2 March 2017

Understanding life’s speed from an anthropological perspective

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The latest issue of the Cultural Anthropology journal features a new contribution to the journal’s Openings and Retrospectives section: an Openings collection, “Speed,” edited by Vincent Duclos, Tomás Sánchez Criado, and Vinh-Kim Nguyen.

In their introductory essay, the editors discuss how they hope to open anthropological practice to speed:

On every front, life is being mobilized. Connected and put in motion, activated and fast-forwarded, life is sped up in unprecedented ways. This Openings collection is premised on the conviction that the world is accelerating, and that anthropology needs to catch up. We do not make a claim for a faster anthropology, but rather for the crafting of concepts capable of creatively engaging with forces and intensities—technological, but also economic, political, and geological—that constitute and spoil the worlds we are attached to. We aim to open anthropological practice to temporalities that are immanent to both the congealment of life—for instance, of responsive capacities—and to potential deviations and overflows.

Among the contributions to this Openings collection, Carlo Carduff offers a crash course in speed in the manner of early twentieth-century futurism. Duclos explores the articulation of digital speed, defined as intense exposure to and immersion in foreignness, with specific forms of life. Nguyen shows us how molecular epidemiology makes visible an ontology of speed in which viral sociality foreshadows human sociality. For his part, Ignacio Farías probes the cosmopolitical virtues of accelerating the slowing down of thought and action in the context of urban design.

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