What Will the World Look Like in 2067? Artists and Thinkers Answer

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This year’s Banff Research in Culture program asks: what might the world look like in 50 years and what can we do to shape it? Moving beyond apocalyptic predictions, post-apocalyptic theories, and techno-utopianism, this program aims to shake up our sense of the political, social, and environmental. 

We urgently need to interrogate everything from the nation-state system—which assigns vast differences of wealth and opportunity to the good fortune of where one is born and who one is—to the faith in “progress” as a concept that allows us to easily imagine that this year will be more prosperous than the one before it. 2067 asks us to prod and plot the pathway from a present that needs work, to a future that works better. 

We caught up with some of the amazing, award-winning faculty for this year's program to ask them some question about how they see the next 50 years unfolding, and how art and research can help us come to terms with rapid change.

Imre Szeman

Imre Szeman is Canada Research Chair of Cultural Studies and Professor of English and Film Studies at the University of Alberta. Szeman is the recipient of the John Polanyi Prize in Literature (2000), the Petro-Canada Young Innovator Award (2003), the Scotiabank-AUCC Award for Excellence in Internationalization (2004), an Alexander von Humboldt Fellowship (2005-7), the President's Award for Excellence in Graduate Supervision at McMaster (2008), and the Killam Research Professorship, among other awards. Szeman’s main areas of research are in social and cultural theory, globalization and culture, and popular and visual culture.


What is one thing you hope humans will achieve by 2067? 

I hope that we will have collectively addressed global warming by having engaged in a serious process of energy transition—shifting from fossil fuels to renewable forms of energy. I suppose I’m hoping 2067 will look more like 1967 or even 1907. Shifting to renewables alone won’t do the trick. In 1907, the population of Canada was about 7 million people; today it’s 36 million – a more than five-fold increase. So alongside different forms of energy, we will have to learn to use less of it—a major challenge.

If we were able to pull off a shift to different forms of energy and less of it, it would mean, I believe, that we would have had to address all manner of other inequities and injustices, too. I don’t believe that we can mitigate global warming without expanding social justice and equality of opportunity – these are interlocked parts of the same system that today takes the world and everything in it as a resource to be used and abused. 

What role do art and research play in imagining and configuring a better future? 

One of the most powerful things art and research can do is to unsettle and unnerve the process by which all things abstract are rendered concrete. When they function in their most critical way, art and research doesn’t help us to understand “progress” (for example). Instead, they tell us about the beliefs, desires, fantasies, and fictions we have connected to progress. They do so not to leave things unsettled – just to tell us that such terms are abstract – but to allow us to grasp fully the choices and processes through which we gave shape to the world. Practices like art, writing and critical research remain one of the few sites of meta-analysis we have today. They are practices whose function isn’t to render the world stiff and unmovable, empty of possibility because they turn everything grey like concrete, but the opposite: through critique and analysis art and research animate political possibility. 

Why is this a more relevant time than ever to be interrogating this state of the world and coming up with solutions?

In a lecture offered at Humboldt University in 2016 (as part of a series called Zukunftswissen, or “Knowledge of the Future”), Bruno Latour suggested that the Paris conference on climate (COP 21) represented a “world historical episode.” The reason for this isn’t because all of the sovereign nations on the planet had agreed to address climate change (meekly and provisionally). It is because the modern world we had thought we had been creating and shaping, pushing on into the future, had suddenly ceased to exist. Latour points to a UN exercise connected to COP 21 called “Intended Nationally Determined Contribution” (INDC) When each country tallied up their development goals up to mid-century via an elaboration of their INDC, it became apparent (in Latour’s words) “that there existed no credible planet capable of absorbing all of those wishes.”

Sovereignty has long meant that each country can do what they want. Now it’s clear that that’s impossible: if every country does what it wants, we will exceed the limits of the Earth. Our official recognition of these limits means that we have no choice but to figure out how we can live together differently, make decisions differently, and share the resources of the planet differently. The challenge posed by global warming won’t go away with the next news cycle. It is now a permanent part of all of our plans and forces us to rethink the narratives and practices that have brought us to this moment. Latour dates the moment of his world historical episode to December 12, 2015, when French President François Hollande exclaimed "Vive la France, Vive les Nations Unies, Vive la planète!" Long live the planet! It’s a good slogan for this new world that we need to bring into being – and fast. 

What are you looking forward to exploring with participants during the program Banff Research in Culture: Year 2067?

I can’t wait to start learning about everything I don’t know or haven’t thought about from the fantastic participants and faculty who will attend BRiC 2017! That’s the point of this program: together we can know and do far more than we can do on our own. So time to get at it. After all, 2067 is only 50 years away!

Eva-Lynn Jagoe

Eva-Lynn Jagoe is Director of the Program in Comparative Literature and associate professor of Comparative Literature, Spanish and Portuguese, and Cinema Studies at the University of Toronto. She is the recipient of a Jackman Humanities Research Fellowship (2011) for her book project entitled Too Much, in which she examines forms of containment and excess that define and delimit intimacy and identity in literature, film, and psychoanalysis. 

