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Utopia and Democracy

Thursday, April 27, 2023, 9:30 am – Friday, April 28, 2023, 5:30 pm

This workshop aims to investigate the relationship of utopia and democracy, primarily in the 19th and 20th centuries, up to contemporary problems, without a geographical focus or limitations. We intend to enrich the intellectual history of the concept of democracy in drawing attention to its relationship with various forms of utopianism, either literary, political, philosophical or practical. We will investigate what elements of democratic societies have been endorsed and / or criticized by utopias, which we understand as social and political structures presented as alternatives to historical reality. The history of the concepts of both utopia and democracy have been changing in the past centuries, and there are a number of significant common points in their developments, though investigation in this field has been sporadic.

If you would like to attend in-person, please register here.

There is no need to register if you plan to follow the event online. The stream will be available here.


Abstracts are available here

Day 1 (Apr 27)

Registration 9:30 – 10:00


Panel 1/ Introduction and First Plenary

  • Luisa Passerini (EUI): “Utopian versus utopian” (online)

11.15-11.45 Coffee break


Panel 2/ Origins of Democracy and Utopia

  • Myrthe Bartels (IAS CEU) What would an ancient democratic utopia have looked like?
  • Ferenc Huoranszki (CEU) Dreams of a Final Normative Theory: Why do they not search for Utopia?
  • Zoltán Balázs (Corvinus) The Time of Democracy

13:15-14:30 Lunch Break

Panel 3/ Democracy and Utopia between East and West

  • Zsolt Czigányik (CEU DI) Democracy and leadership in 19th century Hungarian utopias
  • Iva Dimovska (CEU DI) Barbarians and Geniuses, or the democratic potentials of a Balkan utopia
  • Ana Maria Spariosu (EUI) ‘‘The only real democracy is direct democracy’’: an exploration of the concept of democracy in two Italian contemporary utopian communities

Day 2 (Apr 28)

Panel 4/ Utopia, Democracy and Politics

  • Eglantina Remport (ELTE) Patrick Pearse, Democracy and the Irish Proclamation of Independence
  • András Bozóki (CEU) Ideas between Innovation and Imitation
  • Ondrej Slacalek (Prague) The end or a new beginning of anti-utopian democracy? 
  • Zoltán Gábor Szűcs (ELTE): A utopia of fear? Three forms of utopian thinking in contemporary realist political theory

11:30-12:00 Coffee Break


Panel 5/ Modern and Contemporary Utopias

  • Daryna Koryagina (CEU) Towards the Brave New Communist World: utopian notions in socio-cultural life in Soviet Union in 1920s
  • Natalya Bekhta (IAS Tampere) On Democratic Futures and the Literary Imagination of Central Eastern Europe (online)
  • Emrah Atasoy (Warwick) Utopia, Dystopia, and Democratic Discourse in Contemporary Turkish Literature

13:30-14:30 Lunch Break

14:30 - Panel 6/ Second Plenary

  • Gregory Claeys (Royal Holloway) Utopianism and Democracy

ca. 15.45-16:45 Roundtable


Emrah Atasoy, an Associate Professor of English, is an EUTOPIA-SIF Marie Skłodowska-Curie COFUND Fellow of the Institute of Advanced Study (IAS), working in the Department of English and Comparative Literary Studies at the University of Warwick. He is the author of the monograph Epistemological Warfare and Hope in Critical Dystopia (2021). His work appeared in journals such as Critique: Studies in Contemporary Fiction (with Marta Komsta), Studies in the Novel (with Thomas Horan), Utopian Studies,, Methis. Studia Humaniora Estonica, SFRA Review, and Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts. He is currently co-editing the forthcoming volume Entangled Futurities: Utopian and Dystopian Explorations of Pandemics and Ecological Breakdown (Routledge, planned for 2023).

