EASA, 2010: EASA2010: Crisis and imagination

Maynooth, 24/08/2010 – 27/08/2010

(W016)

Envisioning the future, and hope

Location Rye Hall Lecture Theatre
Date and Start Time 25 Aug, 2010 at 11:30

Convenors

Anselma Gallinat (Newcastle University) email
Frances Pine (Goldsmiths College, University of London) email
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Long Abstract

Great upheavals and crisis always require a reimagining of past, present and future. This becomes visible in re-writings of the past that serve to (re)legitimise the new or old order in the present. Such re-writings that serve political purposes contain narratives of the future, which provide for hope. For example, governments may create narratives of the nation that support their rule by giving hopes for 'better' lives to their subjects.

This workshop will explore how groups, institutions, political parties, governments or states create futures in order to deal with upheavals or crises. It will consider the present-day purposes of these futures. It may also consider the social and political impact of lost hopes and despair. Following Appadurai's argument that modern-day democracy is linked to hope, the workshop invites in particular papers, which explore questions of producing, re-creating, or loosing and destructing hope through narratives of the future within democratic nation-states, whatever democratic may mean.

This workshop is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

Spaces of loss, spaces of hope

Authors: Frances Pine (Goldsmiths College, University of London)  email
Victoria Goddard (Goldsmiths College, University of London)  email
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Long Abstract

This paper is concerned with particular spaces and places in the former socialist world (particularly in Poland) which were enshrouded in silence or even erased during the socialism period, but which are now being rebuilt, re-constructed, and actively remembered as both spaces of loss and grief, and as spaces of hope. One particular aspect of this process of reconfiguration of the past which I want to address concerns the tension between commemoration of past loss, and possible focus on future hope, in particular memorial sites on the one hand, and commodification of spaces, for instance the transformtion of factories into shopping malls, designer housing, or art galleries, on the other.

The future of Kyrgyz summer pastures and hydropower: between invoking paradise and state capture

Author: Jeanne Féaux de la Croix (University of Tübingen)  email
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Long Abstract

Since the collapse of the Soviet vision of utopia, how have citizens of Kyrgyzstan, Central Asia's 'island of democracy' recast their future? I investigate this in relation to Kyrgyzstan's two greatest resources: water and pasture. Soviet and post-soviet dams reflect aspirations to modernize Kyrgyzstan. But these dams flood pastures, the other mainstay of the rural economy, which is imagined as part of eternal Kyrgyzstan. Pastures also cause great concern: how to maintain them as a source of wealth and beauty in the future? In both types of places, the role of state agencies in regulating Kyrgyzstan's future is heavily disputed.

Based on three years of fieldwork, I analyse the view points of dam workers, herders, government and international actors. Drawing out the contested hopes invested in pasture and dams, I argue there is no simple equation between hydropower and 'modernity', grasslands and 'tradition'.

Materializing the future: politics of the future and the construction of Astana

Author: Mateusz Laszczkowski (University of Warsaw)  email
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Long Abstract

This paper examines the politics of the future in the construction of new quarters in Kazakhstan's capital, Astana. Astana has been proclaimed a 'city of the future' in official discourse, and a beachhead of a renewed, prosperous future Kazakhstan. However, there is another, broader and subtler politics of the future to Astana, the effects of which extend beyond official rhetoric and agendas. After a crisis of the sense of societal order and direction following the breakup of the USSR, the construction of Astana now allows many Kazakhstanis to imagine exciting personal futures, in connection to a state-framed collective future. These futurities are envisaged as a nexus of material and moral transformations. In a kind of self-directed creative denial of coevalness, Astanaians discard the present as already a passing. Thus current power arrangements can be perpetuated in a temporal limbo while the future takes material shape in the under-construction built environment.

The good innocent nation facing the civilization of death: interpreting pro-life movement in contemporary Poland

Author: Kinga Sekerdej (Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology)  email
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Long Abstract

The abortion debate in Poland has been one of the issues polarizing the society since the transformation in 1989. Prolife activists are often ridiculed as fanatic, mostly women beyond their reproductive age. Their actions are seen as blind obedience to religious or political authorities rather than an expression of their true concerns. Instead, I argue that their activities can be framed and interpreted in a time-related context.

Relating to the present, the engagement in prolife movement is, among other factors, an expression of agency within a marginalized group; marginalized because of age, gender and often illness. Far from being passive, they place prayer as the central and most reliable action in producing change. The future is addressed explicitly, not only in the widespread expression "children are our future", but also because what is perceived to be at stake is the well-being or even the existence of "the nation". These actions in turn, along with the employed rhetoric recreate a familiar world and invoke the past of socialism, reimagined as having a clear and easily identifiable enemy (then communism, now "the Civilization of Death") and clear, undiffused goals of overcoming and surviving these threats.

