Accepted paper:

Lighting the fire: the temporal structure of micro-utopias in a primitivist social movement


Tord Austdal (University of Bergen)

Paper short abstract:

This paper proposes to discuss how micro-utopias emerge through sociomaterial engagements and the use of technology within a primitivist social movement in the Appalachian Mountains of the United States.

Paper long abstract:

A number of contemporary social and political movements envision imminent societal collapse and pending chaos. From Armageddon to atomic holocaust, or dwindling natural resources, eschatology is no longer a vocation reserved for religious clergy but has for a long time existed as a phantastic and imaginary space through the popular arts, capable of engendering scientific and environmental debates and shaping political and social realities. This paper makes an argument for how apocalyptic imaginaries in social movements can generate new ways of relating to the world and to the future. I point to also how such imaginings operate as more than political narratives of urgency but shape ways of acting in the world. In the southern Appalachian Mountains, groups of people gather with regularity to produce a now-here utopian space where like minds meet and share the knowledge and technical skills needed to live and thrive in union with nature, and to rewild themselves in preparation for the social and economic collapse of industrial society. In creative and intense engagement with the materials and textures of Nature they attempt with the aid of "ancestral knowledge" and "primitive technology" to kindle a new feral future for humanity. In this paper I will dwell upon the opening ceremony of a skill-share gathering to illuminate how temporal structures emerge in their ongoing material engagements and how "time immemorial" materializes in the present as a real and palpable "utopian" aspect of action.

panel P002
Micro-utopias: exploring connections in anthropology, relationality and creativity