Council on Anthropology and Education
Invited - Oral Presentation Session
Abstract: Paulo Freire famously offered a vision of education as “revolutionary futurity…prophetic (and, as such, hopeful)” (1970:84). Anthropologists have approached the future as cultural and political terrain, calling for a more "robust anthropology of the future” and illustrating that the capacity to aspire is an unevenly distributed resource in the context of stark inequality (Appadurai 2013:5). Anthropologists of education push this conversation, arguing that “education is a social field on which the future is imagined”, a space where people imagine selves and worlds to come while navigating the politics of what is possible in the present (Stambach and Hall 2017:2). In recent years, the discussion has included critical focus on pervasive neoliberal imaginaries that have permeated education, pushing people into frames of entrepreneurial self-management in which they “imagine themselves as bundles of skills” ripe for productivity and profit-making for themselves or future employers (Urciuoli 2010:162). For example, scholars have shown how schooling in a risk management culture is a key site where “individuals seek to colonise the future for themselves as an intrinsic part of their life-planning” (Demerath et al 2008:274; Giddens 1991:125). These approaches paint education as a space where individuals make forecasts based on assessments of the “climate”, which must account for historical and ongoing processes of colonialism, racial capitalism, and dispossession (Sharpe 2016, Sojoyner 2016, Tuck and Gaztambide-Fernandez 2013). Yet, in line with Freire’s vision of education as “revolutionary futurity”, many anthropologists have revealed education as also a site imbued with potential to help create new climates. They offer rich accounts of people in educative contexts imagining post nationalism (Abu El-Haj 2009, 2015), rehearsing for democracy in the wake of militaristic regimes (Strong 2017), and choreographing agentive futures in the face of poverty, racism, and gender violence (Cox 2015).
This oral presentation session includes papers that explore forecasting and futurity through the lens of educational anthropology. What kinds of futures are being forecasted by educational discourses and practices (broadly defined, in schooling and beyond)? What are the relationships between education, futurity, culture, and economy? How do historical and current conditions of possibility shaped by hierarchies of race, class, and gender constrain imagined futures within educational settings and projects? What new questions are raised by ethnographic study of aspiration and futurity in educational contexts? How can studies of education contribute to the anthropology of the future?
With respect to these questions, papers will explore ethnographic and theoretical questions of education and futurity, the politics of aspiration in transnational perspective, educative aspects of future facing social/political movements, education and/as risk management in the face of precarity and inequality, and the racialized, gendered, classed, and spatial dimensions of imagined futures in educational contexts.