Looking Forward in Hope and Despair: Critical Perspectives on Utopia and Dystopia in Philosophy and the Arts (April 2021)

Looking Forward in Hope and Despair: Critical Perspectives on Utopia and Dystopia in Philosophy and the Arts

April 14, 2021 - April 16, 2021

Pardubice, Czech Republic

For full conference programme, click HERE.

Keynote speakers:

Samantha Ashenden

Rastislav Dinić

Leovino Ma. Garcia

Andreas Hess



Patrick Keenan

Mira Reyes


In a time of growing inequalities, re-emerging fascist regimes, climate collapse, and now the recent pandemic of COVID-19, an increasing number of people nonetheless turn to dystopian fiction to get their escapism fix. Albert Camus’ La Peste sold out in bookstores all over the world only a couple of weeks after the pandemic started. Meanwhile, Slavoj Žižek has already written a book on the current pandemic as a possible catalyst for the resurrection of a new communism. It seems as if the drastic events and changes which our global community has undergone in the recent years have stimulated both the arts and philosophical writings which grapple with visions of the future, and this in turn calls for critical attention to the ways in which these visions are forged and engaged with.

This interdisciplinary PhD conference is open to all scholars interested in exploring a variety of questions, such as:

What do we mean by the concepts Utopia and Dystopia? What does it say about our imagination, political and otherwise, that we are drawn to depictions of something even worse in states of crisis? Why is the history of philosophy rich in imaginings of ideal states, whereas this seems to have gone out of fashion today? How do the narratives and tropes of dystopia and utopia shape, challenge, or undermine our understanding of what critical, normative, creative, and/or deconstructive thinking should be like? How do moods like hope, despair, cynicism, or peppiness (ambivalence) affect our philosophical approaches? What does it entail to read a dystopian or utopian work of fiction in relation to the state of the world, and what does it mean to read the world as utopian or dystopian? Do concepts such as ‘pandemia’ change through events like the recent global spread of the coronavirus, that is, when what has been mere dystopia becomes reality? And, last but not least: Can – or should – philosophy itself even attempt to contribute to the forging of visions of a better world or should it leave this task to the arts while confining itself to conceptual analysis and/or criticism?

Suggested research areas or possible subtopics also include: 

  • Imagination (of Futures) in Art and Philosophy
  • Ideal Societies in the History and Future of Philosophy
  • Disaster Capitalism
  • Apocalypse as Escapism
  • Political Approaches to Fiction
  • Simulacra and the Boundaries of Reality
  • Reality for Sale: Populism, Power, and Media
  • The Language of Propaganda in Times of Crises
  • Definitions of Fiction(s)
  • Can Cruelty be Depicted in Utopia?
  • Pessimism and Optimism in the Philosophical Voice
  • Who Needs a Philosopher in a Crisis? 
  • Is Universal Basic Income Utopian?
  • Pandemics, Panopticon, Pandemonium


Submission details

This is an interdisciplinary PhD conference. Scholars are invited to submit a 300-400 word abstract. Submissions must be in English. Submit the abstract as an anonymized attachment along with separate bibliography to CentreForEthicsPhDConference@gmail.com

In the email, please include a short bio as well. Any additional questions can also be directed to CentreForEthicsPhDConference@gmail.com


Conference format

We hope to have this conference in person in Pardubice, Czech Republic. However, if the Covid-19 restrictions do not permit it, we will hold the conference through the Zoom platform.

Consider listening to Philosophy Voiced, a podcast from the Centre for Ethics.