Accepted Paper:

After the post-industrial crisis: towards a presentist anthropology of the future  


Felix Ringel (Durham University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper addresses an epistemic repercussion of contemporary crises: the loss of the future as a domain to think in. Based on research in Germany’s fastest shrinking city, it shifts temporal scales and proposes a presentist approach to the future in order to allow us to think beyond “the crisis”.

Paper long abstract:

One of the many repercussions of contemporary crises is an epistemic defiance: the loss of the future as a domain to think in. This is true for the academy at large as much as for many people worldwide, who endure general insecurities. How is anthropology to overcome its own 'evacuation of the future', and how are we to conceptualise the future as an important dimension of human life? This paper proposes a presentist approach to time and the future, shifting temporal scales in order to allow us to think beyond "the crisis". It is based on research in Germany's fastest shrinking city, the former socialist model city of Hoyerswerda, which has faced a combination of crises throughout the last 25 years. Post-socialist transformation and sudden de-industrialisation have prompted an unforeseen outmigration of younger generations, which, in turn, has led to a loss of half of the population and a doubling of the city's age average. Subsequently, life in Hoyerswerda has been precarious, haunted by notions of 'no hope' and 'no future'. However, the inhabitants of this post-industrial city have managed to reclaim their local futures - and thereby think beyond their particular crisis. This epistemic re-appropriation allows us to reflect upon our own knowledge practices, which at least in Europe and North America remain based in both: so-called Western modernity and its global neoliberal reformulations. A presentist approach, I argue, can overcome false hopes of linear progress and constant change, and focus more clearly on the present issues at hand.

Panel P012
Crisis as ongoing reality: perspectives from different anthropological locations (European Association of Social Anthropologists (EASA) and the Committee for World Anthropologies (CWA) panel)