Staging the futures

Staging the futures: Everyday Future-Making Practices in an Industrial Town in Serbia is a book manuscript that analyses the global performative moment we currently live in. It analyses how the futures are made through their everyday staging. Hence, it illustrates how staging the futures – the acts of performative promises of aspirational futures, promises of something else that is yet to come, theatrically made, and often doubted, have a particular significance in the town of Bor, a Serbian copper-processing town depopulated and majorly affected by deindustrialization and post-socialist transformations, where individual and collective futures are highly uncertain and confined. The book follows how through performative enactments of futures, this peripheral place struggled to become included in the circulation of global capital.

My forthcoming book asks how individuals made their futures possible while engaging with promises for the future: successful prospects for the down-at-heel copper-processing company (a former Yugoslav industrial giant), a revival of the dilapidated town, environmentally clean futures for a highly polluted setting, and so on.  The book, based on  a decade of ethnographic research in Bor, shows that the very performative aspects of the promises were crucial to their triumph. They enabled people to maintain hope through their ambivalent engagements with them, which also kept many citizens invested in the broader project of the mistrusted revival. For that reason, the promises of the revival of an industrial company and the town enacted by industrial and political elites reverberated quite strongly among citizens. The book also asks: What kinds of temporal effects do such futural performances leave on citizens? How do they alter or shift citizens’ futures? How do they affect their present? The book shows how staged (populist) performances of promises of revival, welfare, and betterment significantly inflect the very temporalities of those who engage with them, and how they especially evacuate the long-term futures of the citizens.

The book shifts the literature on post-socialism from a dominant focus on studying the past to exploring futures and brings to the fore performative elements of future-making practices that have been so far overlooked in anthropology. It speaks to all readers interested in understanding what the populist promises “do” to our futures.

Adapted from: “Making the futures in the capitalist landscape of performative promises” Anthropology News website, July 7, 2022. Making Futures in the Capitalist Landscape of Performative Promises – Anthropology News (