The project “Imagine, democracy!” asks how and what kind of democracy is imagined in narrative fiction written and read in Finland. We examine the ways in which narrative fiction makes use of and perhaps reforms, reinforces, or erodes different forms of imagination central to democracy. The extensive research material we collect acknowledges not only various institutional forms of distributing literature and new marketing technologies, but also artistic approaches to the topic.
We investigate the importance of literary affordances (perspective-taking, context-boundness, and foregrounding of the mechanisms and structures of imagination) to the political and democratic processes narrative fiction imagines. We analyze what kind of politics is imagined in the research material and how it relates to democracy. Furthermore, we examine how disfigurations internal to democracy (bystanderism, populism, and technocracy) are manifested and repeated in narrative fiction and ask whether narrative fiction might provide us with means to tackle these disfigurations.
“Imagine, democracy!” utilizes narratology, sociology of literature and political sociology as well as methodologies of literary theory and political research. This way, we build a new perspective to narrative fiction as a socially and culturally important tool for imagination as well as an understanding of the cultural reserve of democratic imagination. The project produces an analytical and critical conception of how and on which terms narrative fiction can support imagination that bolsters democracy.