ASA2016: Footprints and futures: the time of anthropology

(P02)
Temporal state(s)
Location Calman - Ken Wade
Date and Start Time 05 July, 2016 at 09:00
Sessions 2

Convenors

  • Daniel Knight (University of St Andrews) email
  • Rebecca Bryant (Utrecht University) email

Mail All Convenors

Chair Madeleine Reeves (University of Manchester)
Discussant Felix Ringel (University of Vienna)

Short Abstract

This panel asks if there is a temporal dimension to statehood that parallels its spatial dimension. In what way(s) do states lay claim to time? We encourage papers that grapple with this problem, as well as papers that explore the future in relation to other temporal dimensions of the state.

Long Abstract

Can we speak of a time of the state? This panel asks if there is a temporal dimension to statehood that parallels its spatial dimension, the latter realised in the form of territoriality. In what way(s) do states lay claim to time? In what ways do states manage, surveil, and defend their own temporalities? Do temporalities create their own borders? Or is the claim that states are temporal as well as spatial a form of allochronicity that creates or reinforces global inequalities? This panel will explore these questions through ethnographic research that addresses all dimensions of temporality, with a particular focus on the future. While much research has looked at the role of the past, history, and memory in the nation-state, our concern is with temporality and the state form, and especially with the ways in which states attempt to structure and control the future. Given the current difficulty—despite extensive critiques of state sovereignty—of imagining futures beyond the sovereign state, we ask if there is an intrinsic, unexplored connection between the ways that we currently imagine the future and the state form. We encourage papers that grapple with this problem, as well as papers that explore the future in relation to other temporal dimensions of the state.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

'A country in a hurry': the state of the future in Rwanda

Author: Will Rollason (Brunel University London)  email

Short Abstract

In this paper, I think through the Rwandan state as a temporal formation predicated on continuous and compulsory improvement. I show how the official future of the state detaches itself from the time of its subjects, and the country itself becomes a humiliating future in which they play no part.

Long Abstract

The 2015 Rwandan Integrated Household Living Conditions Survey (EICV4) became the object of scandal when a change in its methodology for measuring poverty was revealed, erasing what would have been a statistical increase in the number of poor people. In this paper, I take this episode as a provocation for thinking through the Rwandan state as a temporal formation predicated on continuous and compulsory improvement.

The Rwandan state lays claim to time through its continual invocation of the 1994 genocide as its primary claim to legitimacy and an apocalyptic break, erasing history. This erasure of history entails a claim on the future: everything is better now. This future is conjured through a kind of commercial time, where 'time is money', appropriate to a 'country hurrying towards development' — a future explicitly aimed at disciplining Rwandans and detaching them from an autochthonous 'African time' of inefficiency. These claims to the future are built into urban space, formed into slogans, and, ultimately deployed as judgements.

For ordinary Rwandans, this official future stands in an uneasy relation to their experiences of time's passage. The state creates class-bound development in the form of tall buildings, bright lights and sealed roads as though by magic, while the space-time of personal development, keyed to the rhythms of reproduction and the growth of families, is erased. As a result, the state's future seems to detach itself from the time of its subjects, and the country itself becomes a humiliating future in which they play no part.

Water futures: sovereign anxieties and planning in a so-called state

Author: Rebecca Bryant (Utrecht University)  email

Short Abstract

In late 2015, an undersea water pipeline to north Cyprus began to pump water from the south Turkish coast. This paper explores what I call ‘sovereign anxieties’ in relation to state planning and to a project built on a particular vision of the environmental future of the island.

Long Abstract

In late 2015, an undersea water pipeline to north Cyprus began to pump water from the south Turkish coast. The experimental, floating pipeline was a first in water delivery, and the Turkish government touted the project as an example of their largesse in economically and militarily supporting their client state, the unrecognized Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. This paper explores what I call 'sovereign anxieties' in relation to a project built on a particular vision of the environmental future of the island. What quickly became apparent around the time of the inauguration was that the north Cyprus government had made almost no plans for the water's management, despite almost five years of negotiations with the Turkish government and then construction of the project. This paper argues that many of the sovereign anxieties relating to the project are based in particular notions of temporality that shape state planning in north Cyprus and Turkey. In particular, as an unrecognized state whose anticipated future is one of dissolution into a negotiated federation, much state planning is of the order of short-term tactics rather than long-term strategies. The water project, on the other hand, represented the planning strategies of the Turkish state, as well as the first substantial material manifestation of planning regarding the medium-term future of the island. The sovereign anxieties of the so-called state manifest themselves in the temporality of planning and in the intimacies of a glass of water.

