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Accepted Paper:

Contested futures – critical notions in cultural-reflexive anticipation practice  
Ludwig Weh (Fraunhofer IMW) Marguerite Coetzee (Omniology)

Paper short abstract:

Presenting examples of anticipation practice in sustainable futures and African futurism, this paper contributes to a wider, more diverse and contested futures discourse rooted in anthropological theory, for a more conscious and deliberate development and application of related futures methodology.

Paper long abstract:

Despite sociologists’ reluctance to establish a sociology of the future (Textor 1995, Tutton 2017), anthropology has called “for a renewed, open and future-focused approach to understanding the present, anticipating the unknown, and intervening in the world” with critical anthropological ethnography “confronting and intervening in the challenges of contested and controversial futures”, adding “to the study and making of futures an approach inflected by the ethical and participatory principles of anthropology” (Pink & Salazar 2017).

As cultural-reflexive paradigms have long substantiated futures methodology, anticipation practice has highlighted the future as “contested rhetorical domain” with social power relations defining images of the future in “a conceptual space within which political, social, and cultural change can be imagined and realized” (Dunmire 2010).

In this sense of a critical, material-discursive and action-oriented futures discourse (Masini 2006), this paper presents examples of situated, contextual and experiential anticipation projects in (i) ecosystem scenarios as diverse nature futures, and (ii) African futurism, both contesting dominant cultural notions of desirable futures. The paper relates these examples to anthropological theory of time as the embodied experience and product of concrete, temporalizing social practice, and as “symbolic process continually being produced in [people’s] everyday [anticipatory] practices” in the subjective perception of time as human temporality (Munn 1992).

Constructing images of the future as vital signs of cultural renewal (Polak 1973) asks for individual identification with these images “particular to places and groups”, and to connect to the “material and affective aspects that constitute social life” as “lived futures” (Sandford 2019).

Panel P27a
Life Itself. Anthropology and Anticipation.
  Session 1 Monday 6 June, 2022, -