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Several panels examine the changing nature of anthropology itself. How has the practice of ethnography changed? How should it change? Do anthropologists need to examine their own profession in the way that so many other professions are being challenged to do?
How are imaginative processes grounded in embodied action, and how are bodies enmeshed in wider social and ecological relationships? How are shifting relations between the human and the non-human affecting bodies, and indeed redefining the 'human'?
Cognition and evolution
Adapting tools and methods from psychology and biology, cognitive and evolutionary anthropology has proposed new approaches to old anthropological questions about relationships between minds, bodies, culture, landscape, and change. How far can sociality, including morality, be explained in terms of long-term, deeply embedded constraints as they interact with the human imagination?
In foregrounding imagination, some panels focus directly on trying to understand human creativity and performativity. Others look at artistic production as a means for imagining alternative futures.
‘Nature’, which has always functioned as a repository of social ideas and political values, is being recast through a multiplicity of global environmental change discourses. Is environmental change limiting the human imagination, or are people using their imagination to adapt to the changing climate?
So much of what is constructed and social appears natural or given, including and especially the various forms of infrastructure that so many people take for granted. In what ways do infrastructures become both conceptual and material? What role does imagination play in the creation of possible future infrastructures?
From cognitivist sciences to the anthropology of art, of politics, of religions, of kinship, etc., understanding the capacity of humans (and perhaps non-human primates too) to create potential scenarios is a key part of what we find in the field and a key part of the representations we document in our writings. What are the effects of imagination in life and in anthropology?
Anthropological work on medical practices and technologies continues to contribute to the rethinking of human bodies and their construction in health, illness, and well-being. A medical framing brings questions of sociality and personhood into clear, and distinctly material, focus.
A renewed focus on morality or ethics has recently revivified or reformed much work within anthropology. How does moral language re-imagine (even if negatively, as in mistrust) the economy, politics, social arrangements, or social rules?
Human political life is played out in the space between what is (current material and political constraints), what should be (the ethical or moral), and what could be (imagined alternatives). At a time when global forces and negative path dependencies seem more powerful than ever, and yet, simultaneously, imagined possibilities are more various and more communicable than ever before, it is timely to ask what anthropology can contribute to rethinking the politics of sociality and of the imagination.
How do sociality, matter, and the imagination transform over time? Whether addressing short- or long-term processes, anthropologists and archaeologists are confronted with questions relating to the temporal nature of the phenomena they analyse.