Lost in transition: imagining future, planning and the state in Iraqi Kurdistan

Author: Lana Askari (University of Manchester)  email

Short Abstract

This paper focuses on how the de facto state of the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) in Iraqi Kurdistan imagines, plans and (re) negotiates its future in Iraqi Kurdistan by exploring infrastructural planning projects in the city of Sulaimani.

Long Abstract

After 2003, the maturation of the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) in Iraq introduced new political and economic possibilities in the region. However, recent clashes with the Islamic State (IS) and dropping oil prices have destabilized this "state in the making' into one in "crisis". On the other hand, these changes have also allowed for Kurdish territorial gains and intensifying perceptions of Kurdish unification and independence. How can anthropology research the prospective dimensions of state planning when placed in social spaces of (seemingly) timeless conflict? In its attempts to make an unknown future knowable, development planning and infrastructure present fertile ground for an anthropology of the 'not-yet' (Larkin 2013; Abram and Weszkalnys 2013). Seeing infrastructures as ontologies, their temporalities exceeding human lifetimes (Bowker, 2015), these sites can shed light onto how successive regimes have laid claim to their own temporal and spatial imaginations of statehood and how current regimes are building or deviating from them. Engaging with infrastructural planning developments, as part of and along side the Sulaimani city "master plan", I attempt to draw out how people's experience of their own future relates to that of the state. Which futures are imaginable, how and which projects become developed and finalized? How is the (potential) Kurdish- and Iraqi state imagined and experienced? Thus, this paper engages with issues of temporality, planning, infrastructure and the state in anthropology, by extending theoretical knowledge on, as well as exploring new ways of researching prospective dimensions of life.

The time calls for conversion: biopolitical clocks and the Jewish future of Israel

Author: Michal Kravel-Tovi (Tel Aviv University)  email

Short Abstract

Based on ethnographic research on Israel's pro-Jewish conversion policy, this paper traces the state's preoccupations with its impending demographic future, revealing how the temporal schemes of emergency underwrite Israel’s intervention in the religious status of its national subjects.

Long Abstract

While scholars have focused heavily on Israel's contested territorial politics, its temporal work as a Jewish nation-state has been largely overlooked. I attend here to this lacuna; the Israeli state, I contend, strives to secure its Jewish future by governing the Jewish future of its subjects. Based on ethnographic research on Israel's pro-Jewish conversion policy, this paper traces the state's preoccupations with its impending future, revealing how these preoccupations underwrite Israel's urgent intervention in the religious status of its national subjects. Locating Jewish conversion policy in the context of the mass immigration of non-Jews from the former Soviet Union, I argue that the state is driven by alarmist discourses regarding its demographic future. In Israel, temporal language clearly captures the existential weight attributed to the issue of conversion. This language frames the issue as "a race against time," or, as one of the conversion agents explained to me: "the story of conversion is the story of Israel's future." Because matrilineal principles govern the transmission of Jewish identity, women feature centrally in this "story" of conversion. After all, Israel assigns women the role of reproducing the state as Jewish. At the nexus of the political and the biological emerges what I call a biopolitical clock: a political clock that takes into account the biologically-related processes of individuals and populations. When the hour-glass of national demography overlaps with the biological clock, together indexing the importance of converting fertile young women, the Israeli state fully realizes the temporal scheme of emergency.

Emptiness of Othoni: exile and return, commemoration and melancholia

Author: Nicolas Argenti (Brunel University)  email

Short Abstract

This paper examines practices of commemoration in ruined settlements, focusing on one case from the Greek island of Chios, where a group of refugees commemorate a 19th century massacre that took place before their arrival on the island.

Long Abstract

In the landscape of war and forced displacement, ruins are the most eloquent testament to the effects of political violence on the social body: the desiccated and crumbling remains of human settlement bear testimony to the evident suffering of the dispersed and persecuted communities they once sheltered. The apparent self-evidence of ruins as testimony to violence is nonetheless necessarily an act of interpretation, and ruined settlements must first be constructed through social practices of commemoration. This paper examines the appropriation of the ruins of an abandoned village in the eastern Aegean island of Chios by an organisation of descendants of Asia Minor refugees who regularly commemorate a massacre that is said to have taken place there during the Greek war of independence - paradoxically before the refugees' arrival in the island. As the village still hosts a single surviving resident, the paper compares the memorial processes instituted by the group staging the commemorations with the memories of the last resident still living among its ruins.

