In this article, I explore anticipation as a site of moral experience and moral willing when death may be nearby. Through an examination of the narratives of the wife of a hospice patient in St. Croix, US Virgin Islands, I show that her commitment to not anticipate the course of her husband’s illness is a moral project pitted against biomedical modes of prognostication. In a context in which hospice care is the only option available for many older adults in poor health, I discuss the incommensurability between this position and the anticipatory horizon on which hospice care is predicated: the patient’s imminent death. I argue for an approach to this woman’s experience that takes into account the tendency for temporal orientations to be thrown into flux when death might be nearby, without reducing her commitment to not anticipate to mere avoidance or ‘denial’.
(Not) Anticipating as Moral Project
Experiencing Anticipation. Anthropological Perspectives
Christopher Stephan and Devin Flaherty
Despite contemporary anthropology’s growing interest in ‘futures’, there has been an absence of sustained dialogue concerning the vital role of anticipation in everyday life. Seeking to bring much needed attention to the first-person perspective on futurity, in this introduction to the special issue we situate anticipation within the temporality of lived experience. Drawing on premises from anthropological studies of experience (particularly phenomenological approaches), we frame the experiential approach to anticipation by highlighting the parameters of its cross-cultural and intercontextual variability. We argue that anticipatory experience provides a crucial locus for ethnographic inquiry into the disparate and polysemous manifestations of futures in everyday life. We then seek to demonstrate how anticipation thus conceived may be productively integrated with numerous ongoing themes within contemporary anthropological scholarship. Finally, we introduce the individual contributions to the issue.