Rebecca Bryant

Rebecca Bryant is Professor of Cultural Anthropology at Utrecht University. She is an anthropologist of politics and law whose work has focused on ethnic conflict and displacement, border practices, post-conflict reconciliation, and contested sovereignty on both sides of the Cyprus Green Line, as well as in Turkey. Temporality has been a theme throughout all of her research, whether in her writings on the politics of the past and historical reconciliation or, more recently, on the temporal “stuckness” of citizens of unrecognized states.

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Bryant's 2010 book, The Past in Pieces: Belonging in the New Cyprus (University of Pennsylvania Press) examined the ways that anxieties regarding the future reshaped the past within the context of Cyprus’ 2003 border opening. Her recent co-authored book (with Daniel Knight), The Anthropology of the Future (Cambridge University Press, 2019), outlines ways in which anthropology may study the futural orientations of everyday life. She is also the co-author (with Mete Hatay) of the forthcoming Sovereignty, Suspended: Political Life in a So-Called State (University of Pennsylania Press, 2020), which examines de facto statebuilding, or the process of constructing an entity that looks like a state and acts like a state but that everyone else in the world says does not or should not exist.

Catastrophic Futures: Anticipation, Speculation, Hope

This talk explores forms of collective action that prepare us for futures that we hope will never be. While the future by definition can only be expected and so always harbours the possibility of the unexpected, catastrophic futures engage anticipation, expectation, and hope in ways that are unusually speculative. Using long-term research on the human-made disasters of conflict and displacement, the paper outlines a theory of orientations to the future and focuses specifically on anticipation, speculation, and hope. The paper asks how futures come to be collectively anticipated or expected, and how orientations to the future shape collective action.