Beyond Utopia


As part of a cluster of ‘final events’ for this VICI project, summative lecture presentations have been planned for Asia (National University of Singapore), North America (University of California, Berkeley), and Europe (University of London, SOAS). In addition, a public exhibition showcasing some of the original manga produced over the last 5 years will be held in The Hague.

These events are in addition to a series of presentations at universities across the USA, Europe, and Asia during the course of the research programme itself (2010-2015), including: Berkeley, Columbia, Cornell, Harvard, The New School, Princeton, London, Oxford, NUS, NTU, HKUST, Seoul, Osaka, Tokyo.


14 JANUARY 2015
gamic orientalism and virtual ninja theory
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Beyond Utopia’s principal investigator Chris Goto-Jones will be the guest of the Japan Research Centre at the University of London, SOAS, where he will give the opening lecture of 2015. The lecture will be an elaboration of the Virtual Ninja Manifesto, which brings together many of the themes developed in the VICI. On this occasion, Florian Schneider will also present the new journal, Asiascape: Digital Asia.


beyond utopia - manga in/as essay
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Manga and sequential art have been significant cultural forces around the world for decades.
Following a major research project funded by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO), this unique one-day exhibition contains examples of prize-winning, original manga from emerging artists as well as specially commissioned series from established professionals. This event seeks to demonstrate the power and potential of manga as a medium for political and philosophical expression in contemporary societies.

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Chris Goto-Jones is a guest of the Berkeley Centre for New Media, where he will give the final ‘History and Theory of New Media’ lecture of 2014. The lecture will be entitled, ‘Gamic Orientalism.’

Said’s Orientalism has been (and remains) one of the most influential and controversial critiques of Europe’s engagement with Asia. It has provided powerful perspectives in literature, art, and cultural studies. In this lecture, Goto-Jones asks what happens to Orientalism when it is deployed as a means to interrogate interactive, digital media such as video games. Rather than functioning as a representational critique, Goto-Jones argues that ‘Gamic Orientalism’ participates in a new form of the 'fantasy of becoming.’ Using the cases of Bushido and the martial arts as analogies, Goto-Jones explores the fantasy of enlightenment through the medium of video games, leading to the development of ‘virtual ninja theory’ as a new media manifesto.
23 AUGUST 2014
Playing violence in Metal Gear Solid
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In August 2014, Beyond Utopia PhD candidate Martin Roth had the opportunity to present a paper at the Replaying Japan conference in Edmonton, Canada. This was the second gathering of scholars from all over the world working on Japanese games organized between the University of Alberta in Canada and Ritsumeikan University in Japan.

Please follow the link below for Martin's account of the conference and a synopsis of his paper.
28 MARCH 2014
launch peer reviewed journal 'Asiacape:Digital Asia'
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The peer reviewed academic journal Asiascape:Digital Asia was launched at the Association for Asian Studies' annual conference in Philadelphia.
Asiascape:Digital Asia (published by Brill Publisher) explores the political, social, and cultural impact of digital media in Asia. Bringing together inter- and multi-disciplinary research in the social sciences, arts, media and communication studies, information and computer sciences, and area studies, the journal examines the role that information, communication, and digital technologies play in Asian societies, as well as in intra-regional and transnational dynamics.
The journal's editor is Dr. Florian Schneider, a former PostDoc research on the Beyond Utopia project. The aims of the Beyond Utopia project as well as Dr. Schneider's research interest, led to the creation of this exciting journal.

The journal's launch video is here.
25 JANUARY 2014
Beyond Utopia, the Emancipatory Potential of Science Fiction in Digital Japan
Prof. Chris Goto-Jones and his PhD candidates Mari Nakamura, Carl Li and Martin Roth presented at the 1st international conference 'Revisiting the Emancipatory Potential of Digital Media in Asia', hosted by Leiden University and Asiascape.

From the 24th to 25th of January 2014, the conference convenors asked participants to help them revisit the debates surrounding digital media and their potential to emancipate people. Throughout five panels and three sessions of lively plenary discussion, the contributors presented empirical evidence from societies in Asia and debated the theoretical and practical implications of how digital media are used in diverse settings, ranging from China to Korea, from India to Indonesia.


29 NOVEMBER 2012
Mechademia conference
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The 'Beyond Utopia' project team members presents their work at the 3rd International Mechademia conference in Seoul, Korea
This special project panel, Redrawing the Present: Expressive Possibilities and Political Potentialities in Contemporary Japanese Science Fiction will present the following papers on 29 November at 15.30 hours
Chris Goto-Jones (Chair, Special project lecture) – Beyond Utopia: New Politics, the Politics of Knowledge and the Science Fictional Field of Japan
Mari NakamuraPolitics Animated: Transhumanity and Hybridity in Appleseed
Carl LiRevolutionary Youths: The Interaction of Possible Futures and Character Psychology in Zettai Karen Children
Martin RothNarrative Confusion – (Im)Possibilities of Time in Videogame Worlds
Florian Schneider - Discussion

More on the conference is here
17 September 2012
Sōteigai: Alternative Politics and Academic Intervention after 3.11
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The events of March 11, 2011 have turned techno-dystopian nightmares else only known from science fiction literature, comics or film, into reality in Japan. This has forced people around the world to reflect on and challenge (or affirm) society’s neo-liberalist, capitalist status quo, far beyond political, economic, and public responses to the dangers and risks nuclear power which the breakdown of Fukushima 1 once again brought to attention. The suddenness, scale, and invisibility that marks the nuclear crisis in Japan suggests that the term sōteigai (unimaginable, unforeseen, unexpected), which was frequently used in official statements to deflect responsibility in the days and weeks after the nuclear reactor accident, seems to relate to post-3.11 Japan in a much broader sense: apart from its association with a (wide-spread) failure or reluctance to recognize the risks related to nuclear power and the difficulty to imagine the present situation, it also points towards the unexpected public spheres, alternative politics, and networks of knowledge that have evolved in Japan in response to the current situation and official politics...

