Uneven terrains of the present: towards a differential anthropology of action in time
Andrea Enrico Pia (London School of Economics)
Fuad Musallam (Orient-Institut Beirut)
Felix Ringel
Science Site/Maths CM105
Start time:
6 July, 2016 at 9:00
Session slots:

Short abstract:

This panel begins by arguing that individual and collective agency is necessarily constrained by variously regimented representations of social time. It asks if these representations of modern time serve to obscure alternative temporal orientations and, if so, what social actors do to reclaim them.

Long abstract:

This panel takes seriously the idea that power and social time are mutually constituted. In particular, it posits that the globalising experiences of precariousness, ecological degradation and political disenfranchisement are power-laden qualities of the present that make the problem of the future (and certain readings of the past) more pressing for some people and not others. This is not solely an issue of different timescapes in different places. Rather, people everywhere are constantly caught in their own differentiated timescapes of expectations and experiences that vary depending not solely on cultural tradition, social or class background, but crucially on how they act upon the world. The papers in this panel will engage ethnographically with persons across the globe who act in the ruptures of the present with a desire to bring about a substantively different future for their community and place. Here the possibility of a future-otherwise becomes a requirement in order to act in the present. In doing so they may be motivated by shallower or deeper conceptions of the past and traditions of action. They may be engaging with an evacuated short-term past and future (Guyer 2007), or enacting various forms of 'creative presentism' (Ringel 2014). They may also be breaking away from progress-oriented narratives of national development and homogeneous time (Anderson 1991). In every case, such persons are nodes in the progression of bounded but potentially indeterminate histories, with particular conceptions of how past relates to a present in which they try to bring about alternative futures.