Anticipating Futures

We live in a time of crisis, at once ecological, political, conceptual, and imaginative. While global technocrats concentrate on limited aspects of the crisis taken in isolation and pursue managerial approaches to mitigate the current state of affairs, politicians disregard the advice of the scientific community  (Folke et. al. 2021) and keep disagreeing on the measures to take (Glasgow Climate Change conference). With the notion of the Anthropocene entering into everyday parlance, our research project tackles the current paralysis by fostering the imaginative and conceptual tools necessary to address the interrelated multiplicity of natural, social, political, and aesthetic aspects characterizing the contemporary crisis.

Our project is defined by a commitment to the futures to come. To anticipate the future is to await and make room for the polymorphous social, political, and ecological life lying ahead of us. By pursuing systemic stability, managerial rationality forcefully reduces the spectrum of anticipation and undermines the valorization of the new. Contrary to common-sense reductionism, we want to embrace the notion of crisis in its productive ambivalence as a window of opportunity for radical change. According to the etymological meaning of the word, “crisis” refers to a choice, a decision. System theory and philosophy also support the idea that crises are singular states entailing a bifurcation of possible outcomes. In this sense, we look at the current crisis not only as a global catastrophe, but also as the possible inception of something radically new.

What distinguishes our research project is a methodology based on dialectical ways of abstraction. We approach this state of total crisis holistically and dialectically, meaning that we consider the subject of our analysis not as a finite, static thing but as developing processes. According to the dialectical method, the main factors that determine change lie within a system. This aspect is also related to identifying the future within the present in the form of positive as well as negative potentialities. Following Bertell Ollman (2003), we consider extension, level of generalization, and vantage point as the key elements of our method of abstraction. “Extension” refers to setting the limits of the phenomena to be analyzed in space and time. “Level of generalization” concerns the analyses of particulars. Its purpose is to identify not only the apparent objective similarities between individual elements (mere generalizations) but to treat the whole to which the particular under analysis belongs. In other words, it is related to identifying the general in the particular – the law that explains the unity in identity or the cell/unit that is constitutive of the whole, the analysis of which reveals the totality of the essential attributes of the whole. Finally, “perspective” (or “vantage point”) refers to the place within the relationship from which to view, think, and piece together the other components of the relationship itself; this refers not only to the subject’s specific standpoint, but also signifies how the particular phenomenon under scrutiny is related to other phenomena and its position within the hierarchy of objective phenomena. Thus, on the one hand it concerns the horizontal relationship between phenomena, while on the other hand it concerns their vertical or hierarchical relationship. Meanwhile, the combination of the aforementioned three elements also functions as a vantage point for analysis and comprehension of  the larger system to which the relationship belongs and is constituent of. Our project thus aims at mobilizing a dialectical imagination that can overcome the limitations of conventional totalizing pictures and localized, symptomatic representations. We seek to explore viable ways to conceptualize, model, and visualize relationality, multi-scale phenomena, and system dynamics. In short, the purpose of our project is to imagine the Anthropocene in its becoming.

Our primary disciplinary affiliations are  philosophy (Siyaves Azeri),  film and media studies (Peter Lešnik), and ecology (Liz Pásztor).  We welcome academic researchers (including artists and moving image makers) who would like to work on the project based on shared principles.