The presentation is based on ethnographic research among religiously motivated prolife activists in Krakow.

Reaching into Pandora’s Box: the place of hope in the space of trauma

Author: Fiona Murphy (Queens University Belfast )  email
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Long Abstract

This paper begins with questioning the somewhat problematic relationship between hope and traumatic experience. Through an ethnographic analysis of Australia’s Stolen Generations, it will examine the place of hope in lives fractured by the force of removal and trauma. Hope is traditionally examined as a future oriented disposition, a sentiment, belief, and emotion which binds us to an imagined future and lifts us from the intricacies of the present, at the very least for a moment. Trauma, on the other hand, is the forceful repetition of the past. Hope in traumatic experience, is ultimately about changing outcomes. My respondents have experienced hopelessness and despair throughout their lives as Stolen Children; hope, is what allowed many of them to survive. This paper will conclude with a reflection on how hope was articulated through the recent Federal apology, in the quest for reparations, and the discourse of reconciliation.

The Revolution will not be jeopardized: hope and struggle on a revolutionary university

Author: Mariya Ivancheva (University College Dublin)  email
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Long Abstract

This paper presents an ethnography of the Bolivarian University in Venezuela (UBV) and the ways in which academic intellectuals and students on this new 'Cahvista' university frame and perform the Bolivarian Revolution. I show how the 'subjects of the revolution' struggle not to create established institutional structures. Instead they consider their university community as an anti-structure to the eternal enemy of capitalism. This struggle against the institutionalization of the revolution can be seen as an attempt to preserve the stage of liminality. UBV is framed vis-a-vis a vision of the profound crisis of advanced capitalist society and in quixotic hope for emancipation of and solidarity with 'the wretched of the earth'. Yet, on the ground students and professors are entrapped in a daily struggle against the replication of the distinctions and organization structures of the same capitalist system, which the university institution has traditionally served to reproduce.

After the tsunami: making sense of the past, the present and the future in Banda Aceh, Indonesia

Author: Annemarie Samuels (University of Amsterdam)  email
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Long Abstract

In post-tsunami Banda Aceh, Indonesia, religious frameworks took on heightened importance for explaining the tsunami as a moment of change towards a (morally) better future in relation to a past of conflict and sins. Different religious explanations are used not only to make sense of the past, but also to give meaning to the present and future remaking of society. Hope that life generally will improve is also framed by progressive narratives of the state and international organizations that literally claimed to 'build back better' in Aceh. This paper considers both religious and state narratives that circulate in Banda Aceh and that aim to make sense of the catastrophic tsunami, the violent past, current social changes and the future. It focuses on how these narratives of the tsunami, the past and the future are used, altered, made and remade by people in Aceh, reflecting hope, grief and acceptance.

Where will be the place called home? Reconciling competing localities in times of sequential crisis

Author: Dorota Woroniecka-Krzyzanowska (University of Lodz)  email
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Long Abstract

This paper provides an insight into ways in which competing localities are being reconciled in the process of envisioning future in times of sequential crisis. Presented research is based on ethnographical fieldwork conducted in one of the Palestinian refugee camps in the West Bank.

Temporality and uncertainty concerning future are inherent in the very idea of being a refugee. The current sociopolitical status is marked by the right to return, both expressed and reconstructed by everyday practices aiming at reproducing 'the old locality' - locality of the place of origin. However, in the case of protracted exile, 'the new locality' is being formed on the basis of shared community life in the camp and collective experience of occupation in the first place.

The question arises if and to what extent the concept of envisioning future is able to reconcile the present dichotomy of local identities.

A rising tide of true democracy? Climate crisis, spirituality and action in a carboniferous zone

Author: Linda Connor (University of Sydney)  email
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Long Abstract

Climate change can be viewed as a cultural crisis of lifeworlds that begs critical anthropological analysis. The evidence of global warming encourages thoughts of future humanity as 'survivors of a failed civilization' (Lovelock 2007, p. 202). What are the cultural resources that human societies are bringing to bear to avert the problem of a warmed and entropic future world? This paper explores the narratives and practices of religious adherents, environmentalists and community groups in a coastal region of Southeastern Australia - the Hunter Valley of New South Wales - which is both highly carboniferous and intensely vulnerable to climate change effects. New forms of local organisation and action in response to the climate threat lend force to Ernest Becker's idea of democracy as 'a doctrine of self-renewal' in terms of which alternative, hopeful futures can be imagined.

This workshop is closed to new paper proposals.