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Session Overview
RS10_09: Futures, identities and biographies
Friday, 23/Aug/2019:
11:00am - 12:30pm

Session Chair: Giuliana Mandich, University of Cagliari
Location: UP.2.217
University of Manchester Building: University Place, Second Floor Oxford Road

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I could, I could have done, I can: The Role of Narrative in Futures-Making and Subject Formation

Paola Pierri

University of the Arts London, UK

Social sciences and anthropological accounts around futures and futures-making are marginal, in a field that sees a majority of futurologists, companies and technologists taking the leading role. This paper and presentation argue for social sciences and humanities to reclaim a central role for an explicit activist and future oriented research approach. I will draw on my practice, using design anthropology with local communities in the UK, to present design as a potential conceptual tool, that could play a role to perform the new task of materialising new and alternative possibilities.

I will present a repertoire of existing tools in 'research through design' that focus on 'futures-making' and will draw on my projects and field-work to argue for a practice of design that creates a shared 'space' to enable participants to materially and discursively engage with futures possibilities in a shared language that is not “owned” by any one professional group.

I will particularly focus on the role of narrative, and its impact on subject formation, through the weaving together of past, present and future experience and ambitions.

Disconnected: The Difficult Construction of Future Time Perspectives By Youths In Jail. A Case-Study In Sardinia, Italy.

Ester Cois

University of Cagliari, Italy

On the basis of a research-action launched in 2017 at a juvenile detention center in the province of Cagliari, Sardinia, the paper aims to investigate the mechanisms of imagination and representation of future implemented by minors imprisoned because of serious crimes for which the probation or work-release measures are not provided for.

The narratives collected among a sample of 13 prisoners, aged between 14 and 21, reveal a recurring pattern of "disconnection" in their biographical pathways, which are marked by the expiation of the sentence within a total institution (Goffman, 1961). Four main effects can be identified:

a) A fragile projection capacity in the medium term, outside the prison, due to the weight and stigma associated with the deviant past that continues to act as a persistent disinvestment with respect to the possibilities of social reintegration (Carvalho et al, 2018);

b) A segregation with respect to the standard life context of their peers, that compromise the usual processes of identification and mimesis that accompany the definition of the self and one's adult image, and that also extend to social applications, due to the prohibition of using social networks such as Facebook or Twitter in prison;

c) A scarce possibility of individuation in the formation of one's own specific identity, due to the total control of bodies (Foucault, 1975), preferences, sensory expression, mandatorily homogenized by the organization of prison spaces, with the impossibility of customizing their cells for security reasons;

d) An extreme presentification (Leccardi e Ruspini, 2006) imposed by the high turn-over and frequent transfers, which often interrupt the training and apprenticeship projects, jeopardizing the rehabilitation intent to the advantage of the punitive one.

Becoming a Mother. Practicing the Future by First-time Pregnant Women

Yvonne Niekrenz

University of Rostock, Germany

The first-time pregnancy is a transitional phase changing a childless woman into a mother. This transition can be described as a phase of becoming, and the changing body symbolizes this becoming. When pregnancy is realized, the body is treated and observed differently. Physical changes represent a new stage in life in the future. The belly carries a special weight during that period. It materializes the status of the expecting mother for the women herself and makes it perceivable for other people in the setting. A pregnant body is a kind of “material future”.

This leads to the questions of this paper: How do pregnant women enact futures in their everyday practices? How do they anticipate and inhabit the future through bodily affects and sensations?

This paper is based on an empirical study including participant observation of prenatal classes and thirteen narrative interviews with women who are pregnant for the first time. Data was hermeneutically interpreted in a reconstructive manner.

The study shows: Pregnancy causes feelings of joy and pride as well as such of uncertainty and ambivalence. Pregnancy is not only the pleasurable experience that booklets and magazine for moms-to-be might tell; it is also irritating and changes the daily routines of women in different dimensions. These changes refer to a new future – as a mother. The changing body makes this future imaginable and prepares it at the same time. In their everyday practices, pregnant women try to gain certainty. For example, by changing the way they deal with the challenges of everyday life, buying baby supplies or arranging a child’s room, they practice their future social role and are "doing family".

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