“Utopias” are societies, both literary and lived, imaginary and actual, that strive for the creation of a more ideal community and world. While utopias are often built upon problematics, philosophical inconsistencies and tensions, the study of these attempts causes one to pause and consider how to make our reality a better place for all.

“Surveying Utopias: A Critical Exploration” is a special collection that will be open to the public Feb. 22 through July 26 at the Woodward Family Special Collections Reading Room on the fourth floor, south wing, of the Henry Madden Library.

“Our exhibition opening week will be accompanied by public programming events that encourage the community to think about what it takes to create a better world,” said Dr. J. Ashley Foster, Fresno State assistant professor of British literature with emphasis in digital humanities. “Here we recover the lost histories of utopian thought and bring the practices, problematics, and possibilities contained in these histories to light.”

The opening events will be held in the Henry Madden Library. All are free and open to the public.

Feb. 21: Workshop “Inspiring Figures and Your Vision of a Better World”

  • Run by the Theatre for Transformation
  • 4 p.m. in Room 2206. Parking is $4 in lots P27, P20 or P1.
  • Feature poetry, music, movement and audience participation.

Feb. 22: Opening reception “Surveying Utopias: A Critical Exploration”

  • 6 p.m. in the Woodward Family Special Collections Reading Room. Parking is free in lots P30 or P31.

Feb. 22: Live performance “What is America to Me?: the U.S. at the 400th Anniversary of Slavery,” a performance project featuring poetry, music, movement and audience participation

  • 7:30 p.m. in the Leon S. Peters Ellipse Gallery. Parking is free in lots P30 or P31.
  • Featuring the Theatre for Transformation with composer/saxophonist Francis Wong, classical violinist Michael Jamanis and poet-performer Dr. Amanda Kemp.

Feb. 23: Screening “Black Panther”

  • 1 p.m. in Room 2206. Parking is free in lots P30 or P31.
  • Screening of Black Panther with community conversation led by graduate students on how to create a more supportive society.

The exhibition is the result of an extensive collaboration between the special collections team and graduate students in the “Utopias: Literature, Technology, Archives” course in the Department of English. It is designed to introduce the question of ethical citizenship to Fresno.

The exhibition primarily features the Topolobampo collection, from the library’s Special Collections Research Center, which documents the failed 1890s utopian colony founded in Sinaloa, Mexico.

“The Utopias seminar class worked hand-in-hand with the exhibition,” said Megan Evans, an English Department graduate student. “We began the semester discussing the various definitions of utopias and what it meant to archive, but we also focused our attention on the narrative of Topolobampo’s history and what could be found in the Special Collections’ archive.”

Larger themes raised by utopian societies both past and present are explored, including how race, gender, socioeconomics, politics, religion and culture affect notions of an ideal society. Attendees will be encouraged to consider their own engagement in their local communities and to consider alternative ways of being in the world.

“Surveying Utopias: A Critical Exploration” is sponsored by the College of Arts and Humanities, Henry Madden Library, Center for Creativity and the Arts, Center for Faculty Excellence, Chicano and Latin American Studies, Cross Cultural and Gender Center, Department of English, Instructionally Related Activities, Organizational Excellence, President’s Commission on Human Relations and Equity and Theatre Arts.

ASL interpreters will be at the Feb. 21 and 22 events. The “Black Panther” screening will include English subtitles. Fresno State encourages persons with disabilities to participate in its programs and activities. If you anticipate needing any type of accommodation or have questions about the physical access provided, please contact the Library Administration Office at 559.278.2403 or email libraryevents@mail.fresnostate.edu.