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Open Anthro Vol 8-2 Hope



Open Anthropology, anthropology, hope


We have chosen “hope” as the theme of the July 2020 issue of Open Anthropology because collectively we are living in times that feel rather desperate—and yet, as poet Jamaal May tells us emphatically, here we are, “tattered and feathered.”

COVID-19 continues to spread across large swaths of the United States and other places around the world. Here, there, and everywhere, the burden of the disease and its economic consequences are not equally shared. The fact of these inequalities has not so much been exposed, but made undeniable by both the pandemic and the other events of the spring of 2020. The death of George Floyd at the hands of police sparked days and weeks of protest, bringing out people not only in Minneapolis, where Floyd died, but in scores of large and small cities and towns across America and from Lagos to Kolkata to Seoul. (This map, created by Alex Smith, a geographic information system analyst, shows the locations of 4,140 places where protests have been organized since May 25, 2020.)

Lives and livelihoods have been lost, damaged, and otherwise profoundly affected in such ways that there will be no simple recovery. They demand reckoning. Somehow, we need to find our way toward building, inventing, and growing anew.
Hope began to attract the particular interest of social theorists in the early 2000s. In their introduction to the 2016 special issue of the journal History and Anthropology on “Hope over Time—Crisis, Immobility and Future-Making,” Nauja Kleist and Stef Jansen describe an explosion of writings on hope in the humanities and social sciences, including in sociocultural anthropology, and raise the question of why hope and why now (or then). “Is the renewed interest in hope a reflection of a world that is more hopeful or more hopeless than it used to be?” they ask, and then suggest “two overall dimensions of why hope has recently gained such resonance in academic debates: a widespread sense of crisis and a heightened sense of lack of political and ideological direction in this situation. These two dimensions do not constitute unified and unequivocal phenomena but rather interrelated and converging tendencies” (Kleist and Jansen 2016, 374).


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