Imagination: A Manifesto (A Norton Short) (Hardcover)
One of The Millions's Most-Anticipated Books of Winter 2024
In this revelatory work, Ruha Benjamin calls on us to take imagination seriously as a site of struggle and a place of possibility for reshaping the future.
A world without prisons? Ridiculous. Schools that foster the genius of every child? Impossible. Work that doesn’t strangle the life out of people? Naive. A society where everyone has food, shelter, love? In your dreams. Exactly. Ruha Benjamin, Princeton University professor, insists that imagination isn’t a luxury. It is a vital resource and powerful tool for collective liberation.
Imagination: A Manifesto is her proclamation that we have the power to use our imaginations to challenge systems of oppression and to create a world in which everyone can thrive. But obstacles abound. We have inherited destructive ideas that trap us inside a dominant imagination. Consider how racism, sexism, and classism make hierarchies, exploitation, and violence seem natural and inevitable—but all emerged from the human imagination.
The most effective way to disrupt these deadly systems is to do so collectively. Benjamin highlights the educators, artists, activists, and many others who are refuting powerful narratives that justify the status quo, crafting new stories that reflect our interconnection, and offering creative approaches to seemingly intractable problems.
Imagination: A Manifesto offers visionary examples and tactics to push beyond the constraints of what we think, and are told, is possible. This book is for anyone who is ready to take to heart Toni Morrison’s instruction: “Dream a little before you think.”
About the Author
Ruha Benjamin is a professor of African American studies and the founder of the Ida B. Wells Just Data Lab at Princeton University. The author of the Stowe Prize–winning Viral Justice, as well as Race After Technology and People’s Science, Benjamin lives in Princeton, New Jersey.
A short, punchy book designed to kick-start expansive thinking about society’s most pressing collective problems. . . In the tradition of the best manifestos, Benjamin encourages readers to think through seemingly audacious suggestions.
— Science Magazine
Benjamin’s roving narrative moves nimbly between topics to make her case (at one exemplary point she pauses her analysis of a documentary on creative writing programs for prisoners to note how it reminds her of a line from Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go: 'Could a creature without a human spirit create such heart-wrenching paintings?'). It’s a potent exhortation for society to point its dreams toward the collective good.
— Publishers Weekly
Benjamin invites readers to consider a different world, one that the imagination of others tells us is the best of all possible worlds…A provocative manifesto indeed, and one that deserves a wide audience.
— Kirkus Reviews
Ruha Benjamin reminds us that in our collective imaginations we already have everything we need to make the world we want to live in. Imagination is a lovely volume with a meditation on the power of being human: we can dream, if we only believe that we can.
— Tressie McMillan Cottom, author of Thick: And Other Essays
Only Ruha Benjamin could have written this gift of a book. Science and technology’s most astute social critic, she knows the power of imagination—the incubator of breathtaking beauty and the atomic bomb. Bold, brilliant, and visionary, Benjamin’s manifesto asks us to wage love, to imagine an abolitionist, compassionate, just world against the venal dreams of warmongers and billionaires. An essential weapon in our struggle to save life.
— Robin D. G. Kelley, author of Freedom Dreams: The Black Radical Imagination