Maintaining the future? On post-cold war practices and politics of the future

Felix Ringel (Durham University)
Dace Dzenovska (University of Oxford)
Rebecca Bryant (London School of Economics)
Science Site/Engineering E101
Start time:
4 July, 2016 at 14:00
Session slots:

Short abstract:

This panel invites ethnographic explorations of maintaining, enduring and sustaining as practices and politics of the future. How are these practices related to currently widespread insecurities, as well as the absence of legitimate grand narratives that promise to overcome the oppressive present?

Long abstract:

In search for alternative political and analytical pathways into the future, anthropologists have experimented with a variety of ethnographically derived analytical concepts. Concepts such as hope, emergence and alternative lifeworlds figure prominently in contemporary anthropological thought. Our ethnographic work, however, has led us to use terms that seem less promissory, even conservative: maintaining, enduring, sustaining. And yet, they suggest new pathways into the future, namely those that hold the possibility of the future open through preventing decay or ruination in the present. This panel invites papers that critically explore different pathways into the future in the post-Cold War era. Without being restricted to the literature on post-socialism, we invite papers to explore how and why "muddling through" emerges as a response to deeply felt insecurities. Why do practices, politics and analytics of maintaining, enduring and sustaining emerge as salient in this particular historical moment? What kind of urban and rural futures are "prefigured" in them, producing what kind of uneven geographies? How are such practices, politics and analytics shaped by the absence of other meta-narratives, such as socialism, which have historically offered an alternative imaginary for Western left and postcolonial elites? Proposed contributions should provide detailed ethnographic analyses of new sites, practices and subjects of politics, whilst at the same time reflect upon the analytical tools at hand to understand these practices of, and politics towards, the future. We see this as an invitation to being stuck, yet again, in the future - and thereby maintain the present differently.