Change4Life: Calculation, prediction and the future
This paper focuses on the British government’s ongoing attempt to intervene in the predicted obesity crisis through the Change4Life health campaign, ‘a society-wide movement that aims to prevent people from becoming overweight by encouraging them to eat better and move more’ (Department of Health). Drawing on recent analyses of the campaign (Evans 2010, Evans et al 2011, Moor 2011), the paper explores the ways in which Change4Life is organised around particular versions of the future that are brought into the present via predictions, calculations and measurements, and that become materialized as current ways of life. The paper contributes to a renewed interest in time and futures (Adkins 2008, 2009, Adams, Murphy and Clarke 2009, Anderson 2010, 2011, Adam and Groves 2007, Cooper 2006, Coleman 2012) by conceiving time not only in terms of linear progression, butalso as multiple, affective, intensive. Indeed, as Adams et al indicate, contemporary life might be defined in terms of anticipation, where ‘possible futures […] are lived and felt as inevitable in the present’ (2009: 248). If Change4Life is a campaign that aims to bring the future into the present so that the obesity crisis can be intervened in, now, in what ways does it function as a form of anticipatory politics? Or, in Brian Massumi’s terms, how is prediction converted into pre-emption, where the present becomes organised around the future, ‘as if it had already occurred’ (2005: 8)? In this sense, how is politics acting on the future, on time itself? How is time a ma(r)ker of the social, and of social difference? The paper addresses these questions via a concern with the role of measure and valuation in predictions and calculations about the ‘obesity crisis’.
Rebecca Coleman's research interests are in bodies, images, time and futures, and affect. She is currently leading an ESRC Research Seminar Series on 'Austerity Futures? Imagining and Materialising the Future in an "Age of Austerity" which examines possible changes in the ways in which the future is imagined, planned for, worked towards and brought into being. She has recently published Transforming Images: Screens, Affect, Futures (2012, Routledge) which tracks a socio-cultural and bodily imperative for transformation across a range of different screens and considers how images of transformation function affectively through a version of a better future. Also on bodies, images and time is her previous book, The Becoming of Bodies: Girls, Images, Experience (2009, Manchester UP).
Keywords: time and futures; bodies; materialisation; images; affect.
“Homo Ludens, Meet Homo Faber”: Hope, Power, and Resources in the African Post-Colony.
In my ethnographic fieldwork in São Tomé and Príncipe (STP), a small African Atlantic island state and former Portuguese colony, I frequently encountered the notion that “Santomeans do not work.” This assertion had particular weight in the light of impending offshore oil production. Excessive expectations and so-called rent seeking, taking the place of productive labour, were feared to be the inappropriate responses to future wealth. The hope for “unearned” wealth and prosperity, more generally, has come to be seen as a problem in many post-colonial settings shaped by resource extraction, but this problem has remained remarkably unquestioned. This paper does two things. First, it examines the widespread efforts by international agencies to manage expectations and channel hope in STP, for example, through public awareness campaigns and civil society building. I argue that the politics of anticipation implemented, here, seeks to effect a particular kind of temporal disposition toward oil decidedly different from the “hopeful” practices of ordinary and not-so-ordinary Santomeans. Second, I show that in order to fully comprehend the problem of hope in STP, and specifically of hope as practical engagement between people, resources and the non-human world, we need to trace its historical antecedents. I suggest that the methodological response to the Santomean problem of hope should be not psychology, sociology, or economics but ontological critique. Freed slaves refusing plantation labour and citizens destroying crops intended to support the population of a newly independent state seem to express forms of agency (through rejection or spoilage) and temporal affects (hope but also dejection) specific to different extractive environments. My analysis draws on critical temporalities and anthropology to tease out the emergent orientations in time – time experienced not neutrally but always suffused by power – across these colonial and postcolonial moments.
Gisa Weszkalnys is lecturer in anthropology at the London School of Economics. She has conducted research on natural resource development, interdisciplinary research practices, and the cultural politics of urban planning. Her books include Berlin, Alexanderplatz: Transforming Place in a Unified Germany (2010) and Elusive Promises: Planning in the Contemporary World (2013, coedited with Simone Abram). Her current work examines the temporality and materiality of oil exploitation in the Gulf of Guinea.
Keywords: politics of anticipation, hope, materiality, natural resources, temporal affects
from our workshop on Power, Time and Agency held in Manchester, January 2013