AIAS Fellows' Seminar: Morten Nielsen, invited by AIAS Fellow Rane Willerslev

Title: The Negativity of Times. Collapsed Futures in Maputo, Mozambique

2013.12.11 | AIAS

Date Mon 24 Feb
Time 14:15 16:15
Location The AIAS Auditorium, Building 1632, Høegh-Guldbergs Gade 6B, 8000 Aarhus C


Based on ethnographic research carried out in Maputo throughout the last decade, this presentation explores the variegated after-effects in the present of collapsed urban futures. The argument is built on an ethnographic analysis of kuzama utomi (‘trying to make a life’), a temporal trope that pre-figures the future as a failure on a linear scale. Still, although it is identified by its collapse, the future wedges itself within the present as a trace of that which will never be. While manifesting the efforts needed in order to reach a desired objective, it also exposes the powers at work, which inhibit its eventual realization. The analysis of kuzama utomi will be used as starting point for discussing a series of concrete case studies involving recent urban planning schemes. Based on these empirically driven analyses, an argument will be made for the paradoxical importance of collapsed futures for urban social life across sub-Saharan Africa. 

Short CV

Morten Nielsen received his MA (2002) and PhD (2009) in social anthropology from the University of Copenhagen. From 2009 – 2010 he was research fellow at the Centre for Cosmopolitan Studies, University of St. Andrews, the UK, and post.doc. at the University of Copenhagen. Since 2012 he has been associate professor at Aarhus University and was in 2012 Head of the Ethnographic Collections at Moesgaard Museum, Aarhus, Denmark. Currently, he coordinates the elaboration of a new interdisciplinary MA program in ‘critical urban studies’ at Aarhus University. His research focuses on the relationship between time and materiality as reflected through processes of urban planning, house-building and large-scale infrastructure projects. He has carried out ethnographic fieldwork in Brazil (2001-02), Mozambique (2004-2012) and Scotland (2013).

What is a Fellows' Seminar?

The AIAS Fellows' Seminar is a session of seminars held by the AIAS fellows or by other speakers proposed by the fellows. In each seminar, one fellow will present and discuss his/her current research and research project, closing off with a question and discussion session.

All seminars are held in English and open to the public. Registration to the seminar is not necessary. Read more about the AIAS Fellows' Seminar here.