Endurance and the present's future after postsocialism
(University of Oxford)
Paper short abstract:
Despite talking about the death of the countryside, Latvia's rural residents work to maintain life as a particular articulation of social relations, material environment and landscape. I analyse these practices as a form of agency that does not strive for radical change, but rather for more of the same.
Paper long abstract:
When I conducted fieldwork on outmigration in rural Latvia from 2010 until 2012, many rural residents told me that the countryside was emptying and dying. Indeed, there were fewer people, fewer services, fewer schools and many empty and deteriorating buildings in the Latvian countryside. However, at the same time as rural residents were talking about emptiness and death, they were labouring to maintain life as a particular articulation of social relations, landscape and material environment. In this paper, I show how those who live in the Latvian countryside work to maintain life, thus also making the future as a little bit more of the present. I analyse these practices of making life and future as endurance, that is, as a form of agency that does not strive for radical change, but rather for more of the same (Ringel 2014). I am particularly interested in how this form of agency gets coopted in the aftermath of the financial crisis that hit Latvia in 2008. I therefore focus on the tension between endurance as perseverance in the face of adverse conditions and endurance as a tool of government that co-opts people's capacity for survival. While ethnographically located in Latvia, the paper links up with other people in other places who experience life as nothingness (Dunn 2014), as being stuck (Hage 2009) or as not moving well enough (Jansen 2014). I consider what kind of critique of the present and its futures opens up through analysis of endurance, stuckedness, nothingness or immobility.
Maintaining the future? On post-cold war practices and politics of the future