Rejecting Futures: Practices of Resistance or Failure


Wolfgang Stenzel (HWK)


Annette Leibing, Hanse Wissenschaftskolleg/University of Montreal
Mark Schweda, University of Oldenburg


  • David Benatar (Cape Town)
  • Claudia Bozzaro (Kiel)
  • James Crossley (Bedford)
  • Luiz Fernando Duarte (Rio de Janeiro)
  • Lee Edelman (Tufts)
  • Nolen Gertz (Twente)
  • Line Grenier (Montreal)
  • Ulla Kriebernegg (Graz)
  • Virginie Tournay (Paris)
  • Matthew Wolf-Meyer (Troy)
  • Matthew Worley (Reading)
  • Isaac Yuen (Berlin)


2024 – 2026

Statement of Problem

The all-encompassing paradigm of prevention – from actively preventing future disease to insuring ourselves against all sorts of possible catastrophies – prompts many of us to take our future lives, bodies, and health not as a given fact but as a project, i.e., something that can and should be responsibly devised and shaped by forecasting, planning, and intervention. The moral implications and sociocultural consequences of this trend towards projecting and planning individual as well as collective “bio-futures” have been at the centre of intensive debates in ethics, social research, and cultural studies. By comparison, the accompanying development of oppositional or subversive strategies to resist or circumvent the claims of (bio-)futurity have found little systematic attention, so far. This constitutes a research desiderate since these practices of resistance or failure appear just as significant for our present era as their “futurist” counterparts, and represent a cultural resource of inventive imagination, coping, and justification that calls for exploration and critical evaluation.  

This interdisciplinary HWK study group focuses on the variety of ways of “rejecting futures”. This includes old and new cultural practices of refusing to deal with tomorrow, resisting provision and planning, or rejecting responsibility for future developments, and resorting to fate, trust, or chance instead (e.g., use of random generators in decision making, implementing the right not to know, conveying durable powers of attorney). Sometimes unpredictability and contingency guide such cultural practices and sometimes rather explicit philosophical or spiritual doctrines (e.g., practices of “mindfulness”, cyclical conceptions of time). Other approaches are influenced by more pessimistic stances, a rehabilitation of failure in the sense of plans going awry, or a defeatist retreat to the past (e.g., Punk’s “No future” slogan, queer temporalities, nostalgia). Furthermore, there are movements based on theories and worldviews that deny or delimit the ‘future’ (e.g., anti-natalism, apocalyptic expectations and secular end-of-the-world scenarios). Our group brings together perspectives from anthropology, sociology, history, the arts, bioethics, philosophy, Science and Technology Studies (among others), as well as from individuals directly implicated in and affected, in an effort to understand and discuss “rejecting futures”.


May 6 - 7, 2024
October 21 - 22, 2024