Zoltán Balázs is Professor of Political Science at the Corvinus University Budapest, and the Centre for Social Studies (Eötvös Research Network), Budapest. His publications are related to analytical political theory, political theory and literature, moral philosophy, conservatism, the history of political thought, especially the thinking of Aurel Kolnai. The most recent ones include Constraining Government. (Lexington Books. Lanham; New York; London: Rowman and Littlefield, 2021), "The Sovereign’s Beatitude." Political Theory 3 (2022): 428-48., and "Does the Sovereign exist? Robert Musil’s Political Theology." International Journal of Philosophy and Theology. 1-3 (2022): 163-79

Myrthe Bartels is currently Junior Core Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study, Central European University, and specializes in ancient Greek political thought. She received her PhD in Classics from Leiden University (Netherlands) with a dissertation that became the basis for her book Plato’s Pragmatic Project. A Reading of Plato’s Laws (Stuttgart: Steiner 2017). Her research has so far focused on the political thought of Plato and Aristotle, and she is especially interested in normative thinking about society in antiquity. She has previously held fellowships and lived in the United Kingdom, Germany, Romania and Italy.

Natalya Bekhta is Senior Research Fellow at the Tampere Institute for Advanced Study, where she is working on a book project called “After Utopia: A World-Literary Reconstruction of the Former ‘Second World’”. Her research interests currently combine Utopia, narratology, world-literary theory and contemporary Ukrainian fiction. Her previous work includes a monograph We-Narratives: Collective Storytelling in Contemporary Fiction (2020) and an essay on “‘We’ and the Language of War: On the Poetry of Serhiy Zhadan.” (Style 2020 54:1). She can be reached at

András Bozóki is a Professor at the Political Science Department at the Central European University and Reseach Affiliate at the CEU Democracy Institute. He was visiting scholar at UCLA and recurrent Visiting Professor at the Department of Political Science at Columbia University. He has taught at Smith College, Mount Holyoke College, Hampshire College and some European Universities, such as Bologna, Ljubljana, Nottingham and Tübingen. His books in English include Post-Communist Transition (1992), Democratic Legitimacy in Post-Communist Societies (1994), Intellectuals and Politics in Central Europe (1999), The Roundtable Talks of 1989 (2002), Anarchism in Hungary (2006), Rolling Transition and the Role of Intellectuals (2022) and others. He has published numerous book chapters and journal articles in Democratization, Comparative Sociology, East European Politics and Societies, Baltic Worlds and elsewhere. He was chairman of the Hungarian Political Science Association and received the 2009 István Bibó Award.

Gregory Claeys is Professor Emeritus at the University of London. His eleven books, which have been translated into nine languages, include Searching for Utopia: the History of an Idea (Thames & Hudson, 2011), Mill and Paternalism (Cambridge University Press, 2013); Dystopia: A Natural History (Oxford University Press, 2016); Marx and Marxism (Penguin Books, 2018), Utopianism for a Dying Planet: Life After Consumerism (Princeton University Press, 2022); and John Stuart Mill: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford University Press, 2022). He has edited The Cambridge Companion to Utopian Literature (Cambridge University Press, 2010) and over forty volumes of primary sources. He is editor-in-chief of a new collection of Paine's collected writings in six volumes (2026, forthcoming), and Chair of the Utopian Studies Society (Europe).

Zsolt Czigányik is an associate professor at the Department of English Studies at Eötvös Loránd University (ELTE) in Budapest and a Gerda Henkel Fellow at the CEU Democracy Institute. His academic interests include utopian literature, the cooperation of humanities and social sciences, and modern and contemporary cultural phenomena. His publications include an edited volume titled Utopian Horizons – Ideology, Politics, Literature (CEU Press, 2017). His latest book was published earlier this year with Palgrave Macmillan titled Utopia between East and West in Hungarian Literature.