This event will try to give some insight into the latest developments in Japan, its actors and their relation, and reflect on the current situation, Far from offering answers to an ongoing, complex process, this event hopes to discuss a series of (possible) political responses to the crisis in society and academia.
13 & 14 April 2012
'Alter/native Imagi/nations: Japanese Media Spaces and Japan in Crisis'
in collaboration with Tokyo University
The tragic events of March 11, 2011, in particular the nuclear catastrophe at Fukushima, have urged contemporary societies around the world to reflect on their future direction.
In the last few decades, despite the high hopes for democratization and innovation once expressed towards contemporary media and their capacities to create global and local networks of knowledge, communities and spaces of imagination seem diminished. The recent catastrophe in Japan nevertheless urges critical inquiry into the potentials and limitations of media spaces, in an attempt to contribute to more general, global discussions about the present and future of society.One year after the earthquake that physically rocked the nation, This workshop, co-organised by Beyond Utopia PhD student Martin Roth, and fellow academics from Tokyo University, aims to uncover a variety of possible contributions that contemporary Japanese media spaces can make to shaping and realizing alternative visions.


8 & 9 December 2011
Digital East Asia
in collaboration with MEARC
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At the outset of the 21st century, the world is witnessing what communication scholars such as Clay Shirkey have called a “tectonic shift” in social, economic, and political processes. New information and communication technologies (or: ICTs) have made it easier than ever to form communities and act collectively. As sociologist Manuel Castells has argued, we have entered a new age: the “information age”, a period in which communication processes are cheaper, faster, and more effective, and in which societies are increasingly organized as “networks” rather than as hierarchies.

At this conference, the principle investigator delivers the keynote: ‘Digital
Monsters: interventions and the public sphere in techno-Japan,’ Beyond Utopia PhDs deliver a collaborative paper: ‘Alienation and Evangelion,’ which is later accepted for
publication in the internationally peer-reviewed Asiascape Occasional Papers.
October - November 2011
@Leiden University College The Hague

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This second masterclass focussed around the work Professor Nicholas Agar (Wellington)

Based around a critical reading of a core text, this course considered the various ways in which the concept of Transhumanism has been deployed in various disciplines and fields, often with political and/or philosophical intent. Transhumanism, which has been described by Francis Fukuyama as the most dangerous idea in the world, incorporates visions discussions of technology, medicine, social theory, political ideology, and existential philosophy.

The masterclass was open to Beyond Utopia PhDs and selected LUC The Hague students.
March-April 2011
@Leiden University College The Hague

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First masterclass for Beyond Utopia PhDs and selected LUC The Hague students around the work of Philip Wegner (Florida)

This course considered the various ways in which the concept of Utopia has been deployed in various disciplines and fields, often with political and/or philosophical intent: utopian visions encompass issues of gender, distributive justice, technology & society, authoritarianism, and the environment.
The basic reading, around which the course will be structured, will be a secondary source (Wegner, Imaginary Communities: Utopia, The Nation, and the Spatial Histories of Modernity). However, we will also read a selection of the primary sources that are central to Wegner’s analysis; these texts range from key texts in political philosophy to texts in popular literature. Through reading these primary sources for ourselves, we should be able to interrogate Wegner’s interpretations and also discover alternative deployments of the texts.
17 February 2011
'Where is Political Thought? Concerning the In(significance) of Location and the Problem or Recognition in Comparative Political Thought'
@National University Singapore (NUS)
As part of NUS's 'Distinguished Leaders in Asian Studies' Lecture Series, Principle Investigator Chris Goto-Jones delivered the paper ''Where is Political Thought? Concerning the In(significance) of Location and the Problem or Recognition in Comparative Political Thought'.

The field of Comparative Political Thought remains anxious about its form and function. In particular, it is caught between the imperative to be geo-culturally non-exclusionary, on the one hand, and the need to identify comparable differences, on the other. Hence, CPT exists in the tension between the need to dissolve and the need to (build and then) bridge boundaries.

In this paper, Goto-Jones considered some of the ways in which the problem of (geo-cultural) location functions in the field, both as its ostensible focus and potentially as a form of misdirection. He also considered the related issues of how and whether we recognize the political thought of others, and the connection between such recognition and the problem of location.
11 February 2011
'Alien Theory: Cosmo-politics and Cosmic-politics'
@UCLA, Riverside
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At The 2011 Eaton Science Fiction Conference, Principle Investigator Chris Goto-Jones delivered the paper 'Alien
Theory: Cosmo-politics and Cosmic-politics'.

In this paper, Goto-Jones explored some of the ways in which Science Fiction authors have considered the encounter with the Other in non-colonial and non-bellicose ways, suggesting that the genre has something to offer contemporary debates about relationships amidst difference and their associated ethical principles. In particular, he considered the importance of the category of ‘alien,’ and suggest that ‘alien theory’ might be a useful umbrella term for cosmopolitics and the kind of cosmic-politics that we find in some Science Fiction.


28 October 2010
'Beyond Utopia' Inaugural Lecture
@Nanyang Technological University, Singapore
This seminar features Prof Chris Goto-Jones, a Professor of Comparative Philosophy & Political Thought, Leiden University, who will be sharing on his project "Beyond Utopia - New Politics, the Politics of Knowledge and the Science Fictional Field of Japan"
The Beyond Utopia project is based at Leiden University's Institute for Area Studies and is made possible through the generosity and support of:
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