After development: critical aesthetics of past futures

A panel at the ASA Decennial Conference, Edinburgh, June 2014. Convened by John Manton, Wenzel Geissler, and Noemi Tousignant

Development, a set of ideas and practices addressing global spatial inequalities, embodies and encodes futures. Hopes and expectations of change have driven the development enterprise; a conception of the future defines its ethos. Though often technocratic and instrumental, its projections are deeply affective, intimate and ephemeral: while consonant with nostalgia, community mobilization, and the persistence of structural inequality, the style and content of these projections remain stubbornly resistant to scholarly methodologies. Instead, they provoke and demand an aesthetic sensitivity and require an expanded technical repertoire to articulate their emotional resonance.

We interrogate past futures of development – its politics, science, promises, and fantasies – in view of their aesthetic resonances, as compound artefacts conjoining statist or liberatory politics with temporalities and spatialities of beauty, order, harmony and design. Papers offered interpolate with artistic projects which amplify the aesthetics of hope deferred and repressed, resuscitate and reanimate the forlorn hopes of grandiose colonial development projects, counterpoint the arts of medical dreaming with unfolding public health catastrophe, and foreground remains of disrupted revolutions in social organization. We hope to capture the sublime and grandiose beauty of the development enterprise, its undercurrents of anxiety and desire, and the unease with which we register and propagate this beauty through scholarly and artistic interventions. Finally, we seek to examine what a critical aesthetics of past futures brings to a global critical and methodological project addressing questions of justice, reciprocity and ethics.

Archivophagy: an excremental politics of the machinery of memory

John Manton (University of Cambridge)

Speaking the rhythms of the past to life

Sarah Buckler (Robert Gordon University)

Born in “Russia”: past futures of modernization and socialist internationalism in post-colonial Kenya

Ruth Prince (University of Oslo)

Hut-like stations and station-like huts: the familiar aesthetics of research for development in Niakhar

Ashley Ouvrier (University Paris Diderot/Inserm/IRD)
Noemi Tousignant (University of Cambridge)
Aïssatou Mbodj-Pouye (CNRS)

The future in ruins: aesthetic legacies and practices of care in Darjeeling’s tea plantation landscape

Sarah Besky (University of Michigan)

Kidevu[Beardie]’s return: re-enacting an historical threshold in African science

Paul Wenzel Geissler (University of Oslo)
Ann Kelly (University of Exeter)