Imagining Transformations: Hope as Resistance, Resilience, and Adaptation

Hope, the ability to imagine a better future, is necessary for every social transformation. Hope is thus a central and a vital tool for communities and individuals navigating realities of gender inequality, ongoing/ post ethno-national conflicts, structural, prolonged racism, and their intersections.

As a political mechanism, hope is a subversive act that undermines the existing and calls for an alternative reality (a vision) and its application. As a practice it relies on translations of and revisiting existing knowledge and sparks of disappointed past hopes from various—geographic, cultural, social—locations. In addition to a constant move between past-present-future, its application often is often characterized by innovation and creativity.

While discussing hope as a human impulse to design an alternative, better reality brings a sense of inspiration and joy, it is actually a dangerous political act, as resisting the existing reality means negating the existing hegemonic order, the structures of power and the agents that shape it.

Beyond the oppression potential embodied with resisting the social reality, the social structure shape the hope impulse as a privilege kept for individuals free from everyday existential survival struggles, with an access to knowledge that allows to imagine alternative realities, the ability to strategically organize around a particular cause, to the few who can imagine themselves as worthy of a better lived reality.

As anthropologists working in diverse locations and social situations we are well located to bring together the geographic, cultural and social diverse knowledge regarding imagining transformation, challenging social structures, and disappointed sparks of hope. By doing that we can truly help understand change and the many forces that have impeded and encouraged it through time and across space. Such endeavor will help to promote a better future for all of us.

We are also trained to witness and speak to individuals’ diverse level-access to the practice of imagining a better future, we can better address the question who resist and in which conditions resistance is possible?  Can individuals raised in oppressive environments imagine alternative futures? How do they teach themselves—and others—that they are worthy of a better present? How do they secure support and resources for such struggles? And how do they do so while maintaining personal safety? Further, we can ask: in which conditions resilience and adaptation are actually forms of resistance.

Keeping in mind that in hope can and will be disappointed, this panel examines hope not as a noun, to be possessed or given to another, but as a verb, something to be exercised and practiced. Potential papers can address research projects concerning transformative ideologies such as human rights and gift economy, and / or address questions such as: What role does hope play in one’s research, activism, and lived experiences? How is hope experienced, expressed, and practiced by individuals from diverse social locations? How can we maximize the expressions and practice of hope in ours and others’ lives?

If interested, please submit a 250 words abstract to Tal Nitsan ( by Sat, March 31st (with acceptance notice by April 3rd).