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Crafting Future Selves

Time-Tricking and the Limits of Temporal Play in Children’s Online Film-Making

Espen Helgesen

Children in Norway increasingly spend time online, where they play games, create and share videos and hang out with friends. Drawing on fieldwork among immigrant families in Norway, this article investigates the use of avatars to facilitate temporal play in children’s online film-making. By creating animated films starring their own and their friends’ avatars, children playfully engage with a wide range of imagined future selves. Avatars constitute on-screen extensions of selves, allowing inhabitants of online environments to explore and experiment with otherwise inaccessible viewpoints and perspectives. Addressing the limits of time-tricking in children’s temporal play, the article shows how offline conventions shape what avatars can do.

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Spirit of the Future

Movement, Kinetic Distribution, and Personhood among Siberian Eveny

Olga Ulturgasheva

This article discusses the concept of djuluchen (a spirit that travels ahead) among Siberian Eveny, which can illuminate the human potential to foreshadow one’s own future. Looking closely at case studies of Eveny adolescents reveals that the act of planning, narrating, or envisioning a future event, heavily charged and empowered by djuluchen, moves the event to its fulfillment. Drawing from the Deleuzian notion of ‘becoming’, the article shows the connection between prediction and fulfillment involved in the Eveny conceptualization of personhood and destiny. The discussion of ‘kinetic distribution’ and illocutionary acts uncovers the principle of detachability and the partibility of personhood in nomadic ontology.

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A World in the Making

Discovering the Future in the Hispanic World

Javier Fernández-Sebastián

Th is article provides an outline of the crystallization of the concept of future in the Iberian worlds in a period extending from the end of the eighteenth century until the second half of the nineteenth century. By tracking and analyzing the vocabularies referring to the three dimensions of time—past, present, and future—in a broad corpus of documentary sources (books, journals, memoirs, pamphlets, parliamentary minutes, and so on), and particularly in the debates and speculation with regard to el porvenir, the article shows that, not only in Spain and Portugal, but in much of Spanish- and Portuguese- speaking America, the profound impact of progressive philosophies of history on political and social discourse resulted in a clear politicization of time, parallel to the temporalization of political concepts.

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Differences in temporal reasoning

Temporal complexity and generational clashes in an East German city

Felix Ringel

Hoyerswerda, Germany's fastest-shrinking city, faces problems with the future that seem initially unrelated to the past and yet excite manifold conflicting accounts of it. The multiple and conflicting temporal references employed by Hoyerswerdians indicate that the temporal regime of postsocialism is accompanied, if not overcome, by the temporal framework of shrinkage. By reintroducing the analytical domain of the future, I show that local temporal knowledge practices are not historically predetermined by a homogenous postsocialist culture or by particular generational experiences. Rather, they exhibit what I call temporal complexity and temporal flexibility-creative uses of a variety of coexisting temporal references. My ethnographic material illustrates how such expressions of different forms of temporal reasoning structure social relations within and between different generations. Corresponding social groups are not simply divided by age, but are united through shared and heavily disputed negotiations of the post-Cold War era's contemporary crisis.

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John Keane

In this critical commentary, John Keane defends, extends, and reasserts the role of history in democratic theory through an articulation of seven methodological rules: (1) treat the remembrance of things past as vital for democracy’s present and future; (2) regard the languages, characters, events, institutions, and effects of democracy as a thoroughly historical way of life and handling of power; (3) pay close attention to the ways in which the narration of the past by historians, leaders, and others is unavoidably a time-bound, historical act; (4) see that the methods that are most suited to writing about the past, present, and future of democracy draw attention to the peculiarity of their own rules of interpretation; (5) acknowledge that, until quite recently, most details of the history of democracy have been recorded by its critics; (6) note that the negative tone of most previous histories of democracy confirms the rule that tales of its past told by historians often harbor the prejudices of the powerful; and (7) admit that the task of thinking about the past, present, and future of democracy is by definition an unending journey. There can be no Grand Theory of Democracy.

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Emptiness and its futures

Staying and leaving as tactics of life in Latvia

Dace Dzenovska

In the past 25 years, rural Latvia has become notably emptier. This emptying is the result of post-Soviet deindustrialization and large-scale outmigration, enabled by EU accession and exacerbated by the 2008 financial crisis. It is accompanied by lack of political protest, leading many to conclude that migration hinders political mobilization. Such conclusions derive from viewing leaving and staying as actions in relation to the state. Instead, leaving and staying should be viewed in relation to transnational forms of power. The people leaving the deindustrialized Latvian countryside to work in the English countryside are seeking futures past, namely, futures of stable employment and incremental prosperity. Those who stay in the emptying Latvian countryside create the future as a little bit more of the present.

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Keith Hart

This note revisits Weber (especially his General Economic History) and Knight on risk and calculation, while adding commentary based on some other authors, notably Durkheim in The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life. Some recent ethnographies of finance are considered, as well as popular literature on making money. The future is unknowable, but modern societies train their members to expect to pin down future time. Precise calculation of future outcomes is a chimera, one of the principal causes of the recent financial collapse. Reasoning works best backwards as rationalization and this is scientific method. Extrapolation from the past to the future is where it all breaks down.

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Can Time Be Tricked?

A Theoretical Introduction

Felix Ringel

This theoretical introduction develops a conceptual argument stemming from the concept of ‘time-tricking’. Whilst most theories of time in anthropology develop a coherent definition of the nature of time – for instance, as ‘cyclical’ or ‘linear’ – I draw attention to a seemingly common metaphysical distinction in our temporal ontologies, that between the past and the future. This distinction allows me to do two things: first, I present two different versions of time-tricking, one focusing on references to time and particularly to the past, the other conceptualizing effects on the future; and then, second, I present the future as the main object of temporal agency. By developing the notion of ‘future-tricking’, I point to a specific kind of temporal agency which is based on metaphysical commitments heavily embedded in the present in politics, interests and possibilities.

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Tricking Time, Overthrowing a Regime

Reining in the Future in the Yemeni Youth Revolution

Ross Porter

Based on research at the heart of the 2011 revolution in Yemen, this article explores how a capacity to inhabit the future culminated in a collective act of temporal deception on the part of the revolutionaries. Contrary to the prevalent assumption that the future is something that is worked towards, aspired to, emerging or lying in wait at the end of a distant telos, revolutionary life in Yemen asserts that the future can itself be a way of being, but in the present. Upholding the future involved dramatic acts of selflessness whose value lay not just in where they would lead, but in the acts themselves. This fusion of means and ends, presents and futures, ultimately bred a capacity for endurance that defied the temporal expectations of the regime.

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Living an Uncertain Future

Temporality, Uncertainty, and Well-Being among Iraqi Refugees in Egypt

Nadia El-Shaarawi

While displacement has always involved the refiguring of space, scholars of forced migration have recently begun to consider how temporality might be crucial to an understanding of displacement. In this article, I consider the interplay of temporal and spatial uncertainty in the experience of exile for Iraqi refugees in metropolitan Cairo. By examining how Iraqis understand displacement as uncertain and how this uncertainty is a cause of significant distress, I show that an attunement to temporality can help us to understand refugees' experiences of displacement. Iraqi refugees spoke of exile in Cairo as 'living in transit'—a condition in which disjuncture between their expectations about exile and its realities contributed to an altered experience of time in which the future became particularly uncertain and life was experienced as unstable. One solution sought by refugees is resettlement, a process that often renders the future even more uncertain, at least in the short term.