The Anthropology of Hope

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As part of a belated interest in people’s engagements with possible futures, the start of the third millennium witnessed the emergence of a burgeoning subfield around the anthropology of hope. Anthropologists investigate the objects of people’s hopes and their attempts to fulfill them. They also reflect on hope as an affect and disposition, and as a method of knowledge production. Three interrelated but analytically distinguishable concerns can be discerned in the anthropology of hope. First, anthropologists are interested in the conditions of possibility of hoping. Such studies of the political economy of hope explore the circumstances in which hopefulness does or does not flourish, and the unequal distribution of intensities of hoping, and of particular hopes, among different categories of people. A second domain consists of anthropological research on the shapes that hoping takes. Studies in this phenomenological vein investigate how hopefulness and hopes appear in the world. How does hoping work over time in people’s practices, reflections, and orientations, and with which intended and unintended effects? A third concern emerges around the relationship between hoping as a subject matter of ethnographic study and anthropology as a form of knowledge production. How do scholarly understandings of hope inform the development of the discipline and, particularly, its engagement with political critique and its capacity to help imagine alternatives?
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationOxford Research Encyclopedia of Anthropology
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages22
ISBN (Electronic)9780190854584
Publication statusPublished - 22 Jan 2021


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