Skip to main content

The Future (my current obssession)

READING ADVISORY: This post is a not-so-random dissertation excerpt in disguise. Mwahahahaha!

In choosing a stance which explains the ethnographic present as a result of an irretrievable past, anthropologists often stand with their backs to the future. Generally speaking, the future is remarkably absent as an explicit object of anthropological research during fieldwork. Often, the future comes later in the literature, in the form of reflections, projections, and recommendations indirectly addressed to policy-makers, development-workers, missionaries, and other similar agents of change making incursions into the anthropologists’ area of study.
Unlike many anthropologists, environmental scientists and planners in various disciplines are obsessed with the future: scenarios and models based on visions for the time to come are their most important analytical instruments. Policies and environmental concepts such as sustainability and conservation, restoration and regeneration, in combination with issues of social justice, are outcome- and future-oriented (Nagpal and Foltz 1995). The lack of views on the future within anthropology becomes problematic in the global sustainability debate, where the emphasis is on the long-term future. It is one of the reasons why so few anthropologists play more than a marginal role in this discourse.




Furthermore, by seeking out traditions or patterns, researchers may be overlooking their subjects’ own innovative ideas. By focusing too much on the present and the past, researchers miss out on possibilities and options for change as seen by research participants themselves. A field where this is particularly clear is in the study of agricultural transition. People make changes, organise their lives differently, take new perspectives on available means of production and familiar ways of behaviour. They might take different directions because of changing circumstances. What might seem an unrealistic distant future for some, might be made more accessible through the actions of innovative and risk-taking individuals (see e.g. Conelly 1992). In searching for representativeness, anthropologists may be missing the opportunity to learn from these individuals about how people bring about a future that differs from present conditions.Knowledge of the way people take these decisions – under what kinds of circumstances and based on what kinds of considerations – is essential to gaining a better understanding of the present. It is also essential if anthropology is to be of more value in all kinds of development planning. People have been trying to forecast possible futures. However, the past and even the present cannot teach us everything about the future, particularly in rapidly changing circumstances. People’s involvement with the present can also be understood in terms of the image or perception of the future that they hold. People may opt for radically different alternatives that cannot fully be explained in terms of the present. Sometimes real transitions are being made; major steps forward or side-wards as induced innovations can be taken that differ in nature from those taken in the past (see e.g. Vayda and Sahur 1996; Henkemans et al. 2000).

This is taken from a co-written paper: Persoon, G. and P. Perez (2007), 'The Relevant Context: Environmental consequences of images of the future,' in B. Walters et al (eds) Against the Grain: the Vayda tradition in Human Ecology and Ecological Anthropology.

Comments

The Nashman said…
Nabili ko na yata itong article na itich. P300 sa Recto. Buti nalang na-publish mo na.

Ayan, copy paste na mga estudiante ng The Ateneo dahil you are generous in sharing essays.
padma said…
Nabili ko rin 'to sa Recto actually.

But the thought of an atenista, lasallista, or worst, assumptionista, passing this off as their own... THIS POST SHALL SELF-DESTRUCT SOON!

Doon nalang sila magplagiarize sa Savage Minds.Mas-generous pa sila.

Thanks for the warning, Nashman.
padma said…
By the buy, it's my new dears' resolution to respond to comments in 2008. That's my only resolution, and that's all I'm going to say about the new year.

Popular posts from this blog

Lola of Maipon

It's all too easy to fall asleep under the blanket of everyday life and to smother dreams with the mundane things I surround myself with. But once in a while, along comes a sparkling vision that jolts me out of my daily sleep and reminds me of the existence of convictions and worlds so different from my own. "Our beloved LOLA of Guinubatan, Maipon, Albay is the last true messenger of God. So, let us follow her holy teachings so that we will gain TRUE SALVATION without sufferings and without death." In another story I, the intrepid heroine, the adventurer seduced by mysteries, the pilgrim in search of truth, would follow them back to Guinubatan from Session Road, thirsting to see and hear their Lola for myself. However, it's all too easy -- much safer! -- to fall back asleep under the blanket of everyday life, and to smother dreams with the mundane things I surround myself with. Then along comes 9 a.m., and really, it's time to down the dregs of coffee at the bott

Cordillera Folktales and Story-telling

It was cold and wet outside on the day of the launching of The Golden Arrow of Mt. Makilkilang and other Cordillera Folktales . But inside Mt. Cloud Bookshop we were warmed by stories read and performed by the Aanak di Kabiligan community theater group. Storytelling on a stormy afternoon. Paco Paco. A Benguet story from the book, published by the Cordillera Green Network. Aanak di Kabiligan means children of the mountains. The theater group was born out of the Cordillera Green Network's eleven years of conducting workshops in which children transform their grandparents' stories into theater productions. Here they perform the title story of the Golden Arrow of Mt. Makilkilang and Other Cordillera Folktales.

Birds of Baguio and Benguet

The Little Boss and I went to see the Birds of Baguio and Benguet Photo Exhibit at the Maryknoll Ecological Sanctuary . I carried her so she could see them up close and she pointed to each and every photo demanding, "What's that? What about that? What about this one?" I dutifully read out the name of every single bird featured in the exhibit: Scale-feathered Malkoha, Luzon Sunbird, Citrine Canary Flycatcher, and so on.We discussed the colors of their feathers and the shapes of their beaks. Some of the birds were already familiar to her. The crow and the shrike are frequent visitors in our garden. Shrike in the hands of the Artist-in-Residence, with the Little Boss' first hesitant touch. Taken October 2013. Once a young shrike in flight crashed into our picture window and lay on the ground, stunned. The Little Boss and the Artist-in-Residence held it lovingly in their hands and as soon as it pushed against their palms they gently released it. That was The Littl