Anthropology and Time

Term: Fall 2011

Subject Code: GANT

Course Number: 6270

Time and temporality are persistent topics in anthropology insofar as anthropologists attend to the diversity of repertoires for timekeeping as well as repertoires of temporal markers themselves. Generally speaking, anthropology is concerned with the apprehension of time, or variable modes of time-consciousness and methods for temporally situating events. Temporality is thus taken to be constructed: time is a “dimension” of social practice. This seminar will review the ways in which the anthropology of time has apprehended and represented socio-cultural time, or multiple forms of social time, by considering accounts of the spatiotemporal constitution of meaningful worlds. We will assess the ways that time has been represented as socially constructed, thus accounting for cross-cultural temporal relativity. But both the condition of cultural relativity and the postulate of temporal simultaneity raise difficult questions regarding modes of representation. Our aim will be to bring anthropology in dialogue with ongoing work on complex systems, such as networked infrastructures, in an effort to address this problem of representation. To what extent are there adequate means for representing multiplicity and simultaneity in ethnographic practice and narrative?  While we will review how time has been apprehended in social science work, we will not be concerned to theorize time, to come up with a proper concept of time, or to settle on a particular mode of narrating time. The aim of the seminar is to consider how one might make time, as a category, a problem so as to generate productive questions.

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