Canadian Anthropology Society (CASCA)
Invited - Oral Presentation Session
Abstract: The problems of the future are the subject of renewed interest in anthropology, as can be seen in the large number of studies over the last few years that echo what Ortner calls the “anthropology of good” (2016). We propose in this session to continue with these questions and examine concrete situations of change “in action.” It is a matter of reflecting on the results of the detailed ethnography of planned changes from the local point of view, posing such questions as: Based on what observations and in what particular contexts do changes become necessary? What influences decision-making regarding changes? Who are the actors involved at the different levels? Do some of them play particular roles in pushing these changes forward or, on the contrary, holding them back? How do these actors set concrete changes in motion? What are their strategies? What role does institutional culture play on the mechanisms of change? How do changes occur and what are their effects? The study of changes with a view towards a better future is often taken for granted, while the ethnography of change “in action” frequently proves to be a challenge in the field. Anthropology, which is used to conducting its analyses over the long-term, sometimes has trouble analysing current, ongoing changes. What are the constraints that ethnography must face, particularly in terms of access? How do we compensate for what we have missed? How do we account for quick or unexpected changes that happen in the absence of ethnographers? Analyses that involve the future as its theme and hope as its corollary can further these reflections. They open up interesting avenues allowing us to explore the meaning and scope of the changes underway and their connection with local history. What representation of the future can be found in these changes? How does hope motivate the implementation of concrete actions? What hopes are we talking about? This session will thus explore concrete, local changes that ethnography allows us to shed light on, whether it be in the field of justice, local development, decolonization, or environmental action. The cases discussed took place in the Americas, Oceania, and Europe.