Oslo Summer School in Comparative Social Science Studies 2014

Comparative and Global Social Futures

Lecturer: Professor Akhil Gupta,
Department of Anthropology,
University of California, Los Angeles, USA

Main disciplines: Anthropology, Sociology

Dates: 21 - 25 July 2014
Course Credits: 10 pts (ECTS)
Limitation: 25 participants

 

Objectives
There is a growing interest in the future in many fields of scholarly activity across disciplines. The future is, of course, implicated in the present. The present is shaped perhaps as much by the future as by the past. Yet, compared to the past, we do not have many good ways of thinking about the role of the future in the constitution of the contemporary world.

In the humanities and social sciences, there has been an explosion of interest in what Raymond Williams called “the emergent.” Theorists such as Deleuze and Massumi have emphasized that all human action is open-ended, open to the future, so that possibilities of change are inherently part of the present. The future is in this sense immanent in the present. The second way in which the future configures the present is through historical narratives. Whether one thinks of the life of an individual, a nation-state, or a civilization, historical narratives shape the experience of the present. For example, teleological historical narratives orient both the interpretation of the present and one’s orientation to it. Finally, the future of the self is always emplotted in the biographical. For example, people often decide on what to do in the present by asking themselves: “If I do this today, will it help me in the future?” The future arc of one’s life, therefore, the anticipation of what will be, shapes the present in many important ways.

In the sciences, the future has become important because of long-term changes to biological and atmospheric life on the planet in the anthropocene. The sciences have to deal with changes barely visible today, but which threaten to bring catastrophic changes in the long-term future of the planet. Global warming, the thinning of the ozone layer, the rise of oceans, the spread of new disease vectors, the problems of alternative sources of energy, and the mapping of the genome, for example, all make the future a source of great ferment in the scientific and medical fields. The future is important as never before in these disciplines, and implicit in scientific practices are views and thoughts about the future that are critical to life on earth, and to human beings and societies today.

 

Essential Books

  • Benedict Anderson. 2006. Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism, Revised Edition. London: Verso. (ISBN-13: 978-1844670864).
  • Arjun Appadurai. 2013. The Future as Cultural Fact: Essays on the Global Condition. London: Verso. (ISBN-13: 978-1844679829).
  • Eileen Boris and Rhacel Salazar Parreñas. 2010. Intimate Labors: Cultures, Technologies and the Politics of Care. Stanford: Stanford University Press. (ISBN-13: 978-0804761932).
  • Reinhard Kosseleck. 2004. Futures Past: On the Semantics of Historical Time. New York: Columbia Univ. Press. (ISBN-13: 978-0231127714).
  • Timothy Mitchell. 2013. Carbon Democracy: Political Power in the Age of Oil. New York: Verso. (ISBN-13: 978-1781681169).
  • Walt W. Rostow 1991. The Stages of Economic Growth: A Non-Communist Manifesto. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press. (ISBN-13: 978-0521409285).
  • Jeffrey D. Sachs. 2005. The End of Poverty: Economic Possibilities For Our Time. New York: Penguin Press. (ISBN-13: 9780143036586).

 

COURSE OUTLINE

Monday, 21 July 2014

Lectures 1 & 2: Introduction to Comparative and Global Social Futures
In these lectures, we will examine futures by thinking about how a sociology or anthropology of the future differs from historical sociology or anthropology or the history of the present. Why has the future been relatively neglected in sociological thought as compared to the past? How does the future configure the present, and how does it configure our view of history itself? Are the futures of the world more discrepant by social and geographical location now than before?

Readings:

  • Reinhard Kosseleck. 2004. Futures Past: On the Semantics of Historical Time. New York: Columbia Univ. Press. (ISBN-13: 978-0231127714).
  • Arjun Appadurai. 2013. The Future as Cultural Fact: Essays on the Global Condition. London: Verso. (ISBN-13: 978-1844679829).


Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Lectures 3 & 4: The Future in the Time of Development
Development discourse continues to be very important in the contemporary world, and the institutional centrality of modernization theory is not in doubt. The future has always been central to the practice of development. We will examine what kind of future is embedded/encoded in development, and why? A re-reading of Rostow indicates a profound ambivalence towards the object of development, as well as a crisis created by the typology itself.

