The Politics of Hope

We are frequently told we must “never give up hope.” But what is at stake in hoping? In this course we will interrogate this ubiquitous injunction to hope. We will analyze contemporary debates about the possibility of hope in the face of uncertain planetary futures to consider the affective politics of how, in what ways, toward what ends, and why we hope. At what point does hope become misplaced, turning into a “cruel optimism”? How is hope mobilized politically? How are different futurities — optimistic and pessimistic, utopian and dystopian, redemptive and apocalyptic — distributed among different groups? And what might happen if we let go of commonly held yet narrowly conceived hopes and tried imagining something different?

Winter 2020, Winter 2021 — Middlebury College (ENVS 1035)

The image above (“Warming Stripes“) is from a data visualization project depicting annual global temperatures, 1850-2018. The colour scale represents change in global temperatures (1.35 °C range).