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All Tomorrow's Cultures

All Tomorrow's Cultures: Anthropological Engagements with the Future

Samuel Gerald Collins
Copyright Date: 2008
Edition: NED - New edition, 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 150
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  • Book Info
    All Tomorrow's Cultures
    Book Description:

    How will we live in the future? Are we moving towards global homogeneity? Will the world succumb to the global spread of fast food and Hollywood movies? Or are there other possibilities? In this book, Samuel Collins argues not only for the importance of the future of culture, but also stresses its centrality in anthropological thought over the last century. Beginning with 19th-century anthropology and continuing today in the work of anthropologies of emergent sciences, anthropologists have not only used their knowledge of present cultural configurations to speculate on future culture but have also used their assumptions about the future of culture to understand the present.

    eISBN: 978-0-85745-021-0
    Subjects: Anthropology, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction: Tomorrow’s Cultures Today?
    (pp. 1-11)

    Were it not for its blatant, reactionary conservatism, anthropologists might have been excited by Samuel Huntington’s 1993 prophecy that “the great divisions among humankind and the dominating source of conflict will be cultural” (Huntington 1993: 22). Finally, an admonition of the salience of culture! Of course, that’s not quite what Huntington meant, and anthropologists, along with a host of other critics, have picked apart the desultory confusion of civilization, religion, language, race and politics that make up the “units” of Huntington’s paean to Arnold Toynbee (Besteman and Gusterson 2005; Hannerz 2003; Palumbo-Liu 2002; Said 2001; Tuastad 2003). The absurd stereotyping...

  5. Chapter 1 Anthropological Time Machines: Setting the Controls for the Future
    (pp. 12-26)

    In H. G. Wells’sThe Time Machine(1895), we glimpse a world 800,000 years in the future where Homo sapiens have speciated in the Eloi and the Morlocks, with the Eloi leading a Dionysian existence on the Earth’s surface and the Morlocks dwelling in subterranean lairs, only emerging to prey on the fragile, mercurial Eloi. Both species, however, are the end products of the steady progress of humanity—a cautionary tale for an age overwhelmingly confident of the salutary effects of science and technology. As the Time Traveller explains:

    I grieved to think how brief the dream of the human...

  6. Chapter 2 Margaret Mead Answers (About the Future)
    (pp. 27-41)

    Margaret Mead is famously quoted as saying, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world.” According to the Institute for Intercultural Studies (who holds the rights), hundreds of organizations have adopted this as their motto, embossing it on their letterheads or on placards in their boardrooms. Its popularity must be due, in no small part, to its ambiguity. What group? What change? What world? Applicable to neo-Nazis, environmentalists, liberals, conservatives, Mead’s bon mots lend a vague optimism to any group’s mission statement. The ambiguity, however, mirrors Mead’s own ambivalences over culture change and the...

  7. Chapter 3 Chad Oliver: An Anthropologist on Star Trek
    (pp. 42-62)

    Nineteenth-century utopian writings and “lost race” sagas notwithstanding, anthropological science fiction is generally thought to be a twentieth-century phenomena associated with John W. Campbell’s editorship of what becameAstounding Science Fiction.¹ Included in this sixty-year elaboration of what Raymond Williams has called “space anthropology” are a range of diverse writers, including Michael Bishop, Ursula K. Le Guin, Chad Oliver, Joanna Russ, and Ian Watson and (Clute and Nicholls 1995). Oliver is in many ways the exception: an anthropologist at the University of Texas, Oliver (1928–1993) worked in both fields, producing anthropological science fiction likeUnearthly Neighbors(1984a) andThe...

  8. Chapter 4 Close Encounters of the Anthropological Kind
    (pp. 63-74)

    Reflecting on his life in France, so very different than his Genevan youth, Jean-Jacques Rousseau likened it to “some strange planet” (quoted in Kurasawa 2004: 1). Like many Enlightenment thinkers, Rousseau relied on cultural alterity (in his case, his deployment of the “savage”) in order to stimulate what Fuyuki Kurasawa (2004) has called the “ethnological imagination.” Different lifeworlds juxtaposed to the European present could be used to critique (Rousseau, Herder) or legitimate (Smith, Locke, Hobbes) the new, bourgeois order. But Rousseau’s invocation of life on an alien world seems to stretch the hyperbole too far. Isn’t the “alien” by definition...

  9. Chapter 5 Playing Games with Futurology
    (pp. 75-92)

    My overwhelming impression of futurology comes from the work of Herman Kahn; his 1960 bookOn Thermonuclear Warhorrified a generation with its frank discussion of nuclear war survival strategies, and it simultaneously introduced the world to the kind of scenario-driven futures research that Kahn had developed in his capacity as resident genius at the RAND corporation. This is said to have inspired Stanley Kubrick’sDr. Strangelove, in turn inspiring representations of supercomputers, like the fictional WOPR (War Operation Plan Response, above) controlling the US nuclear arsenal at NORAD (North American Air Defense). Both human and computer are coldly calculating...

  10. Chapter 6 The Surprising Future
    (pp. 93-109)

    There is little need to advocate for this or that futurist methodology in areas of emergent information and biotechnology. Instead, the future seems to crowd into the present, with insights into the human genome disclosing futures suddenly no longer merely immanent, but fully realized; futuristic films dramatizing eugenics (Gattica) or intelligent agents (I, Robot) seem curiously dated in this technological surfeit, and scholars in Science and Technology Studies have turned their attention to the attendant social and cultural contexts that, like their material counterparts, seem to leap out of the future. This emphasis on what Michael Fischer (2003) terms “prolepsis”...

  11. Conclusion: The Open Future
    (pp. 110-125)

    William Gibson, whose otherwise Gernsback-ian evocations of cyberspace inNeuromancer(1984) have been cited for their prescience, can also be credited with shifting the topography of the future away from Heinlein’s Wild West to Japan and East Asia. InIdoru(1996),Pattern Recognition(2003), and in other books and short stories, Japan appears as both mise-en-scene and as catalyst for cultural change: the world, in other words, becomes more “Japanese,” that is, a highly stereotypical Japan associated in the US with cell phones and anime. As Gibson said in an interview in 1989, “I think that at one time the...

  12. References
    (pp. 126-137)
  13. Index
    (pp. 138-140)