On Anticipatory Accounts

Adjudicating Moral Being and Becoming in the Los Angeles Mental Health Court

in The Cambridge Journal of Anthropology

Engaging an account of a judicial decision made in the Los Angeles Mental Health Court, this article interrogates the role of anticipation in the lived negotiation of moral, social and institutional orders. As Judge Samuel Benton recounts his attempt to let himself ‘emotionally off the hook’ in the wake of a patient’s suicide, anticipation emerges as: 1) an ordered, linear sequencing of events towards logical ends; 2) unsettled, temporally disjunctive engagements with the past in order to make sense of present experience and ambiguous futures; 3) existential negotiations of one’s potential morality and social belonging; and 4) distributed organization of information between people and across objects in order to elaborate present and future experience. These manifestations of anticipation reveal the social and temporal contingency and deep intersubjectivity of our negotiations with uncertainty in the unsettling process of becoming moral.

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