ASA2016: Footprints and futures: the time of anthropology

The moment of movements: the temporalities forged by the performances of politics
Location Science Site/Chemistry CG218
Date and Start Time 07 July, 2016 at 09:00
Sessions 2


  • Kelly Fagan Robinson (UCL) email
  • Ana Carolina Balthazar (UCL) email

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Short Abstract

Political movements offer diverse notions of time and space, shaped through the articulation and pursuance of political projects. This panel questions how political 'movers', through their discourses and praxis, produce particular temporalities in concert or in tension with expected time-space.

Long Abstract

Understanding political agency as an invocation of 'temporalising practices' (Munn 1992), this panel welcomes papers that address the specific notions of past, present and future forged by political movements. Through their discourses and praxis, political movements offer diverse notions of time shaped through the articulation and pursuance of political projects. These emergent temporalities may be made manifest in material space, for example by making the past present through the reassertion of relevance of 'past-times' items in new, transformative 'presents'. They may also be articulated by means of the bodies of the 'movers' themselves, who by virtue of their performances subvert expectations of particular time-spaces, and challenge hegemonic discourses and power structures. Here we hope to work with a broad definition of political movements, inclusive not only of political parties and governments, but also artists, activists, and other movers who consider themselves to be political agents. We also encourage speakers to discuss the implications of the potentially alternative temporal subjectivities generated by challenges to contemporary positions of power and dominant agendas, and how this impacts planning of futures. Here, particularly relevant although not exclusively, seems to be the pervasive and questionable notions of "multiculturalism" and "equality" advanced by many contemporary institutions. We question what kinds of subjects and temporalities such agendas include or exclude, and how these edits influence both political movements and the time-spaces they bring into being.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.


The time of politics: a comparison between UKIP and a multicultural agenda

Author: Ana Carolina Balthazar (UCL)  email

Short Abstract

This paper will explore the differences between temporalities forged by some practices of UKIP voters in Margate, England, and the notions of time advanced by the current government’s multicultural agenda in order to unpack the non-negotiable aspects of those political movements.

Long Abstract

This paper will compare temporalities (Munn 1992) forged by some practices of UKIP (United Kingdom Independence Party) voters and sympathizers in Margate, England, and the notions of time advanced by the current government's multicultural agenda. In doing so, it hopes to address the non-negotiable character of the two movements. The paper will explore the ways in which different "cultures" fostered by a multicultural agenda encounter difficulty in standing next to each other when the material environment that one stands on is the very tool for the construction of belonging of another. As a consequence, territory emerges in this analysis as a non-objective space that cannot be rationalized into equally divided areas for different social groups. During their daily routine and also in national holidays my British informants use the material remnants of the past that are present in their town (such as its pillars, stones, graves, squares and old buildings) to forge a British past and memory. According to my informants, history has left marks that altered the very soil on which my informants live. As a consequence, every now and then, in community gatherings and also in their private old houses, this particular version of the past is remembered, discussed and enacted, thereby producing a sense of belonging to the nation and an imagined community (Anderson 1983). As a consequence, Margate's territory is then inscribed in a very specific temporality that can hardly be accommodated to the objective spatial interpretations of a multicultural agenda.

Politics of the unfinished: challenging temporalities on the streets of Santiago de Chile

Author: Siri Schwabe (Stockholm University)  email

Short Abstract

Drawing on long-term ethnographic fieldwork, this paper explores the temporalities of protest in Santiago de Chile and questions fixed categories of time by looking at how public manifestations are located within particular political imaginaries which transcend static notions of past and future.

Long Abstract

The observation that Chilean politics is characterized by an increasing sense of despondency within the general population seems to have become a central concern to politicians and scholars alike in recent years. However, in Santiago, popular politics is by no means obsolete. Rather, there is a tendency for people to opt out of involvement with political parties and established institutions and instead focus their energy on grassroots mobilization. During my fieldwork in Santiago from 2013 to 2014, marches and other types of political manifestations became such a prevalent part of daily life that the disruption caused by them seemed to stretch much further than the limited time when the events themselves lasted.