What is one thing you hope humans will achieve by 2067?

I hope we figure out new ways of living, working, and being together. Right now, we are living in a society that expounds the values of personal gain, individual success, and the freedom to do whatever you want. This ideology creates great inequality and injustice, and it runs counter to the needs of the planet, and the needs of beings who are suffering in precarious living conditions. 

I believe that many of us are seeking new forms of collectivity, as evidenced by recent movements such as Standing Rock, Black Lives Matter, or Occupy. In the next 50 years, we need to imagine ourselves as part of communities that extend beyond our race, gender, nationality, or ethnicity. With 7.4 billion people in the world, we need to expand our vision of what it means to belong and to live a life that is inextricably interdependent with so many other beings and objects.

What role do art and research play in imagining and configuring a better future?

Artists and researchers engage with ideas in a way that is informed by the extensive learning and reading that they do, but that is also predicated on the time and study that they give it. In their practices, they face the hard task of never taking anything for granted, of questioning their assumptions, and of imagining different possibilities and interpretations. These are people who have dedicated their lives to the pursuit of knowledge and the creation of ideas and objects that teach, inform, delight, horrify, or anger their readers and spectators. They are hugely important in our society because of the way they question the status quo and help others see and understand issues differently.

What are you looking forward to exploring with participants during the program Banff Research in Culture: Year 2067?

The joyous, imaginative, productive, communal experience of participating in Banff Research in Culture is a profoundly fulfilling experience. During that time, participants share their ideas and the group works together to nurture possibilities for transformative politics, art, and culture. It is a microcosm of the kind of interdependent and powerful collectivity that I hope to see flourish in the world by 2067.

Claudia Rankine

Claudia Rankine is guest faculty for the Banff Research in Culture 2067 program

Claudia Rankine is the author of five collections of poetry, two plays, numerous video collaborations, and is the editor of several anthologies. Among her numerous awards and honours, Rankine is the recipient of the Poets & Writers’ Jackson Poetry Prize and fellowships from the Lannan Foundation and the National Endowment of the Arts. She lives in California and teaches at Yale University as the Frederick Iseman Professor of Poetry. In 2016, she was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship.

What is one thing you hope humans will achieve by 2067?

By that time, I hope that we will be able to perceive every "other" as another human being. I also hope that we will have found a way to live sustainably on earth, and that our earth will still be able to sustain our lives. 

What role do art and research play in imagining and configuring a better future?

Artists and thinkers will pull forward history—their imagining of a way forward will create new pathways to living. Their interrogation of history will create new outcomes and possibilities. 

Why is this a more relevant time than ever to be interrogating this state of the world and coming up with solutions?

Because, on a global level, we have turned backwards towards fascism, fear and exclusion. In recent history there hasn't been such a consolidated global move towards limiting freedom, building walls, and the systematic silencing of dissent. Without active involvement and intervention we will be in collusion with our own demise.  

What are you looking forward to exploring with participants during the program Banff Research in Culture: Year 2067?

I will be very interested in collectively imagining lives divested of  the "false fight for their humanity," to quote Fred Moten. 

Elizabeth A. Povinelli

At MoMA PS1, via E-Flux

Elizabeth A. Povinelli is Franz Boas Professor of Anthropology and the Institute for the Research of Women, Gender, and Sexuality at Columbia University. Her research and writing has focused on developing a critical theory of settler late liberalism that would support an anthropology of the otherwise. Informed primarily by with the traditions of American pragmatism and continental immanent theory and grounded in the circulation of values, materialities, and socialities. This potential theory has unfolded primarily from within a sustained relationship with Indigenous colleagues in north Australia and across five books, numerous essays, and three films with the Karrabing Film Collective.

What is one thing you hope humans will achieve by 2067?

What we will have achieved is what we already are but without understanding—and radically unevenly. During the hot days of the Anthropocene’s emergence as a concept, scholars and artists called for a form of the human; a human who would be better aligned to her environmental conditions. But this human has already arrived, is becoming one with environment it keeps making. The hot human, the toxic human, the post-human, the never was one human. I cannot know what this human who has already begun to arrive—we will have seen it more clearly in 2067, this thing that we are. I hope those who suffered the hardest on the way to arriving thrive.

What role do art and research play in imagining and configuring a better future?

Art functions as both a medium for an exploratory imaginary and a MacGuffin for social politics. As we know the MacGuffin is the mysterious object that sets in motion and keeps in motion the chain of events until the film winds down and ends. Hitchcock famously described the McGuffin as “the thing that the characters on the screen worry about, but the audience don’t care.” It is nothing. But what if we made research and art not for itself but in order to chase something so that in chasing it we can become characters in a plot of their own writing?

What are you looking forward to exploring with participants during the program Banff Research in Culture: Year 2067?

I have recently claimed that geontopower—the governance of difference and markets through the division of Life and Nonlife—is now revealing itself globally even as, perhaps because, it is decisively losing its grip. Because much within critical theory has depended on geontopower it remains unclear to me what forms of thought and practice emerge in the wake of this emergent conceptual collapse.