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Recurring Dreams: Mega Events and Traces of Past Futures


Jonathan Gardner

UCL Institute of Archaeology, London WC1H 0PY, GB
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Investigating several modern ‘mega events’, including World’s Fairs and Olympic Games, this paper discusses the complex relationship such events and their sites have often had with ‘the future’. Such events are frequently associated with demonstrating progress towards future ‘utopias’ (for example ‘The World of Tomorrow’ theme of the 1939 World’s Fair in New York) or leaving a tangible positive social and economic ‘legacy’. However, other uses of mega event sites have also frequently manifested darker, more anxious ideas about that which is yet to come. In this paper I discuss three forms in which mega events’ sites relate to the idea of the future: before, during, and after they take place. In discussing these relationships, I demonstrate how traces of ‘past futures’, when investigated archaeologically, provide a diverse means by which to understand how societies have related to the idea of the future through the modern era.

How to Cite: Gardner, J., 2020. Recurring Dreams: Mega Events and Traces of Past Futures. Archaeology International, 22(1), pp.86–99. DOI:
  Published on 17 Jan 2020

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