Readings:

  • Walt W. Rostow. 1991. The Stages of Economic Growth: A Non-Communist Manifesto. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press. (ISBN-13: 978-0521409285).
  • Jeffrey D. Sachs. 2005. The End of Poverty: Economic Possibilities For Our Time. New York: Penguin Press. (ISBN-13: 9780143036586).

Optional Reading:

  • Johannes Fabian. 2002. Time and the Other: How Anthropology Makes Its Object. New York: Columbia Univ. Press. (ISBN-13: 978-0231125772).


Wednesday, 23 July  2014

Lectures 5 & 6: National and Global Futures
“The future” is often conceived of as a “national future,” yet the system of nation-states is relatively new and superficial for most people in the world. What kinds of futures do nation-states embody? What can the discrepant futures of nationalism tell us about global and comparative futures?

Readings:

  • Benedict Anderson. 2006. Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism, Revised Edition. London: Verso. (ISBN-13: 978-1844670864).
  • Akhil Gupta. 1997. “The Song of the Nonaligned World: Transnational Identities and the Reinscription of Space in Late Capitalism,” in Akhil Gupta and James Ferguson eds. Culture, Power, Place: Explorations in Critical Anthropology. Durham: Duke University Press, pp. 179-199.


Thursday, 24 July 2014

Lectures 7 & 8: The Future of Labor
As unemployment for young people in the global North becomes a pressing problem, the future of work is being keenly debated. What does the move to a service economy signify? How does labor in the service sector work differ from manufacturing labor? Is the future of labor different in the developing world than in the Global North?

Readings:

  • Boris, Eileen and Rhacel Salazar Parreñas. 2010. Intimate Labors: Cultures, Technologies and the Politics of Care. Stanford: Stanford University Press. (ISBN-13: 978-0804761932).
  • Michael Hardt. 1999. “Affective Labor,” Boundary 2, 26(2): 89-100.
  • E.P. Thompson. 1967. “Time, Work-Discipline, and Industrial Capitalism,” Past and Present, 38(1): 56-97.


Friday, 25 July 2014

Lectures 9 & 10: Energy and Environmental Futures
Human history is being redefined with reference to the future. “The Anthropocene” is a category whose existence owes to its future effects on the climate. In the final segment of the course, we will examine the rise of carbon democracy and its toxic effects. The big question facing political systems organized along the lines of nation-states is how they will be able to integrate and internalize the unintended consequences of carbon democracy on climate change.

Readings:

  • Timothy Mitchell. 2013. Carbon Democracy: Political Power in the Age of Oil. New York: Verso. (ISBN-13: 978-1781681169).
  • Dipesh Chakrabarty. 2009. “The Climate of History: Four Theses,” Critical Inquiry 35(2): 197-222.
  • Nathan Sayre. 2012. “The Politics of the Anthropogenic,” Annual Review of Anthropology 2012 41: 57–70

 

The lecturer
Akhil Gupta is Professor of Anthropology and Director of the Center for India and South Asia (CISA) at UCLA. He obtained his undergraduate degree in Mechanical Engineering from Western Michigan University, his Master's in Mechanical Engineering from MIT, and his Ph.D. in Engineering-Economic Systems at Stanford University. He has taught previously at the University of Washington, Seattle (1987-89), and at Stanford University (1989-2006).

He is the author of Postcolonial Developments: Agriculture in the Making of Modern India (Duke Univ. Press, 1998), and editor of  Culture, Power, Place (with James Ferguson; Duke Univ. Press, 1997), Anthropological Locations (with James Ferguson; Univ. of California Press, 1997),  Caste and Outcast  (Stanford Univ. Press, 2002), The Anthropology of the State (with Aradhana Sharma; Blackwell, 2006), and The State in India After Liberalization  (with K. Sivaramakrishnan; Routledge, 2010).

His most recent book, Red Tape: Bureaucracy, Structural Violence, and Poverty in India (2012), published by Orient BlackSwan and Duke University Press, won the Ananda Kentish Coomaraswamy Book Prize from the Association for Asian Studies (AAS). Professor Gupta is currently doing a long-term field project on call centers in Bangalore. His areas of interest are: ethnography of information technology, the state and development, anthropology of food, environmental anthropology, animality, space and place, history of anthropology, applied anthropology; India and South Asia.

 

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Tags: Anthropology, Globalization, Summer School, PhD, Social Anthropology, Globalisation
Published Nov. 28, 2013 11:14 AM - Last modified June 11, 2015 12:53 PM