Progress’ Time: The Individualization of the Future in Southeast Angola
Until recently, southeast Angola was known as “the lands at the end of the world.” In the last four years, however, the region started to be under the government’s spotlight, and now bears the slogan “the lands of progress.” The implementation of new public infrastructures is essential in the shifting of representations. Accordingly, since the end of the civil war, in 2002, infrastructures of communication and transportation have become the visible side of the national effort to (re)construct and unify the nation around a common ideal: “One People, One Nation.” Drawing on anthropological fieldwork done in the last two years, I intend to approach the effects of the agency generated by the interaction between the new asphalt road EN140 and the residents of a village in southeast Angola. Against the political imagination promoted since the country’s independence, such an interaction agency reconfigured and introduced a new language of time in the region; from a socially repressed past, a present of crisis, to privatized versions of liberated futures found on restless quest for self-fulfilment. As I intend to demonstrate, the perpetual deferrals of social progress promised by the government have led to the emancipatory privatization of the future. This new emancipatory individual politics of time contradicts not only the demagogic propaganda by the government around the ideal of national commonness but also the scientific sustainability discourse that started populating the country, and which relies on a homogeneous conception of time to legitimize itself: “Our Common Future.” Southeast Angola shows how the individuation of the future has become one of the most conspicuous unintended causalities of our increasing networked world.
I hold a PhD in Social Anthropology from the Martin Luther University, Germany. I’m currently a lecturer and researcher in the Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology, at the University of Hamburg. My main research and theoretical interests are (key words) political ecology, progress, Africa, (de)commodification, and tourism.
from our workshop on Power, Time and Agency held in Manchester, January 2013