Uncertain Future(s)

Perceptions on Time between the Immediate and the Imagined

  • Valerie Hänsch Lehrstuhl Ethnologie, Universität Bayreuth
  • Lena Kroeker Bayreuth Academy of Advanced African Studies, Universität Bayreuth
  • Silke Oldenburg Seminar of Social Anthropology, University of Basel
Keywords: special issue, introduction, future, uncertainty, temporality, time, agency, imagination


In this special issue, we explore the pivotal role that the future as a social perception of time and temporality plays in dealings with uncertainty. There are four linkages between uncertainty and future, as the chapters in this special issue show: Firstly, visions of the future result from current and past interpretations of culturally embedded everyday lives. Secondly, a multitude of co-existing models of time is possible. Thirdly, actors adjust their visions of the future when present conditions change. Fourthly, present actions are directed towards a vision of the future which merely serves as a guideline rather than a potential reality. Thus, the temporality of people’s actions and imagination in uncertain times is at the fore of this special issue exploring the unfolding tension between the immediate and the imagined, the actual and the perceived.

Author Biographies

Valerie Hänsch, Lehrstuhl Ethnologie, Universität Bayreuth

Valerie Hänsch, anthropologist and filmmaker, explores the relationship between large infrastructures and crises in the Sudan. She examines displacements, uncertainty, local knowledge and resistance. Her work includes several collaborative audio-visual projects. She conducted extensive ethnographic research in urban and rural areas on islamic practices and sensual experiences, creativity, and about the life along the Nile. She holds a PhD from the Bayreuth International Graduate School of African Studies (BIGSAS) and is currently replacing the Juniorprofessor for Culture and Technology in Africa at Bayreuth University.

Lena Kroeker, Bayreuth Academy of Advanced African Studies, Universität Bayreuth

Lena Kroeker is currently a post-doc fellow at the Bayreuth Academy of Advanced African Studies, an interdisciplinary institution which focused in its first phase (2012-2016) on concepts of future in Africa. She obtained her PhD in social anthropology from the Bayreuth International Graduate School of African Studies in 2012 with a thesis on decision making of HIV-positive pregnant women in Lesotho (LIT-Verlag, 2015). Her research interests include the anthropology of uncertainty, anthropology of time/future, medical anthropology, social protection and the African middle class.

Silke Oldenburg, Seminar of Social Anthropology, University of Basel

Silke Oldenburg is senior lecturer at the Seminar of Social Anthropology, University of Basel, Switzerland. She studied social anthropology and Eastern European history in Tübingen, Berlin, Mérida (Venezuela) and completed her PhD at the University of Bayreuth, Germany in 2013. Her research interests include urban anthropology, the anthropology of youth, gender and generation, the anthropology of media and journalism, and political anthropology, with a particular focus on aspects of everyday life within contexts of protracted violent conflict. Currently, her post-doc research focuses on processes of «Making the City» (SNF 165625) in Cartagena (Colombia) and Goma (DR Congo).

How to Cite
Hänsch, Valerie, Lena Kroeker, and Silke Oldenburg. 2017. “Uncertain Future(s): Perceptions on Time Between the Immediate and the Imagined”. TSANTSA – Journal of the Swiss Anthropological Association 22 (May):4-17. https://doi.org/10.36950/tsantsa.2017.22.7342.
Special Issue