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Durham University

Institute of Advanced Study

Past Events

Utopia Public Lecture - The Ends of Utopia

3rd May 2011, 18:15 to 19:15, Room 140, Elvet Riverside, Professor Krishan Kumar (University of Virginia)

This is the fourth lecture in the Institute of Advanced Study's public lecture series on Utopia.

It has been common to say that the utopian impulse weakened in the Western world in the second half of the twentieth century, perhaps almost to the point of extinction. But if so there have been distinct signs of a recovery, in recent decades, built especially around environmental concerns, new developments in biotechnology, and the potential of the new information technology. A new planetary utopia may be in the making.

This lecture addresses the question of the renewal of utopia in the early twenty-first century. It does so by interrogating the uses and goals - "ends" - of utopia in the past, and asks whether these still persist. What was utopia, and what may it be in the future? Has there been an end of utopia or more a change of form and function?

Krishan Kumar is a Professor of Sociology at the University of Virginia. He was previously Professor of Social and Political Thought at the University of Kent at Canterbury, and has, at various times, been a Talks Producer at the BBC, a Visiting Scholar at Harvard University, and has held Visiting Professorships at Bristol University, the University of Colorado at Boulder, the Central European University, Prague, the University of Bergen, Norway, and the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, Paris. He has also been a member of the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton. Among his publications are Utopia and Anti-Utopia in Modern Times; The Rise of Modern Society; From Post-Industrial to Post-Modern Society; and 1989: Revolutionary Ideas and Ideals.

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