South Asian Political Thought (SAPT) Discussion Group: MT18 Week 8: ‘Living for the Future’: On Maoists, Christian Converts, and Irregular Migrants - Hopelessness, Temporality, and ‘Existential Mobility’ in Rural Nepal
Convener(s): Udit Bhatia & Amogh Dhar Sharma
Speaker(s): Ina Zharkevich, University of Oxford
This paper explores and traces continuities between three models of ‘living for the future’ in the former Maoist base-area of Nepal: youth who joined Maoist guerrillas during the war of 1996-2006, recent converts to Christianity, and migrants who have embarked on perilous journeys to the USA via South America - the journeys that can sometimes take a year and can cost up to 40,000 USD. By providing a long-term vision of the future and a new meaning to people’s lives, all of the three projects, however different their ultimate goals might be, allowed the followers to experience ‘existential mobility’, overcome the sense of hopelessness in the present, and ‘move forward’ in life. By ‘evacuating the near future’ and by emphasizing the long-term horizons of either building a ‘new’ egalitarian society in a country with rigid social hierarchies (Maoists), attaining a ‘new life’ (Christians), or attaining American Dream (irregular migrants to the US), these projects fostered new type of subjects – the ones who are happy to sacrifice the present and the ‘near future’ for the sake of long-term, often utopian future. Yet, the pervasiveness of ‘living for the future’ and the newly-emerging 'tyranny' of hope under late capitalism raises a number of questions: who is interested in the proliferation of hope? what is the political economy behind the projects of 'impossible lives' or 'living for the future'? And why are the projects focused on the long-term horizon so successful not only in Nepal but also in the world of today?
Dr Ina Zharkevich is a departmental lecturer and junior research fellow at Wolfson College, Oxford. She has conducted anthropological research in Nepal since 2008. Her main research interests lie at the intersection of the anthropology of war and violence, revolutionary movements and the anthropology of migration, with a focus on transnational families, kinship and relatedness in transnational family networks, and the economies of waiting and hope under late capitalism.