Time and Agency in the Global Thought of Li Dazhao
Li Dazhao (1888-1927) is well-known as “China’s first Marxist” and founder of the Chinese Communist Party, but he also offers one of modern China’s most sophisticated understandings of human agency, which he understands as a capacity to transform human and non-human environments through the orientation of one’s self to the dynamic passing of time. This paper uses his thought in two ways. First, I show how Li justifies revolutionary action in an understanding of time as an ontological, non-human force that shapes, but also makes possible, human efforts to change their political and social worlds. Li focuses specifically on transforming whole epochs of shared history through the narration of selective pasts, the mobilization of present energies, and the propulsion of human will through progressive time. Second, following Li’s insistence on the capacity of present action to confound entrenched cultural and historical boundaries, I take Li’s work as a precedent for my own theorizing. Li draws on ancient Chinese cosmology, Daoism, contemporary social Darwinism, the materialism of Henri Bergson, and Marxist historical materialism to show how action in the present has the power not only to shape future outcomes but also to reorder the way we view and use past thought. His eclecticism chastens attempts to ascribe to him a classically Marxist worldview, even as it offers a new way of situating his own work within a refigured, global trajectory of thought that generates its own modes of inquiry. I therefore hope to establish Li as both theorist and example of a truly cross-cultural temporal ideology, which resists identification with parochial Western lineages to orient us toward future possibilities of hybridization.
Leigh Jenco (BA, Bard College; MA and PhD, University of Chicago) since 2012 has been Lecturer in Political Theory at the Department of Government of the London School of Economics and Political Science. She was born near Pittsburgh, PA, USA but has since lived for extended periods in Nanjing, Chicago, Taipei, and Singapore. Before joining LSE she was appointed Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Political Theory Project, Brown University, USA (2007-2008); and Assistant Professor of Political Science at the National University of Singapore (2008-2012). She situates her research and much of her teaching at the intersection of contemporary political theory and modern Chinese thought, emphasizing the theoretical and not simply historical value of Chinese discourses on politics. To that end, she has given talks in English and Mandarin across Asia and North America, and has published articles in journals such as the American Political Science Review, Political Theory, Journal of Asian Studies, and Philosophy East and West.
Keywords: Chinese political thought, comparative political theory, global political theory
In this paper I speak to the interrelation of subjectivity and time, asking “what is the effect of the indefinite length of detention on how asylum seekers construct their identities in Australia?” Goffman describes the reduction of strategies of self-preservation available to the inmates of asylums such as mental institutions and prisons. The ways in which people on the ‘outside’ can offer subtle resistance to unpleasant tasks, by evincing sullenness of expression, muttered comments, and so on, reminiscent of the everyday forms of peasant resistance described by Scott (1987) is more closely monitored inside a total institution (Goffman 1961, p. 41). The importance of effecting small forms of resistance becomes magnified as a method of retaining some degree of autonomy. This analysis sheds light on the behaviour of one man I was visiting in detention. In order to effect the slight feeling of autonomy afforded by minor resistances, he no longer participated in what Goffman calls removal activities, activities such as excursions, field games and the like, which are intended to make the inmate oblivious for a time to the inexorable passage of institutional time. However Goffman’s comment on removal activities “if the ordinary activities in total institutions can be said to torture time, these activities mercifully kill it” (p. 67), relies on an assumption that the inmates know when they will be released. The sometimes hourly count of time until their release date is unavailable to asylum seekers in detention. This opens up to critical theorising the relation between subjectivity and time, through Grosz’s critical re-understandings of the relation between the two that show clearly that the two are bound up in each other (Grosz 2005).
Laurel Mackenzie is a PhD candidate writing on the question of how refugees and asylum seekers in Australia construct their identities, using a narrative research methodology that relies on an intersubjective approach to the hermeneutic phenomenological analysis of interviews with research participants. She currently works as an associate Lecturer in RMIT's School of Global, Urban and Social Studies, teaching an undergraduate course in social constructionism. Her research interests include Critical Theory, Gender Studies, Post colonialism, Phenomenology, and Language and Identity.
Subversions of Time in (Outer) Space
Outer space, throughout the research and speculation on human spaceflight, is principally constructed as a space of the future. This is not, however, straightforward, nor is it unproblematic. In Space Travel and Culture, David Bell and Martin Parker describe America's Apollo programme as 'a future that never happened, or a history that seems not to connect with our present'. I argue that this convoluted construction of time in space is underlain by heterosexist assumptions about reproductive kinship and normative timelines. Visions of a future in space are often couched in narratives of reproductive heterosexuality, and space programmes both assume this and actively work to replicate such stories. There is a sense of temporal disorientation in the view of a future which has ‘never happened’; however, rather than subverting normative time, this works to root narratives of astronautics in traditional ideals of procreation and family, such as we associate with the era of spaceflight's early heyday. The astronaut’s body is, I argue, primarily conceptualised as a male body, an able body, and a fertile heterosexual body. The nostalgic quality of the complex temporality contributes to the marginalisation of other bodies, while the ideal body (with its near-ideal, and historically excluded, female counterpart) propels narratives of reproductive futures. Within the same temporal inconsistency, however, I argue there is opportunity to reread stories of space exploration to allow better representation of diverse humans, and to imagine manifold presents and futures, both on and off Earth.
