This issue focuses on how the experience of risk and the reckoning of potential futures can impact and reorganize social life. The opening section on speculation investigates the magical and the everyday practices of anticipation that run alongside, suspend, or displace the formal knowledges of calculation often taken to characterize the economic. While much of the anthropology of finance has taken the West as its point of departure, these essays turn to India to argue that understanding the practices and technologies through which people imagine uncertain, incalculable futures is key to analyzing contemporary global capitalism. They explore the ways in which speculative practices structure not only gambling and illicit finance but also real estate, public-private partnerships, and film. Thus, as Arjun Appadurai suggests in his afterword to the section, the essays show us how "capitalism, normally considered the zenith of scientism, techno-rationality, and calculative reason, can fruitfully be seen as just the opposite of these things."
A second section, "The Politics of Feminist Politics," considers other sites in which imagined futures shape political possibility and ethical practice. This section brings together feminist scholars of the Middle East and South Asia who highlight the silences, exclusions, and occlusions that mark the imaginative geographies of both "feminism" and "Islam" and suggest points of transregional convergence. These essays turn to specific situations, including the Arab Spring in Egypt, Morocco, and Tunisia, strong-state politics in Jordan and Syria, and shifting power struggles in Bangladesh, to unseat the "common sense" often projected by liberal feminist discourse.
A consideration of the work of Pakistani American artist Shahzia Sikander, accompanied by a visual essay on her work The Last Post, draws attention to questions of aesthetic practice, translation, and experimental artscapes in the context of the accelerated movement and high visibility of South Asian artists in emerging networks of artistic practice and valuation in a global field. Sikander’s work on form and formalism clearly moves within traditions of both global modernism and Islamicist abstraction, imagining new futures by engaging with the past. Anaheed Al-Hardan’s essay on the history of al-nakbah, or "the catastrophe," in Arab thought likewise asks how particular engagements with the past always come to answer to their presents.