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.
Experiencing Anticipation. Anthropological Perspectives
Christopher Stephan and Devin Flaherty
Mood, Intuition and Imagination in Architectural Practice
In this article, I argue that anticipation unfolds within a range of experiential modalities. Because moods and emotions, intuitions and imagination, among other forms of experience, can all appear as disclosing something about the future, anticipation is heterogeneous. Building on work in phenomenological anthropology and philosophy, I offer a generative phenomenology of the range of anticipatory experience, arguing that some forms of experience are relatively more implicit while others may prove more salient and offer more explicable forms of anticipation. As anticipation emerges in time, the more implicit experiential modes such as mood and intuition operate as antecedents to more explicit ones such as imagination. Turning to apply these ideas to ethnographic materials from my fieldwork among architectural design teams in San Francisco, I demonstrate how attentiveness to this gradient of anticipatory experience allows us to account for anticipatory experiences as they unfold through time.
Waria, Anticipation and Existential Endings in Bali, Indonesia
Coming face to face with the inevitable finitude of our existence has a way of clarifying what really matters to us. Such occasions of existential breakdown demand that we actively appropriate our lives and purposely decide how to project ourselves towards the future while drawing on the possibilities available to us. But what if these possibilities offer little for constructing a future we deem desirable? In this article I take a Heideggerian approach to anticipation in order to analyse waria’s (Indonesian transgender women) often-stated intention to ‘become normal again’, while seemingly never doing so. Here, then, anticipation is less about an orientation towards specific objectives and more about a response to existential demands, while keeping at bay undesirable futures. Waria’s anticipation of a future normal does not suggest an appeal of the normal but, rather, indicates a paucity of available possibilities to draw on in order to orient oneself differently.
Subjects of Luck—Contingency, Morality, and the Anticipation of Everyday Life
Giovanni da Col and Caroline Humphrey
This introduction illustrates the modalities in which different societies imagine the tension between the impersonal and individual- ized aspects of fortune and fate. After briefly discussing the role of contingency, fortune, and gambling in the formation of subjectivities, we outline how different societies confront the moral conundrums arising from fortune's unequal distribution in the world. We highlight how luck orientations presentify the future by the deployment of what we name 'technologies of anticipation'. Luck and fortune can be seen as conceptual techniques for short-circuiting temporal subjectivities by creating a crack in time-a space of 'compossibility'-where events deemed to be fatal and inevitable become negotiable. We conclude with a reflection on dice, randomness, and acts of gambling in which not merely subjectivities but the fate or fortune of larger social aggrega- tions-including the cosmos-is deemed at stake.
Beyond Reciprocity and Obligation in the Ger Districts of Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia
In the outskirts of Ulaanbaatar, known as ger districts, a growing number of rural-to-urban migrants live without access to formal urban infrastructure or regular incomes. Under these challenging material conditions, personal networks take precedence, providing and regulating access to employment and meat provisioning. Looking beyond discussions of anticipation among migrants focusing on the goals of migration, I interrogate the role of anticipation in the making and maintaining of relational networks. Existing analyses of such networks in Mongolia have generally relied on idioms of reciprocity or obligation. Focusing instead on material transfers and transactions among ger district residents reveals such networks to be more ambiguous and prone to failure than notions of reciprocity or obligation can easily accommodate. This article argues that the productive contradiction within the concept of anticipation – encompassing both expectative waiting and pre-emptive action – can illuminate new aspects of these relations and networks in action.
Anticipation and Episodic Time
Waiting is one obvious form of anticipation. This article considers waiting for death. Drea, a mother whose five-year-old daughter was diagnosed with a virulent form of brain cancer, experiences a shifting anticipatory terrain as death looms large. Calling upon phenomenology, I ask two primary kinds of questions that connect time, narrative and relationality in considering Drea’s experience of waiting. First, I ask what Drea is waiting for and what kind of time horizon this waiting opens up. My second question is less obvious for an article on anticipatory time: who does she wait with? To put this phenomenologically: how might we consider ‘waiting with’ as a form of experience? I bring to bear phenomenological considerations of narrative time, drawing especially on Carr, as well as Nancy’s phenomenology of relationality.
Patrick Colm Hogan
Our emotional responses are determined not only by actual experience, but also by anticipation. Indeed, we respond not only to anticipations per se, but to the relation between anticipations and experiences. Such anticipations operate on different time scales, linked with distinct neurological substrates. Some—such as those involving expectations about the immediate trajectory of objects—are very brief. The relations between experience and very short-term expectations can have significant emotional consequences. One purpose of the standard continuity editing system is to avoid disruptions in our short-term projections. However, the manipulation of discontinuities, thus the controlled disruption of short-term anticipations, can significantly contribute to the emotional impact of film. It is possible to isolate distinct varieties of anticipation and disruption, examining their emotional consequences in different cases. Muzaffar Ali's Umrao Jaan provides a virtual catalogue of such disruptions and their emotional effects.
Living Species and the Latency of Biological and Environmental Threats
Discourses and practices of anticipation occupy a hypertrophic space in contexts where uncontrolled industrial growth has inflicted grave damage on peoples and territories, even triggering environmental disasters. This article explores the use of nonhuman species as anticipatory devices in a petrochemical terminal in Sicily, focusing on public representations of three species: scavenger bacteria that play a cleansing role and underline citizens’ moral responsibility to secure their best possible futures through bioscience; migrating flamingos that breed under the petrochemical chimneys, raising the possibility of hopefulness by highlighting ecosystem resilience; and fish affected by spina bifida, which reveal human health status in advance, communicating the need to live in preparation for potential diseases. The analysis reveals the highly contentious character of these anticipatory devices and the contested ideas about possible futures they imply, thus shedding light on the ecological frictions that have repercussions locally and globally, in discourse and social practice.
On Soldierly Becomings in the Desert of the Real
Thomas Randrup Pedersen
What if war is not hell? What if war is not entertainment? What if war is, instead, the stuff dreams are made of? What is one then to anticipate of one’s tour of duty in a war zone? In this article, I interrogate anticipations in relation to soldierly becomings through deployment to Afghanistan. Based on ethnographic fieldwork with Danish combat troops, I explore the uneasy coexistence of two anticipatory plotlines: ‘the passion’ and ‘the desert’. The former depicts the tour of duty as a heroic adventure driven by desire for real combat, while the latter casts deployment as an anti-heroic misadventure imposed by the dull reality in theatre. I argue that anticipation can harbour ambivalent, even antagonistic, yet simultaneous expectations of what might come. I show that anticipation is further blurred, as our anticipatory horizons are tied not only to our unsettled plotlines of becoming but also to our being’s existential imperative.
(Not) Anticipating as Moral Project
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’.