ASA15: Symbiotic anthropologies: theoretical commensalities and methodological mutualisms

Time-tricking: human temporal engagements, devices and strategies
Location Room 9
Date and Start Time 15 April, 2015 at 09:15
Sessions 2


  • Roxana Moroşanu Firth (University of Cambridge) email
  • Felix Ringel (Durham University) email
  • Daniel Knight (University of St Andrews) email

Mail All Convenors

Short Abstract

This panel looks at symbiotic relationships that human beings develop with time.

Long Abstract

This panel looks at symbiotic relationships that human beings develop with time. We ask about the ethnographic tools that we need in order to be able to communicate these symbiotic relationships; about the ways in which these relationships could be analytically unpacked and about the emergent knowledge produced.

Is time-tricking - the development of personal, intersubjective and collective strategies to stretch and bend time in accordance to our needs, preoccupations and deadlines - a form of symbiosis? Whilst time seems to be relentless in how much (or little) time it gives us, human beings often need devices to 'trick' time in order to facilitate everyday activities, evocatively draw on moments of the distant past or contemplate alternative futures. Particularly in an era regarded as being defined by acceleration (Eriksen 2001) and by irreversible changes, such as the depletion of natural energy resources (Mitchell 2013), the creativity in tricking time is encouraged and admired. What does this say about the dominant forms of temporality of this era, about the institutions that are legitimated through the enactment of these temporalities (Greenhouse 1996), and about our relationships with them?

We invite contributions that address, but are not limited to, questions of alternative temporalities, time-keeping, silencing and accelerating time, and the topological experience of time.

Could time-tricking be a form of methodological mutualism between anthropology and other disciplines? We invite contributors to reflect on the ways in which our methodology is changing in relation to our own temporal constraints in contemporary research practices.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.


Time and Money - bending time in the Greek economic crisis

Author: Andreas Streinzer (Institute for Social Research Frankfurt/ Main)  email

Short Abstract

The paper focuses on time tricking strategies of "everyday financial brokering" during the economic crisis in Greece. Based on ethnographic data of an extended household on the slopes of Mt. Pilion in Thessaly, the role of money and related strategies of tricking time will be discussed.

Long Abstract

The economic-temporal diet of austerity in Greece has led among others to the collapse of labour markets, the decrease of wages, pensions and unemployment benefits.

Kalypso, a woman in Thessaly is struggling to make ends meet for her extended family in a situation that is stuck between an enforced presentism and fantasy futurism (cf. Guyer 2007).

Kalypso engages in what I call "everyday financial brokering", a practice that sheds light on the role of money, the value of labour, and time-tricking strategies in the Greece of today.

Confronted with the increasing gap between revenues and necessary expenses in her extended family, Kalypso struggles to ensure a smooth flow of values for

ensuring the necessary liquidity for paying bills on time. Kalypso juggles with deadlines for payments and the dates wages and pensions are paid. She uses money as an economic device that does not require that any one person in the family is able to settle her own bills in time.

This paper discusses various strategies of tricking or silencing time in the face of economic hardship, by combining ethnographic data and anthropological concepts. The role of money as a device to bend time will be investigated as an echo of an era, in which the social role of the financial broker is no more restricted to high finance, but becomes as well necessary in times of socio-economic uncertainty in Thessaly.

"But isn´t it the baby that decides when it will be born"?: Temporality, the reproducing body and women's being-in-the-world

Author: Joanna White (Centre for Research in Anthropology (CRIA-IUL), Lisbon)  email

Short Abstract

This paper examines the enactment of temporality in childbirth. The structuring of time by maternal health institutions and professionals, associated phenomenological outcomes for women, and the moral and social implications of the acceleration of labour and delivery are explicated.

Long Abstract

From their first engagement with health services, pregnant women and their bodies become embedded within socially imposed categorizations of time. What are the experiential outcomes and wider implications of this process? Drawing on ethnographic research in England and Portugal, this paper explores the forms of temporality articulated within ante-natal care services and hospital maternity units, which can often be seen to be founded on a logic of efficiency and risk avoidance, as much as care provision. Pregnant and birthing women's symbiotic relationship and negotiations with - and in some cases rejection of - such external, structured forms of temporality, are explored and the intersections between various enactments of time and corporeality and outcomes in relation to women's embodiment or being-in-the world, are examined. Ironically, to ensure "continuity of care", a concept suggestive of linear temporal and professional support, procedures in some settings in Portugal result in the extreme acceleration of labour and birth, through interventions such as the induction of labour or early elective caesarean, to ensure personalized care with a known obstetrician at the moment of birth. The moral and wider social implications of such enactments of time in relation to the female reproductive body are explored. It is demonstrated how the natural or normal birth movement may represent a significant yet scarcely recognised means of challenging the institutionalised acceleration of time in contemporary society.

Resting, slowing, waiting

Authors: Lisa Baraitser (Birkbeck, University of London)  email
Laura Salisbury (Exeter University)  email

Short Abstract

This paper critically examines the stretched times of resting, slowing and waiting, and how they persist within the ‘non-stop inertia’ of late liberal time. It focuses on the problematics of 'waiting times' in mental health services and the therapeutic clinical encounter.

