Finding the Future: Future as Analytic, Device, Object in Ethnography

Organizers: Jessica Bray, Rice University, and Katie Ulrich, Rice University,
Invited discussant: Stuart McLean


In the midst of political and ecological upheavals, some people turn to the future to quell their fears and anxieties. Finding the future provides frames of reference for guidance and insight out of their current reality. For others, the future, or a particular future, can be mobilized to maintain or produce certain presents. While the future will not yield a permanent or stable state, imagining futures contributes to the dynamic possibilities of times now and times yet to come. We ask, how is the future imagined in your ethnographic field sites and what is the role of the future there? We invite abstracts for papers that ethnographically explore the future as analytic, the future as object, the future as speculative device, or any other mode of engagement that has been helpful for anthropological thinking. This may include, but is not limited to, work on: biological or chemical futures, surveilled futures, molecular futures, technological futures, multispecies futures, Anthropocene futures, energetic futures, dying futures, anti-futures, spatial futures, futures of various scales, rendered futures, predicted futures, queer futures, represented futures, risky futures, and predetermined or preordained futures. Intentionally broad in scope, we hope this panel will bring together papers from a wide range of topics that can still speak to each other analytically and theoretically, and, through the shared holdfast of futures, be generative of surprising and productive connections and lines of thought.

To be considered for this panel, please send your title and abstract (250 words) to and by March 31st.