Near future as cultural construct

Anticipation can be described as the cognitive process of projecting information available in the present into the near future to orient choices and action. This is a standard strategic approach to survival, but the specific ways in which anticipation takes place can only be linked to individual or collective representations that are culturally shaped. It has been argued that under the condition of ‘intense globalization’ the relevance of anticipatory practices is increasing on the ground that the standardized options suggested by tradition do not fit with the changing reality. Situations of fundamental social change are not exclusive of our time. Classic anthropological studies on millenarianism and prophecy have shown that in situation of social stress the future may replace the past as matrix of new values and beliefs. However, as recalled in 1992 by Nancy Munn, anthropologists have mainly focused on ‘long-term historical-mythic time’, or on the far or transcendental future. Only recently we see a growing attention to the near future. Jane Guyer has focused on change in the conception of the near time in the fields of neoclassic economics and biblical traditions. In The Future as cultural fact ArjunAppadurai addresses the different manifestations of anticipation. Building on Weber’s approach, he qualifies them with reference to two juxtaposed ethical domains. The ethics of probability are grounded in mathematical and scientific models, and are linked to monetary financial management and speculation on risk. The ethics of possibilities are instead the outcome of collective action, having imagination and aspiration as complementary aspects to anticipation in forging the future and giving hope to the marginalized groups.

This session is organized within the conference on Anticipation to explore the cultural dimension of anticipation. We welcome both reconsideration of classic studies in light of recent theory of anticipation, and analysis of current settings based on new research and field-experiences.

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