Collaborative Research Networks

CRN50  Utopian Legalities, Prefigurative Politics, and Radical Governance


Davina Cooper, Amelia Thorpe, Bronwen Morgan

This CRN takes an interdisciplinary, multi-methods approach to research and scholarship on enacting and imagining radical change. It seeks to advance and support work on social justice, radical politics, utopian studies, state activism, and commons-building. Within these broad areas, the research agenda of this CRN focuses on: 1. the place of law in supporting transformative politics through new legal forms, concepts, and principles, from radical property scholarship to legal support structures for solidarity economies to critical judgment writing; 2. the legal experiences and concerns of radical institutional and counter-institutional projects, such as municipal socialism, alternative public space enactments, and everyday utopias; and 3. the process of designing and putting into practice anticipatory forms of political representation and governance, sometimes identified as “prefiguration”, where social forces embody in their practice the future and objectives that they hope for.

The CRN welcomes scholars and researchers across a range of subject areas and fields, including law, geography, social movement studies, heterodox economics, anthropology, sociology, philosophy, gender, postcolonialism, radical disability studies, ecology, politics, cultural and urban studies.

Work falling under the umbrella of this CRN is often advanced in fragmented ways; for instance, research on radical politics, prefiguration and counter-institutionalism often assumes it takes place outside of state bodies. Bringing diverse academics together makes it possible to explore ideas, agendas, and innovative practices that cut across or transcend divisions between state and civil society. This is important for legal scholarship which straddles these divisions since law constitutes a regulatory force anchored in state power and authority as well as a tool and discourse that social movements deploy. At the same time, the divisions between state and non-state, and between institutional, counter-institutional, and non-institutional are not stable and clear-cut. For instance, prefigurative initiatives may act as if they have the authority and legitimacy of the state or state law and, through enacting this assumption, reorder how authority and legitimacy are organized.

This CRN traces radical change initiatives in different regions, while also exploring their effects, challenges, and accomplishments. In this way, it foregrounds the dynamic character of institutional practice and change, as well as the dynamic status of proleptic activities –that anticipate, rehearse, and enact futures that are hoped for.


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