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Governing anticipation: UNESCO making humankind futures literate
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Social Anthropology, Stockholm Centre for Organizational Research (SCORE).ORCID iD: 0000-0002-5986-7165
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Social Anthropology, Stockholm Centre for Organizational Research (SCORE).ORCID iD: 0000-0001-6797-3892
Number of Authors: 22023 (English)In: Journal of Organizational Ethnography, ISSN 2046-6749, E-ISSN 2046-6757, Vol. 12, no 1, p. 105-119Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Purpose - This paper explores practices of foresight within the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) program Futures Literacy, as a form of transnational governmentality–founded on the interests of “using the future” by “emancipating” the minds of humanity.

Design/methodology/approach - The paper draws on ethnographic material gathered over five years within the industry of futures consultancy, including UNESCO and its network of self-recognized futurists. The material consists of written sources, participant observation in on-site and digital events and workshops, and interviews.

Findings - Building on Foucault's (1991) concept of governmentality, which refers to the governing of governing and how subjects politically come into being, this paper critically examines the UNESCO Futures Literacy program by answering questions on ontology, deontology, technology and utopia. It shows how the underlying rationale of the Futures Literacy program departs from an ontological premise of anticipation as a fundamental capacity of biological life, constituting an ethical substance that can be worked on and self-controlled. This rationale speaks to the mandate of UNESCO, to foster peace in our minds, but also to the governing of governing at the individual level.

Originality/value - In the intersection between the growing literature on anticipation and research concerning governmentality the paper adds ethnographically based knowledge to the field of transnational governance. Earlier ethnographic studies of UNESCO have mostly focused upon its role for cultural heritage, or more broadly neoliberal forms of governing.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2023. Vol. 12, no 1, p. 105-119
Keywords [en]
Governmentality, UNESCO, Ethnography, Anticipation, Emancipation
National Category
Sociology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-207857DOI: 10.1108/JOE-10-2021-0055ISI: 000815260500001Scopus ID: 2-s2.0-85132899526OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-207857DiVA, id: diva2:1688318
Available from: 2022-08-18 Created: 2022-08-18 Last updated: 2023-04-17Bibliographically approved

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Jennische, UlrikSörbom, Adrienne

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