Fredric Jameson (2005) famously wrote that it is easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism. In the face of climate crisis, geopolitical upheaval, and growing social inequality, the sense that the world is indeed ending seems to grow each day, even amongst the most privileged. In the face of increasingly dystopian futures, Utopian thinking has made a striking comeback. Ambitious world-making projects can be found in blockchain technology, AI-inspired imaginaries of technological progression and automation, and large-scale reconfigurations of energy systems towards renewable fuels. Anthropologists not only critically analyse the promises of such techno-fixes (Prince and Neumark 2022), but have, in their own ways, also invigorated a ‘post-progress’ utopian politics; by looking for hope in the cracks of colonial, patriarchal and racist systems, and by exploring world making amid capitalist ruins (Bear et al. 2015; Bessire 2022; Tsing 2015). While some take ethnographic stock of the prefigurative politics of social movements or highlight the difficulty of brining progressive utopian ideals in practice (Hetherington 2020), others have suggested that anthropologists’ collaborative orientation to a not-yet ‘otherwise’ may contribute to enduring struggles against oppression and situated social and political healing (McTighe & Raschig 2019). Such examples show that engaging with the materialization of utopias, both as processes as well as concrete spatial arrangements (Harvey 2000), also offers a way to rethink the role of anthropology and anthropological critique.

We invite papers to engage with Utopia as an analytic for the exploration of world-making and world-breaking practices on different scales and in various contexts. Contributions may explore the role Utopian thinking plays in diverse cultural settings and communities, and detail how people work towards realizing Utopian ideals – from religious notions of the Promised Land to dreams of social justice– in practice. While Utopian imaginaries emerge in emancipatory social movements, they also animate (neo)colonial projects and fuel global and local conflict. Thinking with such diverse examples raises critical questions: Who defines the horizon of Utopian possibility? Who bears the costs of pursuing Utopian ideals? And what can these troubles teach us about how Utopian thinking figures in social and anthropological theory?

For this issue of Etnofoor we welcome papers addressing these or other questions. We invite contributions that analyse Utopia through ethnographic fieldwork or offer methodological, theoretical, or practical perspectives. Please submit an abstract of no more than 200 words to editors@etnofoor.nl before Monday 18 March 2024. We also welcome book or literature reviews and creative contributions (such as photo essays or graphic narratives). The deadline for authors of accepted abstracts to submit their full paper is 1 June 2024.


Bear, Laura, Karen Ho, Anna Tsing, and Sylvia Yanagisako. 2015. Gens: A Feminist Manifesto for the Study of Capitalism. Cultural Anthropology, Editers’ forum Theorizing the Contemporary. https://culanth.org/fieldsights/gens-a-feminist-manifesto-for-the-study-of-capitalism

Bessire, Lucas. 2021. Running out: In Search of Water on the High Planes. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Harvey, David. 2000. Spaces of Hope. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Hetherington, Kregg. 2020. The Government of Beans: Regulating Life in the Age of Monocrops. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Jameson, Frederic. 2005. Archaeologies of the Future: The Desire Called Utopia and Other Science Fictions. London: Verso.

McTighe, Laura and Megan Raschig. 2019. Introduction: An Otherwise Anthropology. Cultural Anthropology, Editers’ forum Theorizing the Contemporary. https://culanth.org/fieldsights/introduction-an-otherwise-anthropology

Prince, Ruth and Tom Neumark. 2022. Curious Utopias: Dreaming Big Again in the Twenty-first Century? Social Anthropology/Anthropologie Sociale 30(2): 1-15.

Tsing, Anna. 2015. The Mushroom at the End of the World. On the Possiblity of Life in Capitalist Ruins. Princeton: Princeton University Press.