Oral Presentation Session
Reviewed by: American Ethnological Society
Primary Theme: Persistence
Secondary Theme: Technology
Totalizing framings of “epoch,” “times,” and “era” perdure as orienting tropes for anthropology even amidst concordant focal work on becomings, the unfinished, fragments, remnants, ruptures, contingencies, and partialities. Modernity at Large, the Anthropocene, Millennial Capitalism, and Global Warming thematically structure situated fieldwork about loomings and lingerings, divergences and discordance after the so-called “end of history.” Future-oriented projects, from infrastructural developments to medical treatments, from community mobilizations to laboratory experiments, enroll propulsive imaginaries about what is to come against historical situations, investments, and durabilities that shape imaginations in specific ways. Anthropologists have long stressed how the choices that are made at the level of ritual and everyday practice, diet and care of the self, transportation and trade, the production and dissemination of knowledge, of “culture” itself, create debts in the form of tradition, customs, and infrastructure. These debts come in various forms: in the maintenance of traditions, in attachments to categories of identity and belonging, of material commitments to places, projects, and epistemologies. The combined forces of social obligations, cultural expectations, and determinative materialisms would suggest that breaking from the trajectories set by preceding generations (and ruptures in relations to epochs, times, eras) are impossible, or at least very difficult to alter, deviate, or break from the emboldened and structured futures made in the past. Yet, ruptures from these intergenerational debts can occur, rendering new and different temporalities, unraveled ties, strange and queer kinships. Individuals and communities engineer radical breaks from the sociocultural infrastructures or normativities they are indebted to through ruptures, fast and slow, with the consequences of these breaks confronted by emergent and residual worldings, social groupings, and networks, including nationalisms, solidarities, communities of practice, and imagined communities. Drawing on a set of papers that force attention to the unsettling and unsettled processes of historical change — from the microbial to the interpersonal, from the corporation to the nation – this panel seeks to articulate ways to conceptualize how the future contaminates the past, and how, vitally, the past echoes in the future through regret, loss, alternative histories, and damning legacies.