Development planning explicitly seeks to shape the future even as, in practice, it often falls short of its stated aims. This panel explores how the futures anticipated and evoked through development planning can be examined when they have not yet materially manifested, and may not manifest at all.
Development planning explicitly seeks to shape and order the future, even as, in practice, it often falls short of its stated objectives. This panel explores how the futures anticipated and evoked through development planning can be examined conceptually and methodologically when they have not yet materially manifested and may not manifest at all. Anthropology has been criticized for locking its subjects in an eternal 'ethnographic present', denying them both a past and a future. Anthropologists have responded by exploring the past and historical memory to grasp the presents they work in. Yet in a rapidly changing world, how do anthropologists work with the future? Does the presentism of ethnography equip us to make visible what is speculative, emerging, or misfires before it ever materialises? Methodologically, what might we draw from more generative and transformative research environments, such as the laboratory or design studio (Marcus and Rabinow 2008; Hunt 2010)? In its attempts to make an unknown future knowable, development planning presents fertile ground for an anthropology of the 'not-yet'. While the notion of the plan emerges from western linear conceptualisations of time and 'progress', it may have quite different temporal effects. The plan's potentiality versus the 'not-yet-ness' of its implementation may produce hope, anxiety, anticipation and uncertainty, as well as actions that disrupt, physically and temporarily, its intended work. This panel invites papers which explore the creative productivity of development planning, its "elusive promises" (Abram and Weszkalnys 2013) and how as anthropologists we might approach the 'not-yet'.