CFP: “Utopias in the Middle East and Beyond” Workshop

Call for Proposals: “Utopias in the Middle East and Beyond” Workshop
Centre for Islamic and West Asian Studies, Royal Holloway University of London
February 2022

Utopias in the most widely accepted sense, that is, preconceived models of an ideal society that encourage, legitimise, and guide (political) action, were strikingly absent from the initial phase of the 2011 Arab uprisings. However, new political imaginaries emerged throughout the revolutionary process itself with various actors attempting to realize new-born utopias, be they short-lived, such as the encampment on Cairo’s Tahrir Square, or more durable, like Syria’s local councils. To use Gilles Deleuzes’ terms, the relative absence of “transcendent utopias” (i.e., pre-conceived political projects geared towards the establishment of a perfect society) should not obscure the presence of “immanent utopias” (i.e. try-and-fail political experiments that take place in an endless process of resistance to oppression). Considering this, we invite scholars with various disciplinary backgrounds to take stock of the many utopias that have shaped (or, at least, strove to shape) the Middle East and adjacent regions throughout the 20th and 21st centuries.

We are looking for contributions:

  • on utopias broadly defined as the desire for a different, better way of being, which accommodates a wide variety of forms, functions, and contents;
  • on utopian visions, produced by both state and non-state actors;
  • on utopian projects stemming from a variety of ideological backgrounds such as modernism, nationalism, anarchism, socialism, Third-Worldism, Zionism, Islamism, and millenarianism;
  • that focus on both “transcendent” and “immanent” utopias;
  • that explain how utopias emerged, unfolded, and in some cases, disappeared;
  • that explore instances of cross-pollination between utopian projects;
  • that might challenge existing typologies of utopias.


Proposals should be sent to ciwas@rhul.ac.uk, specifying in the email subject: “Utopias in the Middle East and beyond” by 15 October 2021. Proposals must include a tentative title and an abstract (600 words including mention of sources used).

Centre for Islamic and West Asian Studies, Royal Holloway University of London will cover travel and accommodation for the workshop. Contributions will be published in an edited volume.

Key dates:
Abstract Submission: October 15, 2021
Notification of Acceptance: October 31, 2021
Chapter drafts ( 4.000 word): January 16, 2022
Workshop: February 18, 2022

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