In a range of texts—popular, scientific, anthropological—potentiality is used to denote very different things but tends to be employed with such straightforwardness that one hardly notices slippages in its meaning. We identify three meanings of potentiality. The first denotes a hidden force determined to manifest itself—something that with or without intervention has its future built into it. The second refers to genuine plasticity—the capacity to transmute into something completely different. The third suggests a latent possibility imagined as open to choice, a quality perceived as available to human modification and direction through which people can work to propel an object or subject to become something other than it is.

klaus lindgaard høyer, karen-sue taussig & stefan helmreich

Taussig, K.-S., Hoeyer, K., & Helmreich, S. (2013). The Anthropology of Potentiality in Biomedicine. Current Anthropology, 54(S7), S3–S14.