Conference Summary: The Future as a Humanist Ideology

Following the very exciting conference in June, Peter Pels wrote a detailed summary of it explaining the connections between ‘the future’ and humanist ideology. Visit Leiden Anthropology blog to read the whole post.


Important Dates

Here is a quick overview of the important dates pertaining to the conference planning:

14 April, 2014:  Conference Program will be shared

5 May , 2014:  Deadline to submit draft papers for distribution amongst participants

26-27 June, 2014:  Futurities Conference in Leiden!

Call for Papers

In the past decades, social science and the humanities have become increasingly conscious that the forms of the future cultivated by modernism – progress, utopia, rational calculation; the “future perfect” – have ceased to fit the present of the twenty-first century. This conference proposes to approach futures anthropologically and investigate which different forms of the future, in fact, affect our global present.

Call for papers for the Futurities conference in June in Leiden, the Netherlands, has been published here.

Workshop on (Post-) Modern Futurities: New Directions in Anthropology, Area and Media Studies

(Post-) Modern Futurities: New Directions in Anthropology, Area and Media Studies

Workshop, 7 May 2013, 13.00-17.00

Bestuurskamer (Ground floor), Pieter de la Courtgebouw

“Futurities” or forms of the future have distinct cultural histories and habitats. The division of labor that put “tradition” (or a normative addiction to past templates) in times and places other than modernity, and the future (usually in the shape of “development” or “modernization”) in an imaginary Western civilization has itself lost its credibility, but that does not mean it has passed away. Moreover, new self-indulgent classifications of the West by the West have taken its place (“post-modernity”; “reflexive modernization”; “reduction to the present”; “acceleration”; “time-space compression”; and so on). Systematic research into the forms that the future takes after the rise of commodified, “empty” time in the Middle Ages, the “open” future of prognosis and progress in the early modern period, and the epochal consciousness of the period of revolution or Sattelzeit – as theorized by Barbara Adam, Reinhard Koselleck and Jacques LeGoff, among others – is rare. Yet, diagnoses of new forms of the future after modernity abound. This workshop reviews and presents recent research into forms of the future to find out what kind of research is needed to overcome that gap.

The workshop consists of four presentations from two Leiden research projects: the “The Future is Elsewhere” project led by Peter Pels (presentations by Pels and by Kripe/Zandbergen), and the “Beyond Utopia” project led by Chris Goto-Jones (presentations by Roth and Schneider). These presentations will then be used by three discussants as a stepping stone to illustrate the directions into which such research should be going. The discussants are Diny van Est (see Persoon & van Est 2000), Jane Guyer (see Guyer 2007) and Chris Goto-Jones.

The discussion will be followed by drinks at the Bamboo lounge (3rd floor).

To participate at the workshop please register by emailing your name and surname to


People attending the workshop are advised to read the following articles (available online):

  • Persoon, Gerard A. and Diny M. E. van Est. 2000. The study of the future in anthropology in relation to the sustainability debate. Focaal 35: 7-28
  • Guyer, Jane I. 2007. Prophecy and the near future: Thoughts on macroeconomic, evangelical, and punctuated time. American Ethnologist 34 (3): 409-421


Peter Pels (Anthropology, Leiden): “Towards an Ethnography of Modern Times: Seven Theses on the Anthropology of the Future”

Florian Schneider (LIAS, Leiden): “The Futurities and Utopias of the Shanghai World Exposition – A Multimodal Discourse Analysis of the Expo 2010 Theme Pavilions”

Martin Roth (LIAS, Leiden): “Another time? Narrative confusion and alternative temporality in videogames”

Zane Kripe & Dorien Zandbergen (Anthropology, Leiden): “Kick-starting the future in the new economy: Perspectives from San Francisco, Amsterdam and Singapore”


Diny van Est (Netherlands Court of Audit)

Chris Goto-Jones (Leiden University College)

Jane Guyer (Anthropology, Johns Hopkins University)