There is no shortage of critiques of utopian imaginaries for being coded in colonial, Western, masculine, Christian, and extractive ideologies. Utopia has been, and continues to be, an often violent gesture that chooses the future of select groups and certain forms of life at the expense of others. Is utopia, then, still worth keeping in a world that has been so damaged through its violent deployments? Is it possible not to treat utopia merely as a model of abstract futurity based on escapist projections of a harmonious ideal? What happens when utopia is conceived not only as a way of imagining a better future but also as a way of intervening in the present by addressing the past? Can utopia welcome ambivalence, disquietude, paradox, opacity, and uncertainty?

This symposium draws on the notion of coding, which is deployed in multiple areas ranging from genetic coding and cybernetics to politics and art, and understands it as a mode of languaging that aims at engineering futures. This notion helps to reveal the difficulty of engaging with the transmissions and effects of utopian projects and the encoded logics they impose on social and environmental possibilities. It also allows for thinking about the possibility of de-coding the codes of extractive utopias by attuning to the anti- and decolonial cracks in colonial histories, practices, and discourses where new and unforeseen models of utopia might emerge. To this end, the event seeks to gather scholars, theorists, and practitioners working on the possibility of alternative models of the future and the present that account for and attempt to repair historical and contemporary colonial ecologies.

The symposium aims to develop critical approaches to the concept and project of utopia from literary studies, post- and decolonial studies, science and technology studies, comparative literature, environmental humanities, psychoanalysis, history, anthropology, sexuality and gender studies, and beyond. The ensuing discussion will emphasize the implicit biases and disparities of power built into, and often obscured by, utopian and dystopian world-making.

In English

13:30 Welcome and Introduction

14:00 – 15:30 PANEL I
Refusing/Reprogramming/Decoding Utopia

Tereza Hendl
Refusing Inter-imperiality towards Europe’s East for an Anti-oppressive Future

Özgün Eylül İşcen
Reprogramming Utopias through Media Arts in the Middle East

Chiara Di Leone
Decoding the World: A Historical Analysis of World Computer Models in the 1970s

15:30 – 16:00 Coffee Break

16:00 – 17:30 PANEL II
Rethinking Utopian Beginnings

Oliver Silverman (Online)
Profane Heaven: Utopia, Millenarianism, and the Metacodes of Insurgent Imagination

Christiane Wagner
(De)coding Utopia Under the Concept of the Smart City

Spencer Adams
Reading the ‘Yugoslav Model’ at the Heart of Callenbach’s Ecotopia

17:30 – 18:00 Coffee Break

18:00 Keynote by Lara Choksey
Anti-eugenics after the Genome
(Livestream available)

11:30 – 12:15 Artist Talk
Davide Prati (IOCOSE), A Surreal Poetics of The New Space Movement
Followed by a Q&A with the artist

12:15 – 13:00 Screening
Entangled Relations of a a/u/dis/hetero/proto-topia:
7FF on¢idia (2017, 08:12) and Rema nascentes (2021, 16:44 min)
Followed by a Q&A with the filmmaker Ж (Online)

13:00 – 14:30 Lunch Break

14:30 – 16:00 PANEL III
Utopian Crossroads and Constellations

Stephen Temitope David (Online)
Reading Utopia through Ifa: Esu as Teacher and Patron Saint

José Antonio Magalhães
The Case for Geobricolage

Caleb Fridell
Can Utopia Be Precise?

16:00 – 16:30 Coffee Break

16:30 – 18:30 Discussion De/Coding Utopia
With Leonardo Caffo, Hilda Fernandez, Patricia Reed, Fátima Vieira
(Livestream available)


Spencer Adams
Leonardo Caffo
Lara Choksey
Hilda Fernandez-Alvarez
Tereza Hendl
Caleb Fridell
Özgün Eylül İşcen
Chiara Di Leone
José Antonio Magalhães
Davide Prati
Patricia Reed
Oliver Silverman
Stephen Temitope David
Fátima Vieira
Christiane Wagner

Organized by

Marta Aleksandrowicz (ICI Berlin), Michela Coletta (ICI Berlin / FU Berlin / University of Warwick), Sarath Jakka (ICI Berlin / ISRF), Ben Woodard (ICI Berlin)

An ICI Berlin event organized in collaboration with the Friedrich-Meinecke-Institut at Freie Universität Berlin and Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions.

KV Coding Utopias

Image Credit © Claudia Peppel