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Accepted paper:

What can be learned in slow crisis by insisting on treating the future ethnographically as a place to make up desires? Some utopian methodological observations from Greece, after hope already got lost

Author:

Judy Thorne (University of Manchester)

Paper short abstract:

Hope having got lost in increasing swathes of the fields anthropologists have enquired into, a future-oriented anthropologist can cause difficulties for herself and others by stubbornly eliciting utopias, as I did in a post-industrial city run by communists in the north-west Peloponnese.

Paper long abstract:

Talking to people about what they want the world to be like in the future makes people make it up. Talking to people about what they want the world to be like in the future shifts the valence of how both the present and the future appear to us (the people asked and the ethnographer asking). Talking to people about what they want the world to be like in the future is an ethnographic method which complicates understandings of a given social world by infusing what is with a sense of what is (not) yet to come, and what is not yet as a theatre for fantasies whispered and collectively acted out. This can be a struggle, as it was for myself and the people I worked with in late 2010s Greece, after the economic crisis had endured for a decade already only deepening, and after the street movements and electoral project to end austerity had ended; along with many of the solidarity movements to enable social and material survival. By the time I arrived to talk about what people wanted the world to be like in the future, the future had wound up in a space doubly empty, of both the hope of capitalist progress and of the militant hope of a different array of possibilities. In this silence, ringing with the tinnitus of disappointed hope, against the grain of the future's evacuation from desire, I learned some things about utopia.

panel P026
Futures Anthropology as Interventional Theory and Practice [Future Anthropologies Network]