As we all know, ‘urgent’ is a frequent subject heading used for emails and documents. It is also ubiquitous in calls to action against climate change and ongoing wars. In many ways, the word draws our attention to imminent crises, such as humanitarian disasters or the outbreak of diseases. Yet, the ethnographic contours of said urgency and imminence are far from self-evident. As this special issue's guest editors Andreas Bandak and Paul Anderson put it, urgency is always a claim of urgency. What is at stake in such claims, they submit, are not just the necessary resources, rights, expertise and power to ‘act now before it is too late’, but also a specific temporality. By separating the ‘now’ or ‘imminent’ from ‘before’ or ‘always’, time gets measured differently: it turns from being a quantitative entity to a qualitative and even incommensurable process. Indeed, the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic marked the year 2020 as the dawn of a ‘new era’ in human biology and biopolitical governance (Bermant and Ssorin-Chaikov 2020). In a similar vein, other events turned out watershed moments in history: the 2008 financial crisis inaugurated the ‘age of austerity’, while 9/11 claimed the new ‘normalcy’ of living with terrorist threats and permanent war on terror – even if in many places around the world living with terrorist threats was rather normal for a long time before 9/11. If modernity can be viewed as a stretched-out present producing ‘newtime’ (Neuzeit, see Koselleck 2002), including irregular crises, it is no surprise that new eras keep appearing and supplanting each other all the time. What makes the temporality of urgency distinct from ‘modernity as time’ (Ssorin-Chaikov 2017) and particularly from its twentieth-century teleological futurism of capitalism, state socialism or neoliberalism, argue Bandak and Anderson, is its ‘presentism’ in the sense of François Hartog (2015).