Workshop - Crisis and Possibility, Duke University Department of Cultural Anthropology, 25 and 26 March 2016, USA


January 20, 2016


Event Date:

March 25, 2016 - March 26, 2016

Opportunity Cover Image - Workshop - Crisis and Possibility, Duke University Department of Cultural Anthropology, 25 and 26 March 2016, USA

Workshop - Crisis and Possibility, Duke University Department of Cultural Anthropology

Crisis is increasingly articulated as either a globalizing thread of shared consciousness (Masco 2015), or a constructed object of analysis that lacks theoretical specificity (Roitman 2013). Still, from certain perspectives, the contemporary moment does seem to be increasingly conditioned by unsustainable economic, ecological, and political processes that are infused with violence on many registers. Many social theorists have deployed concepts such as “necropolitics,” “precarity,” and “crisis” to capture the stifling aspects of contexts that appear to be determined by a sense of uncertainty, decay, and ruination. At the same time, others are announcing the reemergence of collective dreamworlds, hope, and utopian ambitions from places that, until very recently, were presented as classic examples of economic, ecological, and political crises. Eschatology, the Anthropocene, and impossible situations inhabit a global space-time that is also labeled the ascendant “African,” “Asian,” and “Southern” century. Is it possible to account for the coeval feeling of pending global ecological and economic disaster, and the emergence of unbridled optimism, retro-futurism, and new discussions of the “good life” in a single discussion? What methodologies may we explore to think through the temporalities of crisis, the conditions from which crises emerge as well as the practices that orient ruined worlds towards aspirational futures?

In this workshop we invite graduate students and scholars whose work attend to lived experiences of futurity, ruination, crisis, and possibility from a variety of angles. How may attention to these themes reshape what it means to live and persist within precarious and exhaustive conditions on the one hand, and hope and the aspiration towards a better future on the other? What is the source of new utopian projects that emerge within, from, or in spite of failed futures, and are these futures also in ruins? How may we bring crisis and possibility into a shared discussion or a shared framework?
As a workshop rather than a classic conference, we are not seeking fully complete projects, but working papers that help to cultivate and inform a shared discussion on futures and ruins from a variety of perspectives. By approaching questions of ruination or futurity (or both), we hope these papers will generate conversations that engages both crisis and possibility, and how such a dialogue can produce methodologies or theories that can better come to terms with the contemporary moment.

To facilitate these questions, the workshop is divided into four thematic working groups:

1) Mediation (the objects and discourses that signify or mediate destruction; mass affect and mass gossip surrounding states of emergency; representations of crisis and suffering; the semiotics and symbolism of ruination).
2) Violence (the everyday realities of crisis; living in ruined futures and the possibilities afforded by, and through, violence; ruptures and breaks that end time and/or give way to new beginnings).
3) Imagination (fantasies configured or prohibited by crisis; futurity and utopianism; collective dreamworlds as well as political imaginations past or present; conceptions of ruined and future space-times).
4) Materiality (the production and planning of concrete futures; lived and contested built environments; the ruins of failed utopias; new projects to materialize the future).
We are seeking advanced graduate students, junior scholars, and interested faculty whose research grapples with these thematic issues; though we hope to attract scholars approaching these issues from diverse frameworks and theoretical subfields.

To be considered for participation, please submit:

- A brief description (less than 500 words) of your current research.
- Your first and second choice of the above working groups.
- A copy of your CV.
E-mail these documents to by January 20th, 2016. We will notify applicants on or before February 5th. Please feel free to add any questions or ideas that exceed our provocations. Limited travel funds are available. Please include any requests for financial support in your proposal submission.
We will connect the thematic subgroups prior to February 15th, at which point we will ask that you share a short piece of writing with your colleagues. In order to accommodate everyone’s busy schedules we ask that you circulate all pieces of writing on or before Monday, March 7th.

Eligible Countries
Host Country
Event Type
Publish Date
January 13, 2016
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