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Summer School 2014 - Abstracts

Section I: Demographic Foresight: Populations and the Politics of Estimation

Organizer: Sophie Roche



Demographics are used to forecast, calculate and estimate the developments of human populations. As such demographics seem an objective and uncontested tool, even a realistic representation of future. The categories employed in demographic analysis are however contested, arbitrary and used arbitrarily by politics. The revolutions in the Middle East have given the demographic discussion and concepts – such as youth bulge and conflict for instance – a new boost. At the same time has low fertility in Europe given way to a statistical industry that shapes pensions, insurances, politics, and even creates moral panics.
What does demography explain and forecast? What lies behind statistics? What are the politics of demographics?
The project day on demographic forecast will discuss these issues with the expert Dr. Kerstin Cuhls from the Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research ISI, Germany.



Kerstin Cuhls (ISI, Karlsruhe) “Forecast – how to cope with demographic changes”
Sophie Roche (Heidelberg University), “Youth bulge and conflict – demography in the hands of politics“


Reading Suggestions:


Bloom, DE, Canning D, Sevilla J. 2003. The Demographic Dividend: A New Perspective on the Economic Consequences of Population Change, Population Matters Monograph MR-1274, RAND, Santa Monica.

Cincotta, R.P., R. Engelman and D. Anastasion. 2003. The Security Demographic: Population and Civil Conflict after the Cold War. Washington, DC: Population Action International.

Cohen JE. 1995. How many people can the earth support? New-York, Norton & Co.

Deevey, ES Jr. 1960. The human population. Scientific American; 203: 195–204.

Dhillon, N., and T. Yousef. 2007. Inclusion. Meeting the 100 Million Youth Challenge, Middle East Youth Initiative.

Ehrlich PR. 1968. The Population Bomb. Ballantine Books (reprinted by Buccaneer Books Inc.,)

Lee, R. 2003. The Demographic Transition: Three Centuries. Journal of Economic Perspectives; 17(4): 167–190.

Cuhls, Kerstin; Kolz, Heinz und Hadnagy, Christoph M.: A regional foresight process to cope with demographic change: future radar 2030 (Zukunftsradar 2030), in: Cuhls, Kerstin (ed. Special Issue): International Journal of Foresight and Innovation Policy: Foresight and New Trajectories, Vol. 8, No. 4, 2012, 311-334.

Schultz, Brigitte 2013. Was heißt hier Stadt. 50 Jahre Stadtdiskurs am Beispiel der Stadtbauwelt seit 1964. Berlin: Jovis.



Section II: Living in the Endtimes: Agency, Prophecy, and Apocalypse

Organizer: Katja Rakow



Millenarian imaginaries often depict the coming end times as predetermined and unavoidable, based on a divine plan that permits no human intervention and renders humans passive in the face of the foretold apocalyptic events. Yet in practice, a strong belief in the imminent end of the world does not prevent religious actors from carrying on with their everyday life or being involved in political activism, nor does it mean that believers of premillennial prophecy cede their agency quite readily in the face of the end of the world as they know it. The “uncertain certainty” of premillennial prophecy requires actors to constantly monitor geopolitical events, to acquire scriptural knowledge and to learn interpretative frames to read the apocalyptic signs of the times in order to discern the future. The anticipated end of the world or the notion of living in the end times does not necessarily lead to a withdrawal from the world. On the contrary, religious actors often engage in cultural production, ongoing negotiations of meaning and the development of hermeneutical tools to understand prophecy, to assess signs, to formulate prognoses and to orchestrate actions to further or fulfill the apocalyptical narrative.

This part of our Summer School will address millenarianism as part of everyday life practices and cultural productions and will look at the manifold ways in which religious actors engage with apocalyptical imaginaries



Jennie Chapman (University of Hull)
Katja Rakow (Heidelberg University)



Jennie Chapman: Plotting Apocalypse:
Katja Rakow: Geopolitical Imaginations and Global Evangelicalism: Notes from the Field
Chapman/Rakow: Movie Analysis

Reading Suggestions:

Chapman, Jennie 2013. Plotting Apocalypse: Reading, Agency, and Identity in the Left Behind Series. University of Mississippi Press.

Dittmer, Jason 2008. The Geographical Pivot of (the End of) History: Evangelical Geopolitical Imaginations and Audience Interpretation of Left Behind. Political Geography 27, 280-300.

