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Opening Celebration of the IRTG 'Temporalities of Future' on July 2, 2019

Opening Celebration of the IRTG 'Temporalities of Future' on July 2, 2019
Image Credit: © Santiago Engelhardt

The IRTG aims to offer a new perspective on the study of temporalities of the future in social and cultural sciences. We seek to contribute to the growing field of research on temporalities of the future by reorienting investigations towards a better understanding of global entanglements and the meaning of cultural heterogeneity, with Latin America serving as the primary example of both aspects. Our focus on the aspirations and anticipations of various actors who produce new temporalities of the future through constant interaction represents a novel approach which adds a much-needed perspective on subaltern and non-Western agency with regard to the future. To encompass the complexity and plurality of Latin American temporalities of the future, the IRTG’s research on  aspirations and anticipations is organised along the following investigative lines: a) protagonists of the future, b) projections made into the future and c) processes that condition thinking about the future. From colonial times through the independence movements up to the crises of the twenty-first century, Latin America’s cultural heterogeneity and global entanglements have continued to inspire new and often competing temporalities of the future.

The IRTG takes an innovative approach to the interdisciplinary study of Latin America by looking at temporalities of the future from the vantage point of diverse social and cultural sciences. Historians, cultural anthropologists, cultural and literary studies experts and educational studies experts cooperate with sociologists, political scientists and economists. The close cooperation of German and Mexican academic institutions fosters joint empirical and theoretical research on an equal footing in an innovative interdisciplinary framework. It allows for a multidirectional investigation of temporalities of the future in colonial, postcolonial and contemporary Latin America.

Assuming that time and temporalities are socially constructed, we employ an actor-centred approach to the everyday-practices of aspirations and anticipations in a region which has been marginalized in the process of Western colonization and modernization. Our focus on practices of ‘doing the future’ offers the advantage of encompassing a broad range of relevant activities, from the actors’ routines when anticipating the future to their strategically based aspirations aimed at shaping the future. This novel approach to the topic ultimately adds a much-needed perspective on subaltern and non-Western agency with regard to the future.

Time is perceived in terms of temporalities in a way that depends on the cultural context. In privileging ‘temporalities’ over the singular ‘temporality’ we stress that no concept of time is ever all-encompassing or universally valid. Rather, different concepts of time and time regimes have always co-existed, sometimes peacefully, but usually as a cause of conflict.

Our IRTG is interested precisely in the clash and entanglement of different temporalities. By examining events and processes that are ‘not yet’ (in distinction to ‘not any more’) perceivable, we shed light on the practices of actors that either explicitly or implicitly aim to come to terms with the future. Insofar as concepts of the future spur people to act, their future-oriented actions can be empirically observed and analysed as aspirations and anticipations.

Consejo Nacional de Ciencia e Technologia
Banner Dahlem Research School