Monday, January 5, 2009
Mahali is the Swahili name for place. Less common than Hakuna Matata, if you have watched Disney Jungle Book. But, I digress. Just feeling a little nostalgic, is all.
In the context of this course, I am prompted to pause the question: what is the idea of real Utopias? Contradictory, right? Given the fantasies associated with utopias, once cannot help but be in agreement with realists, who eschew any mention of the concept of utopia. Does this mean we waste time discussing the term?
Why waste time on an idealistic state when there are so many practical issues we can devote time and mind to?
Perhaps it's this element that makes the subject of utopia sexy; the dramatic tension that oozes out of this tension between the ideal and the real. After all, we humans have never stopped dreaming of what could be; humans' imagination cannot be limited by reality. Some seemingly impossible visions have been realized this way, albeit with tragic consequences as in the Waco or even Jonestown massacres, and closer to home for me, we have Kanungu mass murder. Others such as the FLDS are treated with suspicion and considered extreme, or lately, fundamental! What these purported utopias have in common is religion and exclusion. Hmm! Others are based on visions of grandeur, related to racial superiority as Afrikaner Separatism in South Africa, the Biafra War in Nigeria, Negritude in Francophone Africa, and countless separatist movements in Spain, Iraq, India, Latin America all in the quest of the ideal. There is the sense that such movements have their roots in radical social changes needed to reduce oppression as a motivating factor; this motivation is sufficient to birth a movement, even though the likely actual destination may fall short of the Utopian ideal.
Sadly, as pointed out in the examples above, the road to utopia may lead us astray, spurring us on trips that have no real destinations at all, or worse, lead us to some unforeseen abyss. This is no indictment on utopian ideals, often grounded in the real potentials of humanity; but not every follower is privy to information regarding Utopian destinations and how to access them. This secrecy is often a means of manipulating the masses, and, who knows? They may be the impediment to practical tasks necessary to attaining utopia.
As far as my expectations for the course, I am happy about what seems to be the literature component of the course, a welcome respite from all the theory (an not all of it unified). I have been pulled and stretched in so many directions, the only thing I look forward to is engaging with the course material. There are a number of courses I have taken that I was initially opposed to, but found intriguing once I engaged with the course content and the instructor. The dynamics of the class itself also play a role.
I am leaving myself open, which is a good thing given that this is the semester in which I get to streamline my research topic.