Weaving state's future plans : life long learning project in an Athenian suburb in Greece

Author: Mimina Pateraki  email

Short Abstract

National educational projects for adults indicate State’s plans for the future by strongly affecting citizens’ future. People that participate to LLL project in Greece challenge state’s future plans weaving both their future as well as the one of the state’s through alternative temporalities of statehood.

Long Abstract

Life Long Learning Project (in Greek Διά Βίου Μάθηση) in Greece is a Nation - State strategic plan which focuses on connecting adults with labor market through education. Amongst its official purposes are both the decline of social inequalities and the improvement of state's human resources. The main point is to re-orient people's choices towards labor market needs by providing them 'new' skills. Such projects indicate State's plans for the future by strongly affecting citizens' future. Before 2008 in Greece such projects were known as adults' education or just as seminars on several tasks and courses for self improvement while there were many others related to academic activities under the notion of Ancient Greek Athenian philosopher Socrates argument " live and learn" ("γηράσκω αεί διδασκόμενος"). However, nowadays such certifications are valuable and recommended especially for unemployed or uneducated people. The Ministry for Education in 2012 called local governance organizations to cooperate on providing Centers for Life Long Learning all over the country cultivating LLL project under a census of team working. In this paper I will explore the ways local people understand such projects, participate in them and evaluate them after a three academic period implementation of a local Center of LLL in a suburb of Athens. Furthermore, my attempt is to highlight the ways local people challenge state's future plans as well their own future visions weaving both their future as well as the one of the state's through alternative temporalities of statehood.

Time dimensions of regional divides: the Durham coalfield as temporal 'other'

Author: Frances Thirlway (Durham University)  email

Short Abstract

Drawing on ethnographic and archival research, I explore how the UK state has constructed the Durham Coalfield as temporally dislocated from the mainstream. I use literatures of remote places, the rural ‘other’ and the white working class and draw parallels with Appalachia in the US imaginary.

Long Abstract

In this paper I argue that the state structures its territory not just spatially but also temporally, with some regions identified with the future and others with the past. I use the example of the West Durham coalfield, where 'worked out' pits led to the characterisation of the whole area as 'derelict' and policies of wholesale population relocation in the 1930s and again in the 1960s/70s, when hundreds of families moved to 'super pits' further south and whole villages were demolished. More recently, national and local state discourses have alternated between reading the area as flexible and modern or old-fashioned and caught up in the past.

I explain this process through various forms of 'temporal othering' by which peripheral places have been perceived to exist on a different time-scale from the centre (Ardener, 1985, Fabian, 2002), villages and the rural have been seen as old-fashioned and fixed in place (Nadel-Klein, 1995), the white working class has been coded as 'backward' (Torgovnick, 1991, Haylett, 2001, Lawler, 2012) and the coal miner as parochial (Strangleman et al., 1999). I draw parallels with the place of Appalachia in the US imaginary (Shapiro, 1986, Batteau, 1990, Stewart, 1996, Wray and Newitz, 1997).

Temporalities of victimhood: bureaucratic notions of time, violence, and vulnerability in Bogotá, Colombia

Author: Anna Wherry (University of Edinburgh)  email

Short Abstract

This paper explores the relationship between time, violence, and vulnerability in the distribution of state resources in Bogotá, Colombia. I illustrate how bureaucratic notions of the work of time on violence enter into the provision of humanitarian aid for registered victims of the armed conflict.

Long Abstract

This paper explores the relationship between time, violence, and vulnerability in the distribution of state resources in Bogotá, Colombia. Specifically, I will illustrate how bureaucratic notions of the work of time on violence enter into the provision of humanitarian assistance for registered victims of the armed conflict. Since the Victims and Land Restitution Act was passed in 2011, almost 7.5 million people have become officially registered as victims. The 'Victims Law' is the first to officially recognise the presence of an ongoing armed conflict in Colombia and provide reparations to those affected. Victim status, indeed, is becoming a means through which state welfare benefits are distributed across the population. Yet, even among those registered as victims, benefits are not distributed evenly. Assumptions about the temporal relationship between violence and vulnerability have become an important way of assessing, for instance, a registered victim's eligibility for humanitarian assistance. Bureaucrats responsible for meting out humanitarian assistance often assume that the effects of past violence fade with time. Ten years is frequently cited as vulnerability's temporal boundary: if one's 'victim event' occurred beyond this boundary, it is argued that present or future situations of precariousness are no longer directly the result of past violence, but rather to a present failure of the individual to move forward. This temporal boundary thus becomes a way of limiting registered victims' 'dependency' on the state. I finally illustrate how bureaucratic notions of time's effect on violence conflict with the continued impact of past violence on everyday life.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.