference (1) to identify the spatial contradictions, (2) to argue conceptually different ways to imagine a different city, (3) to propose ways to build the collective mechanisms/autogestion/the reformed state, (4) to detail cases of experiment all over the world, and (5) in particular, compare and contrast experiments in the developed, developing and socialist worlds.

Call for Papers

This workshop is interested in papers that focus on one or more of the following sub-themes:

  1. Conceptual discussion of utopia by invoking theoreticians like Foucault, Lefebvre, Gramsci, Harvey, and others;
  2. Documentation of experiments around the world including examination and critique of the present, into the possibilities of imagining a future transformation;
  3. Compare and contrast more than one cases in different categories of city and in various types of society;
  4. Cases of experiment in East Asia, in general, and Hong Kong, in particular.

Please send abstracts to Wing-Shing Tang (wstang@hkbu.edu.hk) at the Department of Geography, Hong Kong Baptist University, before the 31st December, 2010.


It is intended to publish some of the papers in a monograph.