This panel will use ethnography to examine feelings, perceptions and narratives of hopelessness, as well as cases in which new circumstances, organizations or approaches have encouraged renewed feelings of hope.
Numerous recent displays of public discontent, often accompanied by calls for social change, have been driven by widespread feelings of hopelessness in relation to existing social, economic and political orders. Such narratives of hopelessness emphasize the impossibility of enduring the status quo. At the same time, renewed feelings of hope are crucial for imagining alternative realities: new narratives of hope posit that different futures are possible. In this sense, hope is closely related to the idea of utopia: both in its conventional sense as an unreal or lofty ideal that can in practice betray the good intentions of its proponents (as was arguably the case after the Arab Spring); as well as in the sense of movement towards something that is not yet realized, but which exists as a possibility and is thus not opposed to reality (as in the work of Ernst Bloch). This panel will use ethnography to examine feelings, perceptions and narratives of hopelessness, as well as cases in which new circumstances, organizations or approaches have encouraged renewed feelings of hope. Questions to be explored may include the following: Do narratives of hope promote utopian thinking? Can narratives of hopelessness be used to promote social change? Does a hopeful attitude promote passivity, or can it facilitate action (cf. Crapanzano 2003)? Are old categories of thought preventing the emergence of hope, having themselves become an 'apparatus of hopelessness' (much as Graeber  argues that the association of market and capitalism forecloses the possibility of imagining viable alternatives)?