Harding, Susan 1994. Imagining the Last Days: The Politics of Apocalyptic Language. Bulletin of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences 48 (3), 14-44.

Robbins, Joel 1998. On Reading “World News”: Apocalyptic Narrative, Negative Nationalism and Transnational Christianity in a Papua New Guinea Society. Social Analysis 42(2), 103-130.

Robbins, Joel 2001. Secrecy and the Sense of an Ending: Narrative, Time, and Everyday Millenarianism in Papua New Guinea and in Christian Fundamentalism. Comparative Studies in Society and History 43(3), 525-551.

Stewart, Kathleen and Susan Harding 1999. Bad Endings: American Apocalypsis. Annual Review of Anthropology 28, 285-310.



Section III: Visions of Future and Futures Past

Organizer: Kerstin von Lingen



Visions of future have helped structure teleological perspectives on human progress across many different societies. To realize that each present was once an imagined future may help us once again place ourselves within a temporality organized by human thought as much as by the contingencies of uncontrolled events.As Reinhart Koselleck has shown in his essay on “Futures past”, the past and the future became 'relocated' in relation to each other, which means that history emerged as a new temporality providing new ways of assimilating experience. Especially in periods of transition and after conflicts, states tend to envision new and bright futures, and the way in which pasts are remembered becomes a highly contested field in which identity is coined and frames set. This section will interrogate divergent ideas of social development that have been articulated through utopian ideals of social restructuring and related vocabularies of apocalyptic temporality, by scrutinizing literary texts and discuss political measures after conflicts.



Anthony Santoro, (Heidelberg University)
Kerstin von Lingen, (Heidelberg University)


Reading Suggestions:

Mercier, Louis Sebastien MERCIER. L’An 2440, rêve s’il en fut jamais, Paris 1771. (Dt. «Das Jahr 2440. Ein Traum aller Träume», Engl : «Memoirs of the Year Two Thousand Five Hundred»)

Orwell, George. 1984.

Stephenson, Neal. Snow Crash.

Kosselleck, Reinhart 2004. Futures Past. On the semantics of historical time. Columbia University Press.

Elster, Jon 2004. Closing the Books. Transitional Justice in historical perspective, Cambridge University Press.



Section IV: Possible Futures in the Anthropocene: Planetary Crisis and Spaces of Hope

Organizer: Daniel Münster



This section of the summer school is concerned with the anthropology of future scenarios that are informed by an awareness of planetary boundaries, climate change, global warming and other symptoms of capitalist destruction. The section focusses on the future both as a matter of urgency and concern and as a space of hope for post-capitalist human economies. In the 21st century, the understanding of the contemporary condition is increasingly informed by experiences of insecurity and inequality, extinction and crisis. As a consequence, scholarly practices in transcultural humanities and social sciences is increasingly informed by a certain sense of urgency in its engagement with the contemporary world and its possible global futures. With the recognition that planetary history has entered the anthropocene – a geological age formed by human presence – and that climate change, biodiversity loss and shrining resources endanger human live on the planet, the need to think about what might be happening in the future- what forms of life and what kind of socialities might emerge – has never been greater.



Eben Kirksey (University of New South Wales)
Daniel Münster (Heidelberg University)




Eben Kirksey: Hope in an Era of Extinction
Daniel Münster: Cultivating Ecotopia: Alternative Agricultures and the Anthropology of the Future
Kirksey/Münster: The Futures Games

Reading Suggestions:

Chakrabarty, Dipesh 2009. The Climate of History: Four Theses. Critical Inquiry 35(2), 197-222.

Comaroff, Jean, and John Comaroff 2010. Naturing the Nation: Aliens, Apocalypse, and the Postcolonial State. Social Identities 7(2), 233-265.

Fortun, Michael 2001. Mediated Speculations in the Genomics Futures Markets. New

Genetics and Society 20(2), 139-156.

Kirksey, S. E, Nicholas Shapiro, und Maria Brodine 2013. Hope in blasted landscapes. Social Science Information 52(2), 228-256.

Rosenberg, Daniel, und Susan F. Harding (ed) 2005. Histories of the Future. Durham, NC: Duke.

Sayre, Nathan F. 2012. The Politics of the Anthropogenic. Annual Review of Anthropology 41(1), 57-70.