Organising Utopia and Mending Dystopia in Anthropocene Venice

Publikation: KonferencebidragPaperForskning


If true that the Anthropocene has the “capacity to cast the present as a future that has already arrived” (Heise 2016:203), then the compound of 118 small islets on the Adriatic lagoon we know as Venice represents an exemplary ecosystem for investigating “the contemporary glob-al environment dominated by human activity” (Zalasiewicz et al. 2008:4). Indeed, the adverse effects associated with the Anthropocene epoch – ecosystem conversion and biodiversity loss, severe multispecies pandemics, disruptive climate change, and rising sea levels, all ensuing from collective human and economic behaviours (Gasparin et al. 2020) – are already pressing and perilously local concerns for the City of Water. This fantastic, hyper-fabricated place, so often linked to the utopian through history (Sinclair 2020), but equally a favoured trope for ecodystopian narratives (Chiafele 2021), allows for a glimpse into a post-sustainable future. Building on Sconfienza’s definition, we conceptualise this as an imminent situation in which the task of organising is best understood not as an attempt to realise — concurrently — the well-known triad of social, economic, and environmental sustainability goals, “but, rather, by the impossibility of it” (2019:769).
However, our study aims to show how this impasse does not usher despair and resignation, even in the face of apocalyptic scenarios associated with Anthropocene Venice (Baldacci et al. 2022) but prompts a unique set of mundane organised practices shaped by alternative con-ceptions of re-circulating flows and a social imaginary of never-ending mending. In the full paper, we will discuss these post-sustainable futures, through an ethnographic enquiry based on observation, document analysis, semi-structured interviews (30 interviews), art-based en-gagement, and walking as a method, focusing on three systems of organised practices con-stantly intermixing dystopian and utopian narratives. These systems concern: (1) artistic prac-tice and culture engagement in Venetian communities (e.g. Fondazione Querini Stampalia, S.a.L.E. Docks), (2) activism against tourism-massification (e.g. Laboratorio Occupato Mori-on, No Grandi Navi), and (3) socio-technological designs to protect against water rising (e.g. MOdulo Sperimentale Elettromeccanico, Goldon overshoe boots, IDRA).
Proposing that Venice indeed embodies the classic relationship between organizational utopia and dystopia, not only as antipodes or contrasts, but the latter often an exaggeration of the flaws already present in perfecting the former (Kumar 2003), our study asks: How do these systems of practices organise their production of “everyday micro-utopias” (Bourriaud 2002)? How do they respond in post-sustainable ways to the Venetian macro-dystopia? And to what extent do they suggest a specific organizational form relevant for the present future of the Anthropocene and characterized by incessant recirculation and mending?
StatusUdgivet - 2023
Begivenhed17th Organization Studies Summer Workshop: Utopias and dystopias: Organization studies in a brave new world? - Athens, Grækenland
Varighed: 18 maj 202320 maj 2023
Konferencens nummer: 17


Workshop17th Organization Studies Summer Workshop