REALITIES AND FANTASIES: RELATIONS, TRANSFORMATIONS, DISCONTINUITIES
10-12 April 2019, University of Amsterdam
Organized by Divya Nadkarni, Alex Thinius, and Nadia de Vries
The world of fantasy often serves as an escape from reality, its limitations, and its many social, economic, and corporeal restrictions. Reality, in turn, is often desired amidst the delusions of the fantastic. However, the two are not always separate. For instance, while social (trans)formations increasingly look like fantasy in more than one sense, a serious turn towards fantasy seems to be ambivalent. A central notion in earlier psycho-analytical culture critique, after being hyped in Fantastic, Futurist and Utopist literature, today, fantasy as a political means of critique seems to have become a delusionary distraction. Yet, fantasy also seems to remain a booming aspect of reality. Creative forms of protest, ideas of aesthetic resistances and critiques are proliferating, and fantasies fomented by magical-realist literatures, blockbusters, serials, pornography, and gaming in the creative industries and digital media seem to be increasingly intertwined with reality.
Some of the conceptual sites where reality and fantasy meet are idealizations, utopias, phantasms, self-deceptions, anxieties, self-fulfilling prophecies, and implicit biases realizing or enacting themselves in reality; fantasies made real and realities made fantasy. The boundaries between what is desired or feared and what is lived, what is oneiric and what is substantial, what is true, and what is realistic and unreachable are often blurred.
In critical and cultural theory, a continuous ambivalent desire for reality appears, for example, in the discussions of New and Speculative Realisms (Gabriel, Meillassoux), Agential Realism (Barad), political and metaphysical Non-Ideal Theory, Critical Race Realism, or Gender Neo-Realism (Mills, Alcoff, Haslanger, Mikkola), in the Ontological Turn in anthropology (Viveiros de Castro, Venkatesan et al., Holbraad et al.), and in the turn towards Authenticity and New Sincerity in contemporary literary theory (Rutten, Vaessens and Van Dijk, Trilling).
In this workshop, we take on the continuous and renewed interest in the real in its relation to fantasy, illusion, and imagination. Whereas typically, debates on realism are focused on its contrast to idealism or nominalism, we ask: What are the contemporary relations between realities and fantasies? How do reality and fantasy speak to intellectual imaginings and possible futures? What role can or should fictions, fantasies, and idealizations play in social, political, individual, and metaphysical change? We are interested in presentations that take on the ways in which reality and fantasy relate, how they may contrast, and how, and under what conditions, the one may transform into the other.
The workshop addresses the kinship between realities and fantasies in the following three respects: relations, transformations, and discontinuities.