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Thinking with heritage: Past and present in lived futures

Sandford, R; (2019) Thinking with heritage: Past and present in lived futures. Futures , 111 pp. 71-80. 10.1016/j.futures.2019.06.004.

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There is widespread recognition within futures studies that it is vital to engage with the past when thinking about the future. The disciplines of futures studies and history have much in common: historians have often been concerned with the future, and researchers in futures studies and foresight have noted the importance of working with history. Green (2012) suggests that ‘thinking with history’ is a valuable approach for futures researchers. In this paper, however, I argue that ‘thinking with heritage’ offers another approach towards engaging with the past, and one that is better suited to some kinds of futures work. I distinguish between two kinds of future narrative. ‘Instrumental futures’ (Michael, 2000) are concerned with using ideas of the future to further unexamined present-day interests: they are abstract and exchangeable, being removed from any particular social context. In contrast, ‘lived futures’, following Adam and Groves (2007), are concerned with particular places and groups, depending not just on future imaginaries at large in society but also the material and affective aspects of the social relations within which these groups are embedded. I suggest that futures research that aims to have a positive social impact should concern itself with recognising and developing lived futures over instrumental futures, and that thinking with heritage – engaging with the past through the interests and values of particular groups – is well-suited to supporting this. The argument draws on the different ways in which time is represented in these different ways of engaging with pasts and futures. Instrumental futures, in common with historicised accounts of the past, make use of a universal ‘empty time’ to sequence events or project extrapolations forward. Lived futures, alongside heritage, work with a ‘thick present’ in which past, present and future are interwoven through particular subjectivities. For futures researchers with an interest in further understanding and developing futures that are connected to the cares and interests of particular communities, I suggest that engaging with these communities’ heritage would be a practical way of ensuring that their work remains meaningful.

Type: Article
Title: Thinking with heritage: Past and present in lived futures
DOI: 10.1016/j.futures.2019.06.004
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.futures.2019.06.004
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
Keywords: Heritage; History; Historicity; Lived Futures; Latent Futures; Thick Present; Empty Time; Temporality; Subjectivity; Care
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of the Built Environment
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of the Built Environment > Bartlett School Env, Energy and Resources
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10092756
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