Power, Time and Agency: Exploring the role of critical temporalities

January 17, 2013 - January 18, 2013
University of Manchester

Chancellors Conference Centre
United Kingdom

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Main speakers:

Lisa Adkins
University of Newcastle
Gurminder Bhambra
University of Warwick
Jane Elliot
King's College London
J. Jack Halberstam
University of Southern California


Michelle Bastian
University of Manchester

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This is a collaborative multi-disciplinary workshop.

Despite time often appearing as an inert background to social life, there has been a wide array of work across a range of disciplines that argues that varying understandings and embodied experiences of time are intimately intertwined with power and agency. Johannes Fabian’s diagnosis of a denial of coevalness (or shared time) within classical anthropology represents a key example. But his analysis of the use of time to distance self from other has been significantly extended within a variety of critical fields of inquiry including post-colonial theory (e.g. Chatterjee, 2001 and Chakrabarty, 2008), queer theory (e.g. Freeman 2010, Halberstam 2005) and feminist theory (e.g. Grosz 2005, Hemmings 2011). These and other areas of work have sought to situate time as a significant component in social mechanisms of inclusion and exclusion, of social legitimation and in social responses to perceived threats.

Recognising that particular kinds of time uphold, and seek to enforce, particular kinds of social formations and power relations, a range of what might be called ‘critical temporalities’ have been proposed, both from within and outside of the academy. The need to think and live time differently has come to be seen as a necessary part of the work of challenging particular hegemonic regimes and of opening up new modes of agency and action. Homi Bhabha’s ‘enunciative present’, Barbara Adam’s ‘timescapes’, Dana Luciano’s ‘chronobiopolitics’, Jacques Derrida’s ‘time out of joint’, Elizabeth Freeman’s ‘chrononormativity’ and Deborah Bird Rose’s ‘multispecies knots of ethical time’, as well as social movements such as Cittaslow, Voluntary Simplicity, the Long Now Foundation and Transition Towns, all problematise and rework traditional Western allegiances to a supposedly progressive, all-encompassing linear time. The role of ‘critical temporalities’ is thus complicated and wide-ranging, bringing multiple disciplines into proximity around a shared concern with the role of time in the workings of power and the possibilities of agency.

The aim of this workshop then is to draw together these multi-disciplinary attempts to challenge and rethink time in order to provide participants with the opportunity to explore potential overlaps, dissonances and opportunities for cross-disciplinary conversation. How might queer temporalities and the temporalities of post-colonialism speak to or challenge each other? Could the time of feminist visions of heterogeneous community provide insights into how to think multi-species communities? Might movements like Cittaslow and the Long Now federation that challenge the accelerating, and yet narrow, time of neoliberalism be further challenged or extended by indigenous critiques of the temporalities of international development agencies?

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