“Another world is possible.” Yes. But how do we make it probable, or even actual? How do we make a better world?
This has been a burning question of mine for much of my life. When I was in graduate school trying to figure it out, one of my absolute favorite social theorists was a Greek philosopher named Cornelius Castoriadis. His ideas about the “radical social imaginary” suggested to me that we make a better world by imagining it first.
Of course, there’s a lot more to it than that – for most of us human animals, it’s so much easier to have an idea than to embody and enact that idea. It takes practice to embody new ways of being, and day-to-day enactment in relationships, through agreements and norms and laws, to institutionalize an idea in an organization or the dominant culture. Yet, our imagination is a start.
I have loved science fiction ever since I was a child. My favorite authors are the ones whose worlds are very realistic, but they reinvent key social constructs like gender or economics (e.g. Ursula K. LeGuin’s brilliant Left Hand of Darkness or The Dispossessed). Lately, this kind of writing is being called visionary fiction, and some brilliant folks are deliberately crossing the boundaries between science fiction writing and social change.
“What is a world without prisons, police brutality, sexual violence, poverty, oppression? We don’t know. But we work for one, building as we go. Visionary fiction lets us explore and construct answers to these questions in worlds free of the constraints that bind our work in our current real world.” — Morrigan Phillips
adrienne maree brown and Walidah Imarisha’s edited volume Octavia’s Brood: Science Fiction Stories from Social Justice Movements (2015) is a wonderful leader in this field. In their introduction, Imarisha says “Because all organizing is science fiction, we are dreaming new worlds every time we think about the changes we want to make in the world. The writers in this collection just needed a little space, and perhaps permission to immerse themselves fully in their visionary selves.” Many of these authors had never written fiction before.
Imarisha and brown’s work helped me have the courage to make writing my focus for the last two years (and counting). In my research for my novel, which is about time speeding up, I recently encountered a collective called Black Quantum Futurism (BQF). In their view, quantum mechanics and traditional African views of time both suggest it may be possible for us to change the past and the future through consciousness. Rasheeda Philips, one of the collective members, says “When a possible future is envisioned, foreseen, or chosen by a BQF Creative, that future will instantaneously reshape its relationship to the past.”
Part of the BQF idea, as I understand it, is that by actively envisioning the future we want in the right way, we can collapse the probability wave to make it so. I’m not sure if that works or not, but I do believe that taking time to envision the possible and desirable helps us then practice towards embodying, enacting, and institutionalizing what we imagine. Would we ever have had flip-phones without Enterprise Communicators?
Madison is fortunate to have our own resident scholar and practitioner of the radical imagination, Dr. Sami Schalk. She will be leading a workshop on Thursday, Jan. 16th from 4:00-6:00 p.m. Please register here to join us for this opportunity to practice visionary fiction-writing, and to flex our individual and collective radical social imaginary muscles!