Unable to attend in person? Watch the streamed event here.
How, in the past hundred years, did billions of people come to not only be subjects of nations but to define themselves as Kenyan, Iraqi, German, or Ukrainian? How might people govern and understand themselves if the nation-state proves to be a mismatch for the crises of the day, buckling under the pressure of ecological collapse, mass migration, and rampant inequality? Empires in the Sky will consider how nations have been invented through stories, symbols, and utopian tracts, and how to reinvent them so as to serve people and the planet—and prevent the future from being determined by cabals of financiers, tyrants, and tech bros.
As the writer Rana Dasgupta observes in his forthcoming book After Nations: A History of the Future (Viking, 2023), the nation had to be imagined in order to be realized. Yet nationalists have long worked to conceal this fact: they have traced racial and ethnic identities to ancient tribes and archaeological sites, mobilizing DNA samples and folklore. Dasgupta punctures the myth of the nation as fated in order to combat nihilism about the status quo and conjure alternatives that possess the potency to inspire struggles against neoliberalism and populism. While the dream of independent states animated popular campaigns against imperialism and colonialism, Dasgupta observes that today’s “post-national visions” too often “are the preserve of well-funded monomaniac priests who exhort the world’s most desperate people to destroy and desecrate this corrupt world of nations, to bring on the final destruction of all life and society, and to transmigrate, finally, to golden empires in the sky.”
Dasgupta will be joined by the writer Atossa Araxia Abrahamian, whose forthcoming book The Hidden Globe (Riverhead, 2024) examines the realms—from Swiss freeports to cryptocurrencies to tax havens—in which the rule of nations is suspended by diplomats, accountants, businesses associations, and tech companies. Abrahamian reveals the sovereignty of nations to be for sale, and the premise of the political system (“one land, one law, one people, and one government”) to be a fiction. Power is increasingly exercised beyond borders and by unaccountable actors, prompting nationalists to pledge to “take back control,” though mostly by harping on identity and demonizing outsiders. Abrahamian sees peril and possibility in this conflict between local sovereignty and predatory elites: scrutinizing the power and purpose of nations, she argues for reorienting them toward a “global commons.”
Empires in the Sky is free and will be livestreamed. RSVPing is not mandatory, but we encourage you to register in advance in order to receive updates on the event and the link to the livestream. The event is part of a series that concludes Unknown States, an issue devoted to the fictions that make up nations and nationalities. The series also includes First World Order, with Ilana Harris-Babou and Yasmina Price, organized with Electronic Arts Intermix (EAI); Stopping Time, with Lou Cornum, Raven Chacon, and Audra Simpson; and Executive Fiction, with Richard Beck, Ari Brostoff, and Sean McCann.
COVID-19 Protocols, Seating, and Accessibility
All attendees are required to present proof of full vaccination against COVID-19 and to wear masks unless otherwise indicated. Seating is on a first-come, first-served basis (even for those who have RSVP’d). The doors will open thirty minutes prior to the event and attendance will be limited, given safety concerns and the capacity of our venue.
Triple Canopy’s venue is located at 264 Canal Street, 3W, near several Canal Street subway stations. Our floor is accessible by elevator (63" × 60" car, 31" door) and stairway. Due to the age and other characteristics of the building, our bathrooms are not ADA-accessible, though several such bathrooms are located nearby. If you have questions about access, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org in advance of the event.
This public program was made possible through generous support from Jane Hait, a founding member of Triple Canopy Director’s Circle; the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts; the National Endowment for the Arts; the New York State Council on the Arts; and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council. Research for Unknown States, Triple Canopy’s twenty-seventh issue, was made possible through a Craft Research Fund grant from the Center for Craft.
- Atossa Araxia Abrahamian is a journalist based in Brooklyn and the author of The Cosmopolites: The Coming of the Global Citizen (Columbia Global Reports, 2015). Her writing has appeared in the New York Review of Books, the New York Times, New York Magazine, the London Review of Books, the Nation, and other publications. Her forthcoming book, The Hidden Globe (Riverhead, 2024), explores the areas where the rules of capital trump the sovereignty of nations.
- Rana Dasgupta is a British novelist and essayist. He is the author of the novels Tokyo Cancelled (2005) and Solo (2009), which won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, as well as Capital (2014), a nonfiction account of the stupendous changes engulfing the city of Delhi as a result of globalization, which won the Ryszard Kapuscinski Award and the Prix Emile Guimet. Dasgupta’s essays and articles have appeared in Harper’s, Granta, New Statesman, Prospect, the Paris Review, the Guardian, and the New York Times, and his books have been translated into twenty-one languages. Dasgupta’s forthcoming book, After Nations (Viking, 2023), considers the future of global political organization.