Oral Presentation Session
Reviewed by: Society for Cultural Anthropology
Of interest to: Practicing and Applied Anthropologists, Teachers of Anthropology in Community Colleges, Students, Those Involved in Mentoring Activities
Primary Theme: Resilience
Secondary Theme: Persistence
What constitutes the “edge”? Edges are temporal nexuses, presents that necessitate a continuous future imagining as actual and actionable. On the one hand, they invite endless horizons of possibility, thinking, and imagining. Edges emerge as an in-between, a transition that might appear to be on the verge of leaving the way station or retreating into the already-known. Yet on the other hand, talk of edges brings with it an enduring political question: edges of what? Edges express the duality of time and space, highlighting the construction of the present. How then, can edges be the threshold of both destruction and construction, decay and growth, impossibility and possibility, endings and beginnings? Rather than stand on the edge and look out towards the undifferentiated future, we turn sideways and balance on the precipice as we explore what it means to live on the edge. This shift in perspective highlights the invented boundaries (and over-determined relations) between past/present/future. In this formulation, “the edge” becomes confronted with the conditions of its own production as an “edge” rather than maintaining its image as the unfortunate side-effect of political, social, or economic projects. This panel queries the temporality of the edge, excavating the lived experiences of/on the edge as method for understanding how people endure and adapt amidst the “temporal whiplash” of the present (Berlant 2011)
Edge-thinking has long pervaded anthropology, from studies on borders (e.g., Sahlins 1991, Berdhal 1999) to margins (e.g., Douglas 1966), rites of passage (e.g., Van Gennep 1960), and liminality (e.g., Turner 1969). More recent work focuses on the edges of capitalism and neoliberalism (e.g., Ong 2006, Tsing 2005; Li 2014), social endurance under late liberalism (Povinelli 2011), and precarity (e.g., Allison 2013). These more recent studies also envision edges as perpetually-lived, not transitional or liminal spaces but a condition of life today. Edges need not be at the margins of the state or society; entire communities and social worlds can themselves be located on the edge.
This panel explores those social worlds and the contours of the edge, locating resilience and adaptation as technologies of the edge. Spanning experiences in New Zealand, Thailand, Bosnia, and South Korea, the papers ask how the temporality of edges--indicative of their malleability--transform social relations and social worlds. We ask: how do edges work to pull people closer to them without pushing them over? What techniques and politics of balance--envisioned as forms of resilience and adaptation--do people use to stay on the edge? How are futures, like objects and people, pulled to the edge as livable presents? And what happens when edges collapse, when people do get pushed over? We examine the implications of living on the edges of geophysical stability (Kensinger), human-apian artifacts in a coming apocalypse (Jasarevic), flooding and the edges of victimhood (Moberg), and the edges of impending destruction and national security crisis (Gitzen). Taken together, this panel weaves temporality through ethnographic edges to explore the social worlds and relations formed on the edge.