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    Imagining the end of capitalism: utopia and the commons in contemporary literature

    Kabo, Alexander Raphael (2020) Imagining the end of capitalism: utopia and the commons in contemporary literature. PhD thesis, Birkbeck, University of London.

    Raphael Kabo - PhD thesis final submission.pdf - Full Version

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    This thesis explores the representation of utopian spaces as a form of opposition to capitalism in contemporary literature and poetry. The spatial focus of the thesis is the commons - a form of spatial, social, and political organisation which, I argue, has been undergoing a decade-long resurgence in literature as well as activist theory and practice. At the same time as commons are witnessing renewed interest, I position the previous decade as defined by interlinked capitalist crises of inequality, political representation, mobility, and climate change, which expose a growing section of the planetary population to precarity. The thesis distinguishes a corpus of texts from the wider field of contemporary political and speculative literature, identifying these texts as commons utopias. Commons utopias are united by a set of valuable features: they build on the forms of earlier utopian literature, particularly the 'critical utopias' of the 1960s-70s; actively oppose contemporary capitalism; depict the crises of the present alongside the utopian spaces which emerge within it; and make use of a commons poetics, a toolkit of literary techniques which captures the politics, subjectivities, and spatialities of oppositional utopian commons. The thesis assembles and examines five commons utopias: the poetry collection That Winter the Wolf Came by Juliana Spahr (2015); and the novels Exit West by Mohsin Hamid (2017), New York 2140 by Kim Stanley Robinson (2017), The Book of Joan by Lidia Yuknavitch (2017), and Walkaway by Cory Doctorow (2017). I also examine the film Snowpiercer, directed by Bong Joon-ho (2013), as a proto-utopian text which illustrates contemporary modalities of precariousness and crisis. I hope that this study succeeds in identifying and critiquing a valuable recent tendency in contemporary literature and poetics; in contributing to ongoing debates in the field of utopian studies; and in furthering the productive relationship between utopianism and oppositional political theory.


    Item Type: Thesis
    Copyright Holders: The copyright of this thesis rests with the author, who asserts his/her right to be known as such according to the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988. No dealing with the thesis contrary to the copyright or moral rights of the author is permitted.
    Depositing User: Acquisitions And Metadata
    Date Deposited: 03 Sep 2021 12:04
    Last Modified: 01 Nov 2023 14:31


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