Relating to the future implies a projection into the unknown and trying to craft the future by aspiring and anticipating other or new times. Fantasies, desires, wishes and dreams have attracted the creative power of literature – as a capacity to aspire – from the first utopia to the science fiction of our days. At the same time, dystopian visions, expressed in warnings and threats, are the reverse side of the coin. They may have a teleological tendency, as in distinct and often religious versions of destiny and providence, or reproduce the idea of the openness of times to come, as in the belief in boundless progress and growth. In politics, artificial shrinking and expanding the horizons of expectation (‘war will break out tomorrow’; ‘climatic change is already here’; ‘economic growth/equality will never come’) allow play with temporalities of the future to enhance or deny the urgency of collective matters to be regulated for future wellbeing or peace.
How could, and how did projections of the future include culturally and socially heterogeneous populations? What visions failed to spread through larger parts of populations, or for longer periods, and why?
Throughout Latin America, family romances of the 19th century, presented as ‘foundational fictions’, became models for the aspiration of national futures. But literary ideologies also generated regional Latin American projections like arielismo. Christened in José Enrique Rodó’s essay Ariel, dedicated ‘to the youth of America’, this trend purposely provided instructions on how to build a (better) Iberian culture in Latin America in opposition to US materialism and became highly influential in cultural production and anti-imperialist movements. The manifold avant-garde movements all over the continent sought at the same time their own cultural identity and a place of enunciation in a universal modern culture of the future, such as Guatemalan poet Luis Cardoza y Aragón posits in his poem ‘Luna Park. Poema instantánea del siglo XX’ in 1924: ‘Whoever is not in the Future, doesn’t exist. The Future started yesterday’. Jorge Luis Borges, likewise, opened the perspectives on the revision of literary canons and on integrative concepts of world literature. The ‘boom’ authors who participated in the revolutionary activism of the 1960s believed they could change the world with complex literary aesthetics, using a sophisticated overlapping of temporalities, as García Márquez’s Cien años de soledad perfectly demonstrates.
Projections and expectations also arise as the result of the conflict of anticipative temporalities. For economic and social actors, these are theorized as an oscillation between risk and uncertainty. In the former case, the future is envisaged as a closed horizon, where all possible events are known and thus calculable, based on rational expectations. In the latter case, the times to come are envisioned as an open space, where nothing has been written. Competing temporalities of the future are produced by the simultaneous projection of dependence, growth, and sustainability in Latin America.
Today, globalisation is anticipated in Latin America as an external threat, resulting in preventive measures. Parting with the crisis of the modern distinctions between nature and culture enables a better understanding of today’s anticipation of the future and a revision of past futurity.