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.
I stopped being a lecturer in social anthropology at the University of Glasgow in 2009 to continue my work with my local community resilience initiative, PEDAL, and the broader movement for resilience in Scotland through Holyrood 350, and to resume working with Central African communities for the Forest Peoples Programme. I am a research fellow in social anthropology at the University of Edinburgh, and a member of SASI (the St Andrews Sustainability Initiative). 'The title of my paper is Can Transition be in time? It looks at the kinds of time people in a transition initiative like PEDAL (Portobello Transition Town) have to negotiate between: - urgent 'war' time, and the sense of Imminent ecological collapse; - 'long' time, energy decent plans, community and resilience building; - 'clock' time, and the targets and deadlines set by government funding; - 'fantasy' time, especially in local newspaper coverage; - 'task' time and the immediacy of actions and relations in the present. Does Transition happen in time, or does it happen in place? Is Transition about recognising that mobilising place can vastly extend and deepen the quantity and quality of time available for making the transition?