Plasticity, the genetics of difference, and the repair of utopia

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In this article, I propose theorizing imaginaries of futurity-rather than 'imaginaries of the future'-in terms of what the French philosopher Catherine Malabou calls plasticity. Since her earliest work on Hegel, Heidegger and plasticity, Malabou has continued to develop concepts of 'positive plasticity' (the giving of form) and 'negative plasticity' (the receiving of form) that adhere, she claims, to the generativity of Life itself. In contrast to Fredric Jameson, Malabou's present is vital, with the potential at any and every moment for 'breaking free' from pre-conceived onto-epistemological constructs. Her work on plasticity locates the vitality of history in the 'strange critical entity, at once philosophical, scientific, and political, that would be a consciousness of the brain' (2008: 2). This statement grounds a new concept of utopia as plasticity. In defining the contribution of Malabou's investigation to identifying a utopian imaginary as plasticity, I revisit Darko Suvin's well-known notion of the novum, which he develops from the work of Ernst Bloch. The novum names a figuration of radical difference, and Suvin maintains its role as the 'breaking-free' that structures difference in, and as, utopia.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-22
Number of pages22
JournalOpen Library of Humanities
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cultural Studies
  • Anthropology
  • General Arts and Humanities
  • Sociology and Political Science


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