Worldless futures: On the allure of ‘worlds to come’

Thomas Dekeyser*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)
9 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

This paper is concerned with the conceptual, discursive, and political inclination within spatial and social thought towards enacting ‘new worlds’, ‘worlds to come’, and ‘possible worlds’. Against the backdrop of this diffuse habit, which I refer to as ‘worldly futuring’, the paper calls attention to the ongoing challenge posed by worldlessness. It asks: what is lost, existentially or politically, in prioritising world-building over world-ending? Articulating a response to this question, the paper examines how the investment in future worlds functions, what it secures, and what it indemnifies against. Definitionally, ‘world’ lacks the ethical designation required to explain its signalling function as a positive horizon of futurity. Worldly futuring instead relies on three connected affirmations: world presents the promise of (meta)stability, of commonality, and of meaning. In prioritising these affirmations, worldly futuring immunises itself against the possibility of their radical absence or violent undoing, thereby working around, against, or sublating the threat of worldlessness. However, building on the scholarship of Derrida on worldless alterity and theorists of black negativity's political calls for the ‘end of the world’, the central argument of the paper is that working-away worldlessness is neither inherently possible nor necessarily desirable. Despite any attempt at immunisation, worldlessness haunts any project of worldly futuring, showing us that the assumed connection between world and futurity may well be an obstacle to radical futures.

Short Abstract
This paper is concerned with the conceptual, discursive, and political inclination within spatial and social thought towards enacting ‘new worlds’, ‘worlds to come’, and ‘possible worlds’. Against the backdrop of this diffuse habit, I call attention to the ongoing challenge posed by worldlessness. What is lost, existentially or politically, in prioritising world-building over world-ending?
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)338-350
Number of pages13
JournalTransactions of the Institute of British Geographers
Volume48
Issue number2
Early online date17 Oct 2022
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 04 May 2023
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • alterity
  • end of the world
  • futurity
  • hope
  • world
  • worldlessness

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