Affiliations: Senior Lecturer in the English department at the University of Central Lancashire and Affiliated Fellow at the Institute of Germanic and Romance Studies of the School of Advanced Study of London University.
I am a philosopher, working mostly in the history of 19th and 20th century German philosophy, metaphysics and philosophy of language. I am particularly interested in the work of Ernst Bloch, and in the Connected Communities programme I am looking at the relation between ‘community’ and ‘future’ from the perspective of Bloch’s utopian and messianic ontology of the ‘not yet’. For classical metaphysics, community can be said, at the most fundamental level, to be a characteristic of being itself. The paradoxes of community are ontological in nature. Even in Kant’s critique of metaphysics, the fundamental role of the idea of community is maintained in several incarnations (not lastly that of the ‘Reich’ (Kingdom) of Ends as a union of rational beings). In Bloch’s ontology the fundamental role that ‘community’ has played in the history of philosophy is maintained, but enriched with a unique perspective on the part played by the ‘not yet’. This allows us to rethink a range of concepts essential to the life and discourse of communities, including justice, community engagement, freedom and tradition, the relation between the individual and the community and the relation between community (Gemeinschaft) and society (Gesellschaft) in modernity.
I am a Research Associate in Politics at the University of Exeter. The project that I am working on with Dr. Robin Durie and Dr. Katrina Wyatt, titled “Researching with Communities: Towards a Leading Edge Theory and Practice for Community Engagement”, is part of the AHRC led Connected Communities programme. The purpose of our scoping study is to investigate the usefulness of complexity theory for understanding the relations between academic researchers and the public communities they engage with, and more broadly, the conditions for successful community engagement. Challenging traditional conceptions of time is of course a central component of complexity theory. Thus if communities are understood as complex systems, and if complexity represents the most effective means for theorising the connectivity within and between communities and academic researchers, how time is conceived and interacted with will play a crucial role throughout the process of engagement.
Aside from this research project, I am also pursuing my interests in time and communities through a monograph that I am writing for Edinburgh University Press (2012). This book, titled History and Becoming: Deleuze’s Philosophy of Creativity, will examine the work of Deleuze and several of his conceptual forebears (Marx, Nietzsche, Bergson, Péguy and Braudel) in order to address the following problematic: what is the relation between history and the creation of the new? While much work has been done on the importance of Deleuze’s philosophy of time to his political and social philosophy for change, I hope to demonstrate in this book how an appreciation of his philosophy of history is equally indispensable. You can find out more about my work here.
Craig's Lightning Talk:
My interest in the workshop stems from my PhD research, which explores how we might approach the idea of ‘feminist history’ from a historiographical perspective that is not bound to a framework of historical totality, linearity or teleology. I am currently trying to work out an understanding of historical time based upon Dipesh Chakrabarty’s concept of ‘heterotemporality’, and Paul Ricoeur’s notion of historical time as a form of public/social time that is constructed through the overlapping of multiple time frames and concepts, including: ‘calendar time’ (the time of dating and periodizations); ‘generational time’ (based upon notions such as ‘legacy’, ‘predecessors’, ‘contemporaries’, and ‘succesors’); ontologies and epistemologies of the past as ‘trace’; and temporal concepts which ‘temporalize’ certain periods of history -or history per se- such as progress, decline, cyclicality or stagnation. These different overlapping ‘strands’ that constitute historical time, I will try to show, are socially and culturally specific, and always open to contestation and refiguration. I will then ask how this idea of historical time might alter how we think about and construct feminist histories. For example: if we work from a model of historical time as multiple or ‘heterotemporal’ (rather than from a model of temporal totality and historical alignment), in what terms can we speak of ‘feminist histories’ as ‘collective’ histories? And how would it affect our notions of historical agency and judgment?
My ideas at the moment are still being developed, so I am really looking forward to learning from all the different participants’ perspectives on social and cultural time.
Victoria's Lightning Talk
I first became interested in the interconnections between time and community while I was writing my undergraduate (honours) thesis on Donna Haraway’s work and its implications for feminist coalition building. Looking at both her and Gloria Anzaldua’s work on hybrid identities it seemed that attempts to rethink community in terms of hybridity also appeared to involve challenges to linear conceptions of time, involving for example, critiques of teleology, progress and assumptions about how change happens over time. I took up this problem in my PhD thesis in Philosophy. However I found it quite difficult to approach this problem in the way I wanted to from a solely continental philosophical framework, and was particularly inspired by Carol Greenhouse’s work to explore the way the time of social life can be understood as being produced through the negotiation of social conflict. As a result I ended up developing an interdisciplinary approach to ‘time and community’ that draws on anthropology, sociology, feminist philosophy as well as continental philosophy.
My current project builds on this work, in order to develop an account of the way both time and community are being transformed in the context of climate change and resource depletion. Taking inspiration from Donna Haraway’s account of figurations as ‘condensed maps of contested worlds’ (1997, 11), I will produce case studies of three figures that might instead serve as ‘condensed clocks of contested worlds’. Looking at atomic and molecular clocks, leather-back turtles on the verge of extinction and community-led attempts to build sustainable cities, I want to analyse how an attentiveness to each of these different sites opens up a view onto the complex temporalities and relationalities that are being mobilised. It is envisioned that these ‘condensed clocks’ may enable new ways of understanding the task of ‘telling the time’ in the current context. This work involves a variety of collaborations including with Transition Liverpool and other members of the Extinction Studies working group.
While completing my PhD I often felt a little lost in the wilderness, with very few guides for how to approach the problems of time and community together in the way that I wanted to – at least none that I could find at the time! While there is certainly some enjoyment in feeling this way, I’m very much looking forward to working with others at the workshop to start developing a more explicit framework for thinking through these intersections.
Educated in Russia and in England (Philosopher’s Diploma, St. Petersburg State University and PhD in Philosophy, Centre for Professional Ethics, UCLAN), Elena Fell has an insider’s view of two distinct cultures, which helps her to grasp the specificity of intercultural communication and communication between diverse communities. Elena’s research project which will explore the relationship between communities and the future (carried out jointly with Dr Johan Siebers as Principal Investigator) will naturally follow from her longstanding interest in the philosophy of time, self and communication. In her PhD thesis Elena explored Bergson’s theory of duration and prepared ground for its further development. After completing her PhD Elena has worked as a Research Assistant at the School of Journalism, Media and Communication, University of Central Lancashire. She is also Editorial Assistant for Empedocles: European Journalfor the Philosophy of Communication.
My involvement in the scoping study on Communities and Future has just began, so the workshop will be an opportunity to gain inspiration for myself and to share with others my previous research findings on time, history and selfhood.
Elena's Lightning Talk
I am a post-grad student and part-time (philosophy) lecturer at Staffordshire University. By the time of the workshop I will have submitted by PhD thesis. This thesis is an attempt to explain the mergence of social order from the joint perspectives of contemporary French philosophy and complexity theory. I have had the opportunity to undertake a small research project (in partnership with my supervisor) that attempted to apply some of my researching findings to a practical situation – a local regeneration project. I also have been in contact with other research groups that have been researching community regeneration and sustainability from the perspective of complexity theory. Prior to undertaking this research I was employed in the social sector. My experience of working towards the last government’s ‘social inclusion’ agenda, and my realisation that it was not premised on any firm theory, greatly influence my research topic. The interconnection of time and the emergence of social order/structure goes to the very core of my research; I argue that ontologically they are the same – that order is born from the same repetitions that give birth to time – or more accurately times. From my perspective a singular, objective ‘time’ is a (pragmatic) codification of a plural temporality.
Kelvin's Lightning Talk