Past Event

Franz Boas Seminar: Larisa Kurtović, "Future as Predicament"

March 29, 2023
4:00 PM - 6:00 PM
Event time is displayed in your time zone.
963 Schermerhorn Extension


A reception will follow the talk in the Robert F. Murphy/Morton H. Fried Anthropology Lounge, room 465 Schermerhorn Extension.

Abstract: What becomes of the future in the wake of a catastrophe? My exploration of this question, rooted in the ethnographic context of postwar and post-socialist Bosnia-Herzegovina, begins with the 2008 murder of the 16-year-old Denis Mrnjavac by three underage boys in a crowded tram in downtown Sarajevo. To the surprise of many, the fatal stabbing, by all accounts apolitical and a product of a banal confrontation, sparked the very first mass protest movement of the postwar period. Over the next several months, this tragedy, which followed in the wake of several other gruesome crimes committed that winter by underage offenders, brought thousands of people into the streets. Fueled by anger over the government’s (non) response to the apparent rise of youth crime, the mobilization led to a reckoning with the material and the perceived collapse of the biopolitical order, both in its more punitive and more caring forms.

This sense of a compounded crisis—of a broken system and forfeited futures embodied in the figure of the juvenile delinquent—interpellated especially strongly middle-aged parents, raising children in the wake of devastating and multifaceted violence. Chronicling the protestors’ efforts to transform the relationship between the people and the postwar state, this talk takes up the future as a material and an embodied category, as well as a genealogical object that had been shaped for over a century by developmentalist schemes, which often explicitly targeted the youth.  Pushing past the critiques of reproductive futurism, I ask what these post-socialist anxieties about youth crime and public safety can tell us about the politics of the future writ large.

Larisa Kurtović is an Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Ottawa. She is a political anthropologist who conducts research on activist, labor based and environmental movements in postwar Bosnia. Her ethnographic analyses of popular mobilizations, deep satire and nationalist politics, have appeared on the pages of the American Ethnologist, Focaal, History and Anthropology and Critique of Anthropology among others. She is currently writing a book entitled Future as Predicament: Political Life After Catastrophe based on her long-term research in postwar-Bosnia, as well as working on a future graphic ethnography about Bosnia’s most iconic worker-led movement, with anthropologist Andrew Gilbert and Bosnian graphic artist, Boris Stapić. Her most recent research is on Bosnia’s river defenders and the affective politics of infrastructure in post-war Sarajevo.