Long Abstract

This co-authored paper works across psychosocial studies and medical humanities to critically examine the temporality of a range of practices of resting, slowing and waiting, in order to address the question of what happens to time in the contradictory 'non-stop inertia' of late liberalism (Southwood, 2011). It focuses both on theoretical articulations of 'stuck' or 'suspended' time, and on the problematics of 'waiting times' in relation to both the provision of mental health services and the psychotherapy clinical encounter. Using an emerging scholarship that reformulates the speed and mobility commonly associated with modernity through emphases on slowness and stilled, impeded or suspended time, the paper examines contemporary experiences of waiting for and within the therapeutic encounter. It aims to situate waiting in relation to new truncated imaginaries of the future, brought about by the realities of climate change, resource scarcity and austerity, and contemporary cultural narratives of the 'end times'. Our overall concerns are with tracking waiting and practices of care in socioeconomic conditions in which the post-war settlement and its promise of access to basic resources for all has collapsed, in order to develop conceptual and affective resources for re-evaluating waiting in relation to treatment and care.

"Time is like a soup": 'Boat Time' and the temporal experience of London's liveaboard Boaters

Author: Ben Bowles (SOAS/LSE)  email

Short Abstract

Itinerant boat-dwellers in London experience time as slow and leading towards an unpredictable future. Time stretches, flows, and projects into an uncertain future in way incompatible with clock-time. This particular temporal experience shapes the Boaters as a community in relation to a sedentary ‘other’.

Long Abstract

Itinerant boat-dwellers (Boaters) on the waterways of London speak about their lives as occurring in a separate "time-zone" from the sedentary world around them. 'Boat time', as Boaters call it, is simultaneously slow and unpredictable. The slow aspect of 'boat time' is spoken of as providing a much needed contrast to the fast and highly choreographed movements of the city surrounding the towpaths. It further becomes part of the Boaters rhetoric of difference from and resistance to the State and other sedentary elements surrounding them as the Boater's pace of life is spoken of as natural, ideal, and fundamentally opposed to the clock-time of the sedentary world. 'Boat time' is unpredictable as almost all projects, journeys and meetings upon the waterways are contingent upon the coming together of many different factors and agents, many of which are beyond the Boaters' direct control. Things happen when they happen, that is to say when many disparate elements align in order to allow their completion. Thus boat-dwelling becomes a matter of waiting, of negotiating, and of becoming increasingly vague concerning the future. As a participant described, time is "like a soup"; it is viscous, opaque and slow to pour, ironically unlike the laminar flow of water. This paper shall show how such a particular temporal experience is a constitutive part of my participants identity, a strategic component of their resistance to the sedentary order, and a thread which links disparate aspects of their lives aboard.

Dance, Capital and the Time-Trickster

Author: Jonathan Skinner (University of Roehampton)  email

Short Abstract

Dance is a feat of illusion in time and space performed by tricksters. This paper explores the arts of these feats when time appears as contorted as the body whether it is internal and phenomenological or external and illusory. Together they evince creative capitalisation of an exploitative concept.

Long Abstract

Dance is a feat of illusion in time and space. It is performed by tricksters: in a tango step, the leader is ahead of the beat so that the follower steps on time; in popping and strobbing, there is a freeze of the body followed by muscular flexing and contraction; in a salsa performance, a dance with the clave plays with time to emphasise a move; in a tango traspie step, syncopation gives the appearance of a fall; in street dance the elastic, sequenced orientation of the feet results in a floating moonwalk. Time, in these occasions, is seemingly stretched, compressed, practiced and played with from different angles by participants in their own time-flows on the dance floor during their 'timeout' leisure pursuits. This paper explores the arts of these feats, the training and practice, the motivations and meanings lying within their accomplishment, and their performance and effects on the social dance floor and the professional dance stage. In each case, time appears as contorted as the body whether it is internal and phenomenological or external and illusory. Together, they evince a creative capitalisation of a generally exploitative concept.

Crafting future selves in children's online worlds

Author: Espen Helgesen (University of Bergen)  email

Short Abstract

This paper explores emerging forms of technology-mediated play in Norway, arguing that online avatars provide children with opportunities to engage in time-work as they craft and act out a wide variety of imagined future selves.

Long Abstract

Children in Norway increasingly inhabit online worlds, where they craft avatars and hang out and play games with friends. In this paper I draw on ethnographic fieldwork among 8- and 9-year-olds to explore emerging forms of technology-mediated play in Norwegian children's lives. I show how a group of children, by creating and sharing animated films in the online world MovieStarPlanet, acted out a wide range of imagined future selves. I argue that the crafting of avatars and films can be understood as forms of time-work, understood as performances involving a simultaneous acceleration and deceleration of time. The playful projection of—and experimentation with—the future is indicative of how avatars can be considered posthuman subjects, potentially providing key insights into the multiple temporalities at play in children's lives.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.