International Conference

Forgotten Institutions. Utopian Archives and Democratic Futures

28-30 November 2024, University of Vienna

What is the future of democratic institutions? The current crisis of political imagination makes it increasingly difficult to envision democratic futures that are more than mere extensions of the status quo or a backlash into parochial and ethnocentric hierarchies. The discussion of radical alternatives often focuses on practices of resistance or exit and sidesteps the question of how to perpetuate and deepen the democratic impulse. However, we have also witnessed a renewed interest in radical institutional alternatives to the current set-up, think of the debates on sortition, councils and the tribunate. This conference aims to bring into dialogue, confront and further develop a broad variety of institutional proposals that aim to widen the democratic imaginary.

To this end, we suggest turning to ‘forgotten institutions’, i.e. institutional configurations – past and present, utopian and realized – that are ‘forgotten’ in the sense of being neglected in current debates on the crisis and future of democracy. Our goal is to investigate institutions that challenge and decenter supposed self-evident beliefs about what democracy might look like. To envision alternative futures, however, one might need to explore alternative sources. More concretely: alternative places, turning to global political thought beyond the confines of the Western canon; alternative times, diversifying the traditional focus on ancient and modern proposals; as well as alternative voices and forms of expression, acknowledging the production of political theory outside the genre of ‘big books’, including manifestos, speeches, declarations and storytelling.

Submission deadline: June 30, 2024



Organized by Sara Gebh (Department of Political Science, University of Vienna)