With these considerations as my starting point, I intend to scrutinize various instances of protest on the streets of Santiago and consider them in relation to political developments in the Chilean context from the early 1970s to the present. By doing so, I hope to be able to approach an understanding of the interplay between popular politics (as social practice) and the temporalities of the political imagination in current-day Santiago. Ultimately, I pose the following question: Might it make sense of think of both past and future as unfinished, continuously in the making, and how might a non-linear approach to popular politics challenge not only standard temporalities but lived political realities?

Drawing in the future(s): experimentation and uneven time in the UK Climate Justice movement

Author: Ellen Potts (University College London)  email

Short Abstract

Interwoven practices and socialities in the UK Climate Justice movement feature a spirit of experimentation and increasing openness to change. For activists, time is experienced through a fluctuation between possibility and actuality, which merge as prefigurative moves draw in possible future(s).

Long Abstract

Set against the spectre of catastrophic climate change, the UK Camp for Climate Action enacted fleeting 'future homes' annually from 2006 to 2010, mixing low-impact living; the sharing of skills, information and resources; and direct action against climate change perpetrators. From 2010, UK climate activism diffused into multiple interlinked projects often fused with other campaigns, such as in the case of the group Fuel Poverty Action (FPA).

The paper draws on ethnographic material from participation in Climate Camp and FPA to trace interwoven practices and socialities in the UK's climate justice movement, which hold at their heart a spirit of experimentation, increasingly accompanied by an openness to change in response to reflexive scrutiny, both of which link to experiences of time and political struggle as intertwined and highly uneven.

The material suggests that indeterminacy is central to these struggles for change, the flip-side of which is a particular experience of time - not as a linear chain of events, but rather as a constant (though uneven) opening up of possibility and actuality, the boundaries between which blur and at times collapse altogether. Such prefigurative moves - or moments - entail a reaching out across indeterminate intervals, by virtue of an immanently felt relationality that links to a foundational ethic of mutuality - the promise of connection.

Activists are thus both supported to undertake risky action in increasingly uncertain worlds, and integrated into broader struggles for socio-political change from the ground up - experienced as on-rolling processes of revolution.

The exemplary moment of political protest: radically altered temporal orientations amongst independent activists in Beirut, Lebanon

Author: Fuad Musallam (London School of Economics)  email

Short Abstract

Exploring one moment of protest and its narrative recirculation amongst activists in Lebanon, this paper explores how exemplary moments can serve to radically transform temporal orientations to present practice and produce a plausible future imagined as realisable through present political agency.

Long Abstract

In this paper I explore how Lebanese independent activists have come to temporally differentiate their practice from that of their potential social movement 'other', NGOs. Taking one moment of contestation, the protests opposing the Lebanese parliament's extension of its own mandate in order to postpone the general election of 2013, I show how activists have reoriented their senses of the present and future in its wake. In doing so, they perform a potentially transformative temporal orientation that offers optimism and future viability in the face of failure.

In the moment of protesting the parliamentary extension, the antithetical responses of two sets of participants to the violent policing of the protests were stark and startling: one set attempted to diffuse the situation; the other engaged the security forces. Afterwards, the example of that protest moment continued to circulate in the form of narratives, jokes, and asides amongst my interlocutors. This circulation served as a visceral index of the distance between two potential forms of agency and crystallised independent activist senses of themselves as 'politicals' in contradistinction to 'NGOs'. This indexing produced twin temporal orientations to the present: an openness to the transformative potential of any particular moment of protest, and an emphasis on attritional day-by-day work in mundane time to produce the material basis from which political moments might be rendered successful. Against abstract thoughts of revolution, 'politicals' came to perform a set of rhythms of present action within which inhered a future where radical change became eminently realisable.

Political heterotopias of deafness: how British deaf people achieve majority understanding through artistic performances

Author: Kelly Fagan Robinson (UCL)  email

Short Abstract

Recent performances by deaf artists have penetrated British popular awareness. This paper suggests that when we are witnessing deaf performances, we witness the advancement of the political project of 'Deaf Awareness' via the embodied heterotopia of deaf condition, Deaf culture and Deaf histories.

