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P214


Escaping the prison of the present: historicizing sociotechnical imaginaries 
Convenors:
Geert Somsen (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam)
Frans van Lunteren (Athena Institute, VU Amsterdam)
Anne Loeber (Athena Institute, VU University)
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Format:
Traditional Open Panel

Short Abstract:

This Open Panel endeavors to reinterpret historical sociotechnical imaginaries in order to unlock and unsettle present ones. We use Hans Robert Jauss’s concept of “horizons of expectations” to explore the interplay of circumstances and imagination, now and in the past.

Long Abstract:

Visions of the future are rooted in past experiences and present perceptions. Hence while they can veer into the spectacular, overblown, and hubristic, their terms are always limited by the “horizons” of the circumstances out of which they were born (Gadamer, 2004). This becomes visible when we consider imaginaries of former times, which, while trying to show ways out of the worlds that they originated from, look old and dated and much more like those worlds than like the realities that would actually follow. But if such past visions seem bound to their circumstances’ imaginative limitations, our own imaginaries are probably just as much locked up in the prison of the present.

One way to escape this prison – or at least force cracks into its walls – is to reconsider imaginaries of the past. Were they really what we make them out to be? Have we missed imaginative dimensions by our own limited historical perception? How do we imagine the past to have imagined its future? Asking such questions draws attention to the agencies of both the makers and the recipients of the images, and their respective “horizons of expectation” (Jauss, 1982; Jauss & Benzinger, 1970). Such a relational perspective may shed light on their interplay and help explain, and perhaps reshape, how imaginaries ‘work’ in the present.

This panel invites papers that problematize the relationship between the past, the present and the future by looking into the interactions between imaginaries and their circumstances, while taking into account our own. Such a historical detour may help to unlock or at least unsettle the prison of the present.

Accepted papers: