Back to the Futures: A Conference on Anthropology and Time (2018)

Back to the Futures: A Conference on Anthropology and Time | CU Boulder Graduate Student Conference

Submission deadline: June 8, 2018

Conference dates: September 28 and 29, 2018

What role do futures play in anthropological research? While some scholars have pointed to anthropology’s longstanding preoccupation with the past, memory, and tradition (Appadurai 2013), interdisciplinary movements such as indigenous futurisms, queer futures, and science and technology studies challenge us to consider time in a different register (Muñoz 2009). Adams et al (2009) suggest that the current moment is characterized by anticipation, or speculative forecast of what the future might hold, and Taussig et al (2013) read scientific projects such as the Human Genome Project in terms of their potentiality, or the quality of something that does not yet but might one day exist. Black feminist futurity, on the other hand, actively imagines a future anterior, the "performance of a future that hasn't yet happened but must" (Campt 2017).

​While allowing for radical imagination and political action, the future might also lead us to ponder what will become of the informants and topics we expose through our work. But how does the future engage with the increasingly interdisciplinary and intersectional nature of our discipline? Futures, in a plural configuration, focus on the multiple intertwining of desires and realities. 

In this conference, we will consider the multitude of applications of futures within anthropology and the social sciences.  We might apply this framework, for example, to energy futures, the future of human migration and displacement, the technological futures of robotics, or the future as a structure of feeling (Williams 1977). We seek to engage in the ever-present question of the direction of the discipline: What are the futures of anthropology and its methods? How does an anthropology keenly aware of its futures remain engaged with an ever-changing world?

Back to the Futures is a two-day conference organized by graduate students in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Colorado, Boulder. All anthropological sub-disciplines and students in the social sciences are encouraged to apply. Dr. Sarah Vaughn (Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley) will deliver the keynote address. We will also hold two workshops for all attendees, and we look forward to building connections across universities. Come join us!

Back to the Futures is pleased to invite presentations in three different formats: a) traditional, 15-minute long papers, b) multimodal installations, and c) roundtable submissions. Please see the full guidelines for submitting to each format below.

Accepted panelists will be limited to current and incoming graduate students in all subdisciplines of anthropology and related social sciences (including sociology, geography, and ethnic studies). Meals will be provided for visiting panelists throughout the conference. There will also be opportunities to hike and explore beautiful Boulder, Colorado. Additionally, our goal is to provide lodging with other graduate students for all participants. However, space may be limited, and we will accommodate lodging for panelists on a first come, first served basis. Please indicate your need for housing by filling out the housing form on the Submit Abstracts page. We invite applicants to submit an abstract through the “Submit Abstracts Here” link below by June 8, 2018.

Please choose one submission style based on your interests and current work.

Option A: Traditional, 15-minute conference paper

  • Submit a 100-150 word abstract with the title of your paper by Friday, June 8. 

Option B: Multimodal installation (length varies)

  • Submit a 100-150 word abstract with the title of your installation by Friday, June 8. 
  • Additionally, please indicate whether your installation falls into the following categories: photography, film, VR, poster presentation, audio, or other installation. 
  • Please also indicate to us what space concerns and audiovisual needs you have for your multimodal installation (ie AV hookup, etc).

Option C: Roundtable participation (5-7 minute presentation on research within a pre-determined theme plus guided discussion with panelists)

  • Choose one roundtable theme from the list below and submit a 100-150 word abstract with the title of your research by Friday, June 8.  ​

Roundtable Themes*:

  • Energy and environmental futures: environmental anthropology, human/non-human interactions, the Anthropocene and its future
  • Human migration: displacement, dispossession, refugee futures, humanitarian interventions, borders beyond the state
  • Technology: automation, robotics, virtual worlds, data, surveillance, cybersecurities
  • Critical race theory: indigenous futurisms, critical mixed race methods, intersectionality, subjectivities
  • Applied anthropology: future of museums, UX design, community-based research, collaborative filmmaking, applied medical and environmental anthropology

*Roundtable themes will run based on level on interest and number of applicants.

Works Cited:

​Adams, V., Murphy, M. & Clarke, A. Subjectivity (2009). “Anticipation:        Technoscience, life, affect, temporality” 28: 246.

Appadurai, Arjun (2013). The Future as Cultural Fact: Essays on the Global Condition. Brooklyn, NY: Verso Books.

Campt, T. (2017). Listening to images. Durham: Duke University Press.

Muñoz, José Esteban (2009). Cruising Utopia: The Then and There of Queer Futurity. New York, NY: NYU Press.

Taussig Karen-Sue Taussig, Klaus Hoeyer, and Stefan Helmreich (2013), "The Anthropology of Potentiality in Biomedicine: An Introduction to Supplement 7," Current Anthropology 54, no. S7 (October 2013): S3-S14.

Williams, Raymond. 1977. Marxism and Literature. Oxford: Oxford University Press


Borders: a conference on boundaries, barriers ​and transgression in anthropology (2017)

Cultural anthropology graduate students, Anthropology Department, University of Colorado Boulder
Friday and Saturday, September 29 - 30 in Hale 450

Graduate Conference 2017

The cultural anthropology graduate students at the University of Colorado, Boulder are pleased to announce our seventh annual graduate student conference, titled Borders: On Boundaries, Barriers, and Transgression in Anthropology. We look forward to building connections across universities - come join us!
Borders is a two-day conference organized by graduate students in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Events are free and open to the public. The conference will be held Friday, September 29 and Saturday, September 30, 2017 and will include panels moderated by University of Colorado faculty. Dr. Jason de León (Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor) will give the keynote address.
Soldiers & Kings: Photoethnographic Practice in the Context of Smuggling across Mexico
Dr. Jason de León Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
4pm, Friday, September 29 in Hale 230
Conference Keynote
Abstracts are due by May 1, 2017 for participation in the fall conference. Submit here
Graduate student conferences are planned, organized, and presented by graduate students in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Colorado, Boulder. They are two-day interdisciplinary conferences with a wide range of global topics. They are attended by professionals and students from both inside and outside the university.

What is ethnography? It is a method, a practice, and a theory. Ethnography is the anthropological way of coming to know a people. We write ethnographies, we do ethnography, we think ethnographically; this is sociocultural anthropology’s past and present. In a recent interview, when asked ‘why ethnography,’ anthropologist Kirin Narayan answered: “For the discipline of paying attention; for learning from others; for becoming more responsibly aware of inequalities; for better understanding the social forces causing suffering and how people might somehow find hope; and most generally, for being perpetually pulled beyond the limits of one’s own taken-for-granted world” (Narayan in McGranahan 2014). Ethnography has long been the defining method of the discipline. The recent “Ethnographic Turn” in contemporary anthropology has prompted a discipline-wide reimagining of ethnography. As such, is it redundant to say that anthropology is experiencing an ethnographic turn? We contend that it is not; instead asking what is specific and productive about this current ethnographic turn versus earlier ones such as the Geertzian era of the 1970s and 1980s. In this particular historical moment, what demands are being placed on anthropologists now to speak to and with the world in new ways?

Anthropology is in a moment of creative rupture, redefinition, and profound possibility, and it is the task of the next generation of cultural anthropologists – particularly graduate students – to rethink the potentials of our work. While contemporary anthropologists engage with a multiplicity of theoretical perspectives and paradigms, there is still coalescence around a common commitment to ethnography. In this conference, we aim to conceptualize the current political moment and possibilities for an engaged anthropology by bringing together graduate students thinking through the disciplinary potentials in their own research projects. Now is a time that can be variously characterized by social unrest, insecurity, and inequality across the globe, but also by possibility, connection, and social change. What responsibilities do we as anthropologists have to people engaged in struggles for justice? How can our deep ethnographic knowledge about complex social issues speak to the public and respond to current issues in a timely way? How do the politics of our situated locations as graduate students inform ethical commitments and obligations to the people with whom we work? If ethnography remains our central commitment as a discipline, how can we tell stories that are compelling and at the same time make sophisticated intellectual claims that do justice to the complexity of people’s social worlds?

Do only masochists relish the thought of dealing with bureaucracies and bureaucrats? Facing the seemingly endless waiting and run-arounds so frequently associated with phone calls and visits to bureaucratic offices, sometimes it seems so. Yet despite – or perhaps because of – the seeming indifference and alienating power of such experiences, bureaucracy can reach into the most intimate spaces of life, from before birth to after death. Human lives are measured at least in part by paper trails and material traces-documents, forms, certificates, photographs, signatures, stamps, and thumb prints. If, as Latour contended, bureaucratic documents are the ‘most despised of all ethnographic objects,’ then in promoting their significance we risk fetishizing them. Yet that risk-along with the risk of boredom-is one we invite you to take with us as we ask, How can we both understand and challenge the contours of bureaucratic authority? What can bureaucracies tell us about contemporary life? What is at stake in identifying intimacy in bureaucracy?

Ethnography and biography constitute distinct yet overlapping modes of representation and analysis. Despite their differing emphases, however, both share a concern with communicating lived experience by writing, narrating, and representing lives. Across the social sciences and humanities, scholars continue to look for new and better ways to write about, understand, and situate the people they study within specific social, historical, political, and economic contexts. At the same time, these scholars seek to better understand and elucidate their own intentions and positions. If, as Michael Herzfeld has argued, the combination of these two genres as ‘ethnographic biography’ promises to overcome the vexing and ultimately specious divide between individual, socio-cultural and historical domains of experience, how might scholars across diverse fields take advantage of this potential?

Belonging is at once comforting and painful, a process and performance of separation and fusion. Etienne Balibar describes “a sense of belonging” as “both what it is that makes one belong to oneself and also what makes one belong to other fellow human beings.” Pushing further, Veena Das asks about the consequences involved in social belonging: “If societies hide from themselves the pain which is inflicted upon individuals as prices of belonging, then how do social sciences learn to receive this knowledge?” In this conference on States of Belonging, we hope to tend to experiences, structures, and epistemologies of belonging as involving both sense and consequence.

What is the relationship between memory and truth? Why is one rendering of a past event called “memory,” another “history,” and a third “truth?” Far from being consigned to the dustbin of history, memory and truth matter in the present, playing political, social, cultural, historical, and cognitive roles in the human search for a meaningful existence. From Halbwachs on, scholars have argued that memory is as social as it is individual; adding to this, anthropologists contend that expressions and experiences of memory, as well as reckonings of truth, are deeply cultural. What overlap is there, we ask, between historical and social truths, and to whom and in what contexts do such resonances or their absence matter?