Long Abstract

In 'taking the stage', Deaf performers simultaneously channel the physicalities of deaf conditions, Deaf-cultural norms, and their own individual and (inter)national deaf histories. In performances, these elements of deafness are triangulated, creating a multi-dimensional, atemporal heterotopic lens through which audiences are invited to view deaf-centred understandings of 'world'. Via this deaf lens, audiences witness deafness-as-seeing rather than deafness-as-impairment. For many people, this is their first exposure to deaf-centred modes of being. This can result in improved 'Deaf Awareness', providing broad populations of hearing people with basic introductions to the complexities of deafness.

This paper presents three cases in which deafness has penetrated British popular awareness through artistic performances including: Sophie Stone on Doctor Who?; a BSL production of Midsummer Night's Dream at the Globe; and the dance piece Hear! Hear! at Sadlers Wells. I will examine the convergence of condition, culture, and history, teasing out how these collisions of deafness occur. I will explore what their collective impact may be on their audiences. I will suggest that performances render hearing audiences more able to partake in deaf listening, more accepting of an alternate universe founded on vision than when the same concept is presented outside of the creative frame. Finally, I suggest that when we are witnessing deaf performances, we witness the advancement of an on-going political project - increased Deaf Awareness across the UK majority - with one key goal being improved lived experiences and greater equality for deaf people.

The temporal politics of a Pentecostal movement in Malaita, Solomon Islands

Author: Nathan Bond (University of Melbourne)  email

Short Abstract

In this paper I describe the temporal politics of a Pentecostal movement in North Malaita, Solomon Islands which focuses on prophesy and theocracy-building. I show that the movement’s alternative temporality allows for a great degree of religious and political authority on the part of the prophet.

Long Abstract

The politics of contemporary Pentecostal movements are closely associated with shifting temporalities, and followers' radical 'break with the past' has often been observed as one of the key political characteristics of these spiritualities. In this paper I depart from this common analysis by describing the temporal politics of the All Peoples' Prayer Assembly (APPA), a popular Pentecostal movement focused on prophesy and theocracy-building in North Malaita, Solomon Islands. The political theology of APPA does not invoke a break with the past but rather positions Malaitans as a covenanted people within a providential historiography in which there is a direct continuity between 'pre-conversion' and contemporary religious practices. While remaining receptive to the revelations received by their leading prophet, followers depart from dominant temporalities of (under-)development through their ordained role of hastening the coming of the Kingdom of God, in particular through nation-state building at local and larger scales. Where scholars have shown that in many cases the Pentecostal urge toward theocratic sovereignty persistently undermines itself due to the particular temporal configurations which commonly accompany it (Marshall 2010), I argue that this is not the case for APPA's distinctive theology. While there is a strong sense of the imminent coming of the Messiah, the movement also has a clear orientation toward prophesy and the future. This allows for a great degree of religious and political authority on the part of the prophet, in contrast to Pentecostalism's usual heavy emphasis on the self's direct relationship with God.

Maamadurai potruvom: the spatio-temporal performance of 'Tamilness'

Author: Jill Reese (UCL)  email

Short Abstract

Using a south Indian festival as a case study, I argue not only that a particular, local identity is performed and reified, but that it articulates a desired future that draws upon a collectively imagined and idealised past full of communal harmony, prosperity and abundance.

Long Abstract

In February 2013, the South Indian city of Madurai, Tamilnadu hosted a one-time festival entitled MaaMadurai Potrovum (Let Us Celebrate Great Madurai). The three-day festival included numerous events such as a torch-bearing ceremony, speeches by local 'Freedom Fighters' for Indian Independence, a carnival procession of decorated floats and performers, and demonstrations and competitions of traditional sports, dance and art forms. These events performed a particular notion of 'Tamilness' that epitomised Madurai as the locus of this identity through the use of established pilgrimage routes linking key places within the district's sacred landscape. The festival's narrative was further condensed and sedimented in the aesthetics of scores of murals painted along the road in front of the office of the District Collector, who governs the wider area. In similarity to other civic events commemorating cultural traditions throughout the world, this event performed a particular kind of collective identity situated in a specific locale. I argue, however, that along with other municipals projects, political events and religious festivals, MaaMadurai Potruvom addresses the challenges of modernity, and the resultant scarcity of resources, by articulating a desired future that recursively draws upon a collectively imagined and idealised pre-colonial past characterised by communal harmony, prosperity and abundance.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.