Iva Dimovska is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the CEU Democracy Institute, working on her topic “Utopia and Nationalism in the Formation of Socialist Yugoslavia”. She holds a BA and an MA degree in Comparative Literature from the Ss. Cyril and Methodius University and an MA degree in Gender Studies from CEU. She defended her PhD thesis in 2021 at Department of Gender Studies at CEU. She has also taught courses in modernist literature, feminism and queer theory at CEU and ELTE’s English Department. Iva’s research interests include: modernist literature, utopia and utopianism, socialism, 19th and 20th century literature, gender studies and feminism, and queer theory

Ferenc Huoranszki is a Professor of Philosophy at Central European University, Philosophy Department, of which he is a founding member. He started his carrier as a political philosopher and has written about the philosophical foundations of constitutional democracy and the idea of economic equality. Currently, his main research interest is metaphysics and philosophy of action. He has published more than seventy research articles and four books, two in Hungarian (Filozófia és utópia [Philosophy and Utopia], 1999 and Modern metafizika [Modern Metaphysics], 2001) and two in English (Free Will. A Conditional Analysis, Routledge, 2011 and The Metaphysics of Contingency. A Theory of Objects Abilities and Dispositions, Bloomsbury, 2022). 

Daryna Koryagina received her BA at Kyiv-Mohyla Academy and her MA at Central European University, both in the respective Department of Political Science. She is currently a PhD student at the Department of Comparative History at Central European University and part of a research team in the "Democracy in East Central European Utopianism" project at the CEU Democracy Institute. Her research interests include utopian literature in early Soviet Ukraine and Russia.

Luisa Passerini is Professor Emerita at the European University Institute, Florence, where she was also Principal Investigator of the European Research Council Project “Bodies Across Borders. Oral and Visual Memory in Europe and Beyond” 2013-2018. Passerini has analyzed the concepts of Europeanness and European identity from the theoretical and historical points of view. She has studied the subjects of social and cultural change: the African liberation movements; the movements of workers, students, and women in the twentieth century, and the mobility of migrants to and through Europe in the last decades. In this endeavor, she has used memory in its oral, written and visual forms. Among her books: Conversations on Visual Memory (2018); Women and Men in Love. European Identities in the Twentieth Century (2012); Memory and Utopia. The Primacy of Intersubjectivity (2007); Europe in Love, Love in Europe (1999); Autobiography of a Generation. Italy 1968 (1996); Fascism in Popular Memory (1987).

Eglantina Remport is Senior Lecturer in Irish Literature at Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest. She researches the literature and the politics of the Irish Literary Revival, including the works of Lady Gregory, W.B. Yeats, G.B. Shaw, and Patrick Pearse. She has published articles in the Irish University Review, and the Irish Studies Review, and contributed a book chapter to the CEU publication Utopian Horizons: Ideology, Politics, Literature (2017). She is author of Lady Gregory and Irish National Theatre: Art, Drama, Politics (Palgrave Macmillan, 2018). 

Ondřej Slačálek works in the Department of Political Science in the Faculty of Arts at Charles University in Prague. He edited the volumes Central European Culture Wars: Beyond Post-Communism and Populism (with Pavel Barša and Zora Hesová) and The Political Economy of Eastern Europe 30 Years into the “Transition”: New Left Perspectives from the Region (with Ágnes Gagyi).

Ana Maria Spariosu is a PhD researcher in her final year at the European University Institute in Florence, Italy at the Department of History and Civilization. Her current research project is titled; “A Hope and a Refuge: An Oral History of Contemporary Utopian Communities in Russia and Italy”. Her research interests include utopianism, communitarianism, oral history, sustainable living, and the history of emotions.

Zoltán Gábor Szűcs is an associate professor at the Faculty of Social Sciences, ELTE. Political theorist and historian of political thought. He is the author of Political ethics in illiberal regimes (Manchester University Press, 2023) and several articles on realist political theory, political obligation, and political failure.

Source of image used in cover: Flickr / Adam Fagen (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

The workshop is supported by the Gerda Henkel Foundation.