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Department of Geography

Staff Profile

Publication details for Professor Ben Anderson

Anderson, B. Emergency Futures: Exception, Urgency, Interval, Hope. Sociological Review. 2017;65:463-477.

Author(s) from Durham


Emergency as a descriptor, technique and legal-political device has become a taken-for-granted way of apprehending and governing events and situations. In this paper, I explore the temporality of emergency, through reflections on the use of declarations of emergency in relation to US-based Black Lives Matter protests. I do so in the context of claims and counter-claims about contemporary transformations in what Rheinhart Kosselleck (2004: 241) terms the ‘expected otherness of the future’. Arguing for changes in the form of the ‘expected otherness of the future’ rather than its simple loss, disappearance or absence, I describe how emergency operates around a temporality of exceptionality, urgency and interval. Formal and informal declarations of emergency are, in addition, imbued with hope: the hope that time remains and action can make a difference to events. What the use of declarations of emergency by Black Lives Matter activists does is disrupt the geo-historically specific divide between the everyday and emergency by naming conditions that mix the endemic and the evental as emergencies. In the spark of hope that is the act of declaring that ongoing conditions should be treated as emergencies, the ‘otherness of the future’ folds into and becomes part of the present.