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Summer School 2014: Politics of Near Futures: Possibilities, Prophecies, Prognoses

Staged Public


International Summer School, July 27 to July 31, 2014

Organized by Junior Research Group Leaders of the Cluster: Daniel Münster, Kerstin von Lingen, Katja Rakow, Sophie Roche


The summer school "Politics of Near Futures" interrogates historical and contemporary ways of making sense of the future and bringing ideas of worlds-to-come into the spheres of politics, science and cultural production. As the world of the 21st Century is shaking at all ends (in politics, economics, ecology) deliberations about humanity's possible near futures have regained heightened urgency and importance across the registers of politics, science and religion. Prophetic formulations about the end of time, a classic theme in most religions, continue to shape the imaginary capacity of many people across the world. While religious prophecies arguably absorb the geopolitical and planetary situation of the contemporary world they compete with scientific formulations about possible futures, in the form of prognosis. In industrial modernity - prior to nuclear technologies and climate change - concepts of the future seem to have been articulated primarily in terms of human action, manifest as improvement, scientific progress, revolution or economic crisis. Modernist formulations about the-end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it were thus articulated as dystopian scenarios of crisis, war and revolution, but rarely formulated as absolute ideas of the end of time and humanity. However with the recognition that planetary history has entered the anthropocene – a geological age formed by human destructive presence on earth – and that climate change, biodiversity loss and shrinking 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. In the 21st century, the understanding of the contemporary is increasingly informed by experiences of insecurity and inequality: irretrievable loss of species and ecosystems, financial crises, land grabbing, food shortages, new public health challenges, new demographic situations, the militarization of politics, accumulation by dispossession and other ecological and bodily consequences of capitalist expansion.

The summer school will study transcultural ideas of human and non-human near futures. That is, futures that are imagined by narrating contemporary potentialities into the future: As prophecy, estimate, prognosis, demographic planning, extrapolation or statistical calculation. Such technologies of representing possible near future scenarios are simultaneously politically charged commentaries on the present.  We will look at how, across the world and across different registers of knowledge and practice (science, religion, art, literature) transcultural concepts of the end of times confront ideas of possible futures.

Illustration Credits:

- "Conceptual Road Sign on Future Against Blue Sky “, copyright by: ©Albert Pego,
- "Im Jahre 2000" Private collection @ Prof. Michael Keller