EASA2014: Collaboration, Intimacy & Revolution

(P114)

Future temporalities in anthropological practice

Location A-018
Date and Start Time 31 July, 2014 at 14:00

Convenors

Sarah Pink (RMIT University) email
Carlo Cubero (Tallinn University) email
Simone Abram (Durham University) email
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Short Abstract

This panel relates to the Forward Play: anthropology at the edge of the future lab. Both shift the focus beyond the ethnographic past/present to ask how anthropology can prepare for the future. What kinds of collaborations should we engage with and how could we realise such collaborative projects?

Long Abstract

This Panel connects with the Forward Play: anthropology at the edge of the future lab. It invites participants who want to develop their ideas in a paper format the opportunity to give paper presentations that reflect on the core questions that are addressed in more action and activity oriented ways through the lab. Therefore focusing on questions about how we might take anthropology beyond its focus on the ethnographic past, in ways that resolve the ethical dilemmas associated with the troubled ethnographic present to engage with alternative ethnographic temporalities. Indeed we invite participants to consider if we have a moral responsibility to be mindful of and prepared for doing anthropologies that account for the future - to create an anticipatory or interventionist public or applied anthropology? How should we engage with the ways with which activists, politicians, filmmakers, designers, science fiction, and corporations imagine, perform, represent, prepare for and approach futures? And how might such collaborations or relationships be realised?

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Papers

Fantasy futures

Author: Simone Abram (Durham University)  email

Short Abstract

This photographic essay/collage reports on attempts to determine the future of the city of Sheffield over more than a decade of regeneration efforts.

Long Abstract

Urban regeneration sounds banal but the long-drawn-out processes can unleash competing fantasies and flights of imagination about possible futures. Sheffield city centre has stumbled and stalled for several decades, falling between grandiose plans and uneven realisations. This contribution considers current attempts to bring together actors in the city, including diverse across from the university, the city authorities, investors and developers to reimagine the city's possibilities. Set in a context of repeated attempts to materialise imaginaries of the city centre across varying temporal horizons, it traces partial realisations, enduring and fleeting moments of materiality and constellations of actors, including occasional anthropologists.

Mapping the market: the futures in Moscow's trade-halls

Author: Anton Nikolotov (Berlin Graduate School of Muslim Cultures and Societies, Humboldt University)  email

Short Abstract

The recent trend of cartographic art practice contribute to the expanding possibilities for dialogical and collaborative anthropology. This paper explores the possibility of applying the methods to exploring various configurations of the future in the context of a wholesale market in Moscow.

Long Abstract

The recent trend of cartographic art practice and its experimental appropriation of various techniques and media (such as mental and biomapping, geo-positioning systems as well as sound and video) contribute to the expanding possibilities for dialogical, collective research and collaborative anthropology. Pace Latour's dismissal of totalities, the various forms of mapping, developed by some critical geographers and artists, renew the prospect of imagining wholeness(Jameson 1990), but now as complex Deleuzian assemblages of human-and non-human compositions, asubjective affects and subjective emotions; machinic assemblages and collective assemblages of enunciation or cosmograms (Tresch 2005). This paper-in-progress will present some preliminary results from the art based research with migrant, racialized workers in the markets of the post-Soviet capital. Often accommodating all kinds of traders, beggars and workers, the large wholesale and retail centres in Moscow have been hetero-cultural laboratories of migrant everyday space making and places of incorporation (Glick Schiller Caglar 2011) even as the official Russian media routinely portrays them as "dark" places of crime, drug trade and prostitution, counterfeit textile production and clandestine homes for illegalized workers from Central Asia. In many respects the market-halls have become one of the city's "internal borders" (Mezzadra Neilson 2013); the places of frequent police raids and a machine of striation and differential in/ex-clusion. Exploring the everyday power relations in one of such borderland markets, I will explore the methodological and theoretical implications of attempting to collaboratively map the future of some of the actors in such a place.

Speculative cultures: writing future ethnographies for synthetic biologists

Author: Lydia Nicholas (UCL)  email

Short Abstract

How observations of teams in a multi-disciplinary synthetic & computational biology project were used to create divergent speculative futures reflecting on current working practices and exploring the potential implications of different methods of developing & interacting with their living product.

Long Abstract

I was employed as an anthropologist at a speculative design agency to work with a multidisciplinary, multi-site project of synthetic biologists and computer scientists designing a system of programmed microbes for use in healthcare as well as a biological modelling system. The systems will take many years to complete, and the scientists were interested in exploring the cultural factors affecting its uptake at completion as well as interrogating their current methods of work.

I undertook semi-structured interviews with 14 scientists, observed meetings, read interim findings and published papers and followed the progress of their work closely for several months.

Rather than explore the ramifications of introducing the system now- decades before it will be ready- or discussing one possible outcome, I drew on observations of the different teams and disciplines, as well as other ethnographies, to develop three divergent futures within which stories and objects were set. By following a timeline into the far future we had space to develop subtle differences in meanings or in power balances into clear, extreme examples which could be useful for discussion.

This project offered many learning opportunities regarding working with interdisciplinary teams, in speculative work, and with scientists in new technologies who must themselves engage in speculation to muster funding and faith in their work. The scientists found real value in anthropology and fiction de-naturalising their practices, reopening spaces for thought and inspiring new use-cases for their work, but it is only a start in an exciting, potentially vast field.

“Could I live like a lady one day… perhaps yesterday?” Dramatic storytelling, temporality and the anthropological study of interiority

Author: Magdalena Kazubowski-Houston (York University )  email

Short Abstract

This paper examines the potential of dramatic storytelling as a theoretical and methodological framework for constructing unconventional temporalities at the level of interiority. It focuses on the ways in which the liminal fiction in the dramatic storytelling sessions complicated the boundaries between the past, the present and the future.

Long Abstract

This paper examines the potential of dramatic storytelling as a theoretical and methodological framework for constructing unconventional temporalities at the level of interiority – inner thoughts, speech, feelings and moods. I focus on my current research project that examines the impact of post-EU accession migrations on the lives of Poland’s non-migrant elderly Romani women. In Poland, the quality of life for Romani minorities has deteriorated in recent years due to prevailing stereotypes of the Roma, recent economic crises and resurgent nationalisms. Consequently, many Roma have migrated to the west since Poland’s entry into the European Union in 2004. This has left many of Poland’s Romani communities populated primarily by elders, incapable of traveling abroad due to advanced age and poor health. By employing dramatic storytelling as ethnographic participant observation, my project examines how non-migrant elderly Romani women in Poland cope with multiple forms of discrimination and violence in the absence of their younger relatives. This paper discusses the ways in which the “as if” liminal space of fiction in our dramatic storytelling sessions facilitated a process wherein the Romani women and the ethnographer were able to co-perform their most personal thoughts and feelings about what was, what could have been, what is, what could be, what will be, and what might be. Drawing on theories of affect, I discuss the ways in which the shared emotional knowledge that materialized between the ethnographer and research participants through interior dialogues complicated the boundaries between the past, the present and the future.

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