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Thursday, October 5 • 3:15pm - 3:45pm
Civic Imagination: Roadmaps, Stories, Research and Calls to Action

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2016 was marked by divisive politics and humanitarian disasters including the Brexit referendum, the U.S. presidential campaign and the ongoing Syrian civil war and refugee crisis. In the midst of such turmoil, global citizens demonstrated resilience and a drive towards new forms of protest, social mobilization and appeals to shared imagination. From the prevalence of Star Wars iconography as symbols of resistance in the Women’s Marches in the U.S. to the uses of Avatar in the struggles of indigenous peoples and environmentalist campaigns, we see powerful stories of pop cultural content serving to bridge private and public imaginations in service of social change. In this session the organizers explore the idea of civic imagination as a productive lens through which to explore these and other such examples. This approach grows from our work within the Civic Paths Group at the University of Southern California.

We define civic imagination as the capacity to imagine alternatives to current cultural, social, political, or economic conditions; one cannot change the world unless one can imagine what a better world might look like. Civic imagination also requires the capacity to see one’s self as a civic agent capable of making change, as part of a larger collective which has shared interests, as an equal participant within a democratic culture, and as empathetic to the plight of others different than one’s self. Research on civic imagination represents a space where we can explore the political consequences of cultural representations and the cultural roots of political participation.

We will offer a historical context and theoretical framework to situate our work on civic imagination. We will then share accounts of exploratory creative collaborations with several global communities in which we explored civic imagination from the perspective of personally inspiring stories as material for new, civically engaging narratives and the creation of an Atlas of the Civic Imagination. We will share preliminary findings from a book project on civic imagination. And finally we will describe next steps and research questions as well as suggestions for where there is work that needs to be done.

Thursday October 5, 2017 3:15pm - 3:45pm PDT
Emerald Bay B