“Trading in Futures”: Exploring Anticipation in the Archive

Jessica Lapp



‘Anticipation work’ has been introduced by Adele Clarke as a means of characterizing modes of work that are future-oriented, invisible, and affectual in nature. Clarke states: “My goal…is that anticipation work be recognized as work, as labour, as effortful, and as potentially fraught, however hopefully it might be undertaken” (2015, p.86). Clarke suggests that the concept of anticipation can be employed as a means of explaining how and why work is undertaken, stating that “dimensions of political economy are no longer the only modes of rationalization” (2015, p.105). Most significantly, Clarke calls for more research and empirical projects that interrogate and give shape to anticipation work (2015, p.105). Although steeped in STS approaches to understanding how information and data are employed, Clarke’s characterization of anticipation work effectively describes the labour of activist community archiving. Her suggestion that “anticipation work is trading in futures and worthy of study” (2015, p.105), could be amended to read “archival work is trading in futures and worthy of study”. Is ‘archive’ synonymous with ‘anticipation’? Even if not interchangeable, the two terms have the ability to elucidate and challenge one another.

The concept of anticipation is inextricable from concepts and theories of affect. Although articulating a single theory or definition of affect is an impossible task, (Gregg & Seigworth, 2010), Sarah Ahmed’s suggestion that “affect is what sticks, or what sustains or preserves the connection between ideas, values, and objects” (2010, p.29), is particularly useful for characterizing the work of anticipation, and will be used throughout this paper alongside the work of Massumi, 2002; Gregg & Seigworth, 2010; Berlant, 2010; Cifor, 2016; and Caswell et al., 2017

Adele Clarke’s invitation to “explicitly explore the varied kinds of work of anticipation” (2015, p.105) is an opening to investigate the relationship between anticipation, affect, and archive. In this paper I suggest that the anticipatory work of community activist archives can be made visible through an exploration of archival determinations of value. By exploring how value determinations are made, and how archival value is instantiated in the archive, it is possible to surface and name the kinds of anticipation work that are occurring.

Ahmed, S. (2010). Happy Objects. In M. Gregg & G. Seigworth, The Affect Theory Reader (1st ed.). Durham: Duke University Press.
Berlant, L. (2010). Cruel Optimism. In M. Gregg & G. Seigworth, The Affect Theory Reader (1st ed.). Durham: Duke University Press.
Caswell, M., Migoni, A., Geraci, N., & Cifor, M. (2016). ‘To Be Able to Imagine Otherwise’: community archives and the importance of representation. Archives and Records, 1-22. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/23257962.2016.1260445
Cifor, M. (2015). Affecting relations: introducing affect theory to archival discourse. Archival Science, 16(1), 7-31. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10502-015-9261-5
Clarke, A. (2015). Anticipation work: abduction, simplification, hope. In G. Bowker, S. Timmermans, A. Clarke & E. Balka, Boundary Objects and Beyond (1st ed.). Cambridge: The MIT Press.
Gregg, M. & Seigworth, G. (2010). An Inventory of Shimmers. In M. Gregg & G. Seigworth, The Affect Theory Reader (1st ed.). Durham: Duke University Press.
Massumi, B. (2002). Parables for the Virtual. Durham: Duke University Press.



Jessica Lapp is a second-year PhD student in the Faculty of Information at the University of Toronto. Her research focuses on the ability of social movement archives to act as mobilizing structures that enable and constrain acts of resistance, connect contemporaneous acts of struggle, and bridge spatial and temporal gaps in order to unite past, present and future activist efforts. She is concerned with articulating concepts of archival representation, aspiration, and anticipation, and is increasingly interested in affect theory as a frame for exploring activist/archival work.