Prof. Michelle Choi
Thurs. 3:00 PM - 5:00 PM
Humans have long been fascinated with anticipating, speculating, preparing, and waiting for the unknown future. ‘The future’ has a pervasive presence in our lives, when we forecast the local weather, plan the national economy, promise in legal contracts, imagine in science fictions, aspire in political movements, trade in futures markets, and much more. More than ever, the future is both an excitement and anxiety-inducing topic of interest to scholars and experts in domains ranging from public health, national security, urban design, to environmental science. What can anthropology offer to this increasing fascination with the future? In this undergraduate-level seminar course, we explore how the uncertain future is being engaged with in various corners of the world through the lens of ethnography. The course first begins with a theoretical and methodological grounding for an anthropological study of the future. We then move on to the latest anthropological scholarship on the future, in fields ranging from the economy, media, health, to the environment. This seminar engages students in questions such as: How is the past informing our engagements with the future? What do our future anticipations reveal about social problems and concerns facing us in the present? Do these imagined futures reflect differences in race, class, gender and/or generation? How do politics, ethics and affects come together to make a particular future matter (or not matter)? How is the privileging of some futures over others affect how present day resources are used? This course will offer students an ethnographically grounded understanding of contemporary changes and developments (e.g. surveillance capitalism, platform labor, digital activism, and climate change) that are re-configuring our collective futures and sharpen students’ critical understanding of future-oriented thinking and action in the contemporary world.