Enforced futurism/prescribed hopes: affective politics and pedagogies of the future
Paper short abstract:
This paper analyses three youth projects, in which older inhabitants of Germany’s fastest shrinking city try to stop their children’s outmigration by imposing a sense of hope upon them. Since the organisers’ hope in the project’s efficacy is usually disappointed, what does the failure of their affective strategies elicit about “hope” more generally?
Paper long abstract:
My field-site Hoyerswerda, Germany's fastest shrinking city, is in the eyes of many a city with "no future". Since German reunification, this former socialist model city has lost more than half of its population. Especially the young and well-educated continue to leave the city in search for jobs in more prosperous Western Germany. In turn, their leaving is rendered problematic by members of older generations, who are most existentially affected by subsequent social, economic and demographic changes. This paper explores some of the ways in which these older Hoyerswerdians try to stop their children's outmigration. It focuses on three youth projects in particular: "Youth has Visions", "The Future Laboratory" and a literary project. All of them try to impose a sense of hope upon the young participants. In my analysis I, first, extrapolate their embeddedness in local politics, which requires a thorough description of their broader ethnographic context. Second, I analyse these practices' deployments of affective pedagogies, which often uncannily resemble strategies of marketing and advertisement professionals. Third, I scrutinize their actual efficacy. Since the organisers' hope (i.e. that, once bestowed with the right knowledge about and affective relations to their local future chances, young Hoyerswerdians will decide to stay) is usually disappointed, what does the failure of such affective strategies elicit about hope and its role in human life, practice and experience more generally? These three aspects also respond to concerns about how to methodologically approach the social production and dissemination of affect, hope and senses of the future.
Ethnographies of hope