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Abandoning Happiness for Life: Mourning and Futurity in Maja Borg’s Future My Love (2012)

Journal article
Authors Anna Backman Rogers
Published in The European Journal of Women's Studies
Volume 23
Issue 4
Pages 353-364
ISSN 1350-5068
Publication year 2016
Published at Department of Cultural Sciences
Pages 353-364
Language en
Keywords Maja Borg, Future My Love, Butler, Ahmed, Berlant, Mourning, Futurity, Queer theory, Happiness, Crisis, Love.
Subject categories Media and Communications, Languages and Literature, Philosophy, Ethics and Religion, Arts, Other Humanities


A dilemma, posed as a question, lies at the heart of Maja Borg’s poetic and alternatively distributed documentary film, Future My Love (2012): why do we labour so hard to sustain relationships that are fundamentally deleterious and corrosive to our wellbeing ? The detrimental bonds on which the film focuses are those that maintain our connection to an economic system that has thrown us into an acute state of crisis and the stillborn emotions that keep us attached hopefully to a romantic partnership that we have already outgrown; this elision imbricates and implicates the personal in the political . Indeed, Borg herself has stated that it was through the lens of her own personal loss that she was able to explore and to question our global relationship to an economic system that is fast failing us: ‘(t)he question that kept coming back to me was: if we know what is wrong with the economy and we know how to change a lot of what is wrong, why don’t we? I needed something in the film to explore that issue: why we don’t change the fundamentals of a relationship when it is hurting us. So, that’s when I brought in my experience of love – I needed something that was true to me, that I understood personally and that I could explain and make universal’ (in Fielder 2012). In the film’s opening moments, Borg addresses, by way of dedication, the idealistic lost love of her life (actress and activist Nadya Cazan), thus: ‘my only way to tell you what I could not then is to try to understand it your way: “Our global economy simply does not work. We have to find something new”. It is equally hard to learn to live without you.’ Through a prism of painful and, at times, unbearable emotion, and by blurring the boundaries between the public and the private, the real and the fictional, this film urges us to imagine ourselves into a future in which it might be possible to live otherwise; but this requires us to abandon the future we have already imagined and, as the film evinces through archival imagery from the 1950s or golden age of capitalism, imaged ourselves into. Moreover, the intimate nature of the voiceover that is such a prominent part of the film’s poetics – namely, its address from the first person to the second person – works to foreground reparative labour: there is a form of power in naming loss. By drawing on the work of Lauren Berlant and Sara Ahmed on the cultural politics of emotion, Judith Butler’s work on the act of mourning, and the writing of Eva Illouz, Luce Irigaray, and Alain Badiou on love (in the age of late capitalism), I set forth a (mostly) queer reading of Borg’s film as an intervention into traditional narratives of happiness. More specifically, the work of Ahmed and Berlant in particular engages directly with the notion of futurity as a promise within a critical context – a context that was powerfully and controversially outlined already by Lee Edelman in No Future (2005). In contrast to Edelman, though, Berlant and Ahmed do not call for us to reject the future, but to rethink the place from which hopefulness over the future emanates. As such, their work seeks to un-ground and destabilise those life scripts to which we so readily subscribe and to open up new ways of imagining and imaging life and the notion of futurity. In short, this article contends that Future My Love pleads with us to abandon ‘happiness for life’ (Ahmed 2010: 75), to forsake an ideology that is invested in a highly specific conception of what it means to flourish and to thrive, to mourn and name our losses, and to think about the future creatively and without cynicism.

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