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Deakin Anthropology Seminar – The Revolutionary’s Two Temporalities: Activism, Failure, and the Event

Rights Refused Book Cover

Deakin Anthropology Seminar – The Revolutionary’s Two Temporalities: Activism, Failure, and the Event

Event Venue:

Deakin Downtown 727 Collins StreetDocklands, VIC, 3008, Australia ( Map )


Political activists assess actions both for their relatively immediate effects, and for their potential longer-term consequences, such that provisional failures can become resources for future victories, while erstwhile successes can dissolve after apparent achievement. Drawing from ethnography with Burmese revolutionaries, this article shows how activists engage the perpetual possibility of defeat by engaging two divergent temporal strategies divided by their respective orientations towards failure: in one, activists inoculate themselves against the possibility of failure by embedding themselves in perpetual struggles that efface ends by committing to means; in the other, activists embrace a contingent and open-ended temporality vis-à-vis ultimate outcomes, thereby remaining responsive to evolving conditions. Such destabilized temporality may (partially) explain a concomitant observation: that activist subjectivity remains perpetually mutable. The article concludes by considering whether this intertemporal oscillation is unique to activist subjectivity or whether, conversely, it unearths a pronounced version of a general human experience.

Speaker Details

Elliott Prasse-Freeman, Assistant Professor of Anthropology at NUS, has conducted long-term fieldwork in Myanmar and it environs. His first book (Rights Refused, Stanford University Press) focuses on political activism in Burma, while his current book project examines Rohingya ethnogenesis amidst dislocation and mass violence. His work has appeared in American Ethnologist, Current Anthropology, Journal of Peasant Studies, Public Culture, and Comparative Studies in Society and History, and he’s the co-editor of Anthropological Theory Commons, a place where you should consider submitting your short-form anthro theory writings!

Additional Details

The speaker will be presenting in person at Deakin Downtown, but you can also join us via Zoom:


Meeting ID: 847 4052 5648
Password: 42231376

Staff, HDRs and students are all welcome. 

For in-person RSVPs and any inquiries please contact David Giles or Timothy Neale 


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