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Cultural production, social movements and virtuous spirals: Using cultural production to influence social transformation.  An ethnographic case study of a transmedia and translocal experiment.


The project pursues several empirical case studies to develop and test the concept of ‘imaginactivism’ as a way of thinking through the influences fictional or artistic cultural productions exert on social and political activism, and the way that social and political activism figure in fictional and artistic cultural production.


The aims of the project are:

  • To document the people and processes involved in adapting the novel The Fifth Sacred Thing as a transmedia phenomenon.
  • To use this empirical case study to develop and test the concept of ‘imaginactivism’
  • To pursue research skills in new media research and production and videoethnography
  • To produce articles and a monograph about the transmedia phenomenon of The Fifth Sacred Thing
  • To articulate the methods to ground conceptual work on ‘imaginactivism’ through an empirical case study
  • To disseminate methods to academic audiences pursuing research on cultural production and social activism
  • To disseminate a road map for linking cultural production and social and political action to cultural producers, activists and potential activist publics

Supplementary aims:

  • To investigate the people and processes involved in the writing, editing,  publication and circulation of the partially crowdfunded edited collection Octavia’s Brood
  • To compare and contrast this empirical case study with The Fifth Sacred Thing case study to further develop and nuance the concept of imaginactivism and to add a comparative dimension to the planned monograph


This is a mixed methods project that includes participant observation; formal qualitative in-depth interviews and informal interviews and conversations; online ethnography; narrative and semiotic analysis of a range of online and offline texts; concept development.


Dr Haran has organised or co-organised a number of public events that have combined both research and research dissemination at the University of Oregon and the University of California at Santa Cruz: She co-organised 2016 James Tiptree, Jr. Symposium: A Celebration of Ursula K. Le Guin, conceptualising, convening and chairing a panel on the science fiction of Ursula Le Guin as inspiration for activism.

One of the invited speakers was adrienne maree brown, co-editor of Octavia’s Brood. The panel discussion – and in fact the entire symposium – was directly relevant to the concept of imaginactivism.

At the University of Oregon and Eugene Public Library she organised two public events in April 2017: a conversation about social and environmental justice and The Fifth Sacred Thing, featuring Starhawk; Professor Erin McKenna, Department of Philosophy; Associate Professor Erin Moore, Department of Architecture and Environmental Studies Program; Ruby Matthews, Growers’ Market (a local volunteer-run organic food market); Allison Ford, Doctoral Candidate, Department of Sociology & Department of Women’s and Gender Studies, and an evening talk entitled “Vision and Story for Challenging Times”,  at the Downtown branch of the Eugene Public Library.

In October 2017 she organised a further two events related to The Fifth Sacred Thing and Imaginactivism at the University of California at Santa Cruz, in collaboration with UCSC’s Science and Justice Research Center.  Under the umbrella title “Imaginactivism: Magic, Figuration & Speculative Fiction in the Pursuit of Justice”, in October 2017, she convened a speculative fiction writing workshop with input from Starhawk and Donna  Haraway, and chaired a separate public conversation between the two about their work and activism.

Find out more by visiting the project website - Imaginactivism

Dr Haran has also presented this research at the following conferences:

June 28 - 30, 2016, Science Fiction Research Association Annual Conference (International), University of Liverpool: “Imaginactivism: SF and Social Justice Projects. Can We Practice Research Activism?” (N.B. Invited Keynote Talk)

August 31 - September 3, 2016,European Association for the Study of Science and Technology Biennial Conference: Science and Technology by Other Means – Exploring collectives, spaces and futures: “Earth Activist Training as Feminist, Multicultural, Antiracist Technoscience”

June 29 – July 1 2017, Science Fiction Research Association Annual Conference (International), Unknown Pasts / Unseen Future: “California Dreaming: Utopian and Dystopian Calls to Action in Parable of the Sower and The Fifth Sacred Thing

The project team

Principal investigator

Professor Jenny Kitzinger

Professor Jenny Kitzinger

Director of Research: Impact and Engagement and Co-Director of the Coma and Disorders of Consciousness Research Centre

Joan Haran

Joan Haran

Research Fellow