I am a second-year PhD researcher in the Centre for Critical and Cultural Theory at Cardiff University. My current project explores sociocultural aspects of outer space exploration, with an emphasis on constructions of the body in astronautics. My research interests broadly centre on embodiment, science and technology, and theories of space and time. More specifically my research has involved gender and LGBT representation, queer temporality, feminist geography, spatial sexualisation, and ideas of health, risk, and the natural.
Key words: astronautics, embodiment, feminism, queer, technology
Temporal Mastery: sleeping in the ‘glacial’ psychiatric ward
Temporal mastery has been described as a ‘primordial human need’ (Gibson). This presentation will draw a thread from the depiction of the futility of attempts to master time in Tolkein’s The Hobbit through to the use of sleep as an attempt to assert individual temporal mastery on acute psychiatric wards. Temporal mastery is viewed as an individual need, but assertion may not always lie within our power. In some contexts, such as hospital wards, collective temporalities are imposed and these may not align with the individual or indeed with a traditional clock based temporality. In particular, when the metric of time is used as a punishment an imposed temporality may generate tension between the individual ‘primordial need’ and the collective interests and attempts to assert the individual mastery may subvert the collective. Moreover, in closed societies collective temporalities may seem shared, as in the example used here of the routines of wards rounds and mealtimes, but beneath the surface these can be fractured and multiple temporalities generated by differing world views. A study of high secure wards suggested that for staff temporality was largely situated within the present and understood by shift patterns, but for patients temporality was longer-term and driven by the future expected stay. The ‘instantaneous’ and ‘glacial’ notions of time offer useful lenses to explore temporal mastery in this context and this presentation will aim to provide a journey through these landscapes and raise the question of what tensions emerge from attempts at temporal mastery between the individual and collective.
I am currently a PhD student at the University of Manchester exploring cultural participation and mental health. I have worked in the mental health and addictions fields for the last fifteen years in a range of roles, including research and development.
'Becoming queer children: The heterochronology of sexual citizenship, and homonormative temporalities of resistance.'
Citizenship discourse is invariably grounded in the language of progressive futurity. According to Edelman (2005), this emphasis on futurity is projected onto the discursively non-negotiable figure of the child. However, this paper seeks to discuss how the queer child disrupts this account of the child as a proto-sexual, proto-citizen. What are the temporalities of the queer child? Recently, much critical attention has been paid to the tacit heteronormativity encoded in dominant contemporary discourses of time and citizenship. Subjects with non-normative sexualities have had an uncomfortable relationship with time since the emergence of early sexological accounts situated us as the casualties of arrested or incomplete development. Halberstam (2005), Ahmed (2006) and Freeman (2010) have addressed how queer subjects’ experiences of time can radically subvert or disorient heteronormative accounts of subject formation, by problematising the cultural significance of inheritance, intergenerational exchange, and rites of passage. If heteronormative rites of passage such as marriage and reproduction enable the individual to suture his or herself to society through entering into intergenerational contracts of investment and return, what temporalities can queer bodies occupy? This paper seeks to address the ways sexuality influences how (or whether) we become citizen subjects. Whilst acknowledging heteronormative developmental chronologies as mechanisms for policing citizenship, this paper will focus on the destabilising role of the queer child as ‘becoming-citizen’. Stockton (2009) has described the figure of the queer child as always already a retrospectively constructed from a queer adult subject position. However, what happens when queer children are more vocal social agents at younger ages, and begin to express their own homonormative accounts of becoming sexual citizens? This paper will discuss these temporalities of resistance as they are performed by young queer subjects themselves.
I am a PhD student at Cardiff University co-supervised between the School of Social Sciences and the Centre for Critical and Cultural Theory. My thesis is about the ways queer young people in Wales (aged 16-25) negotiate the concept of maturity in relation to ideas about community and identity. I'm a member of the Young Sexualities research group, and my research interests include homonormativities, queer phenomenology and queer temporalities, participatory methodologies and community engagement.
‘Cinema and Boredom: Wasting Time with Andy Warhol’
Andy Warhol’s movies – a significant corpus of work made between 1963 and 1968 – have often been criticised as boring. These accusations have been levelled against his experiments with endurance, such as the 25 hour long **** (Four Stars) of 1967, as much as shorter works that experiment with stillness and stasis, or that test the boundaries of generic form to exhaustion. However, the complex form of this boredom – as a deliberate aesthetic strategy employed by Warhol, as a marked feature of some of the films’ content, and as an affective response experienced by viewers – remains largely critically neglected. Claiming that a cultural text is ‘boring’, in other words, most often operates as a dismissal, shutting down discourse rather than opening it up. Using Warhol’s movies as a focus, this paper will explore the political force and valence of boredom as it has been employed by a range of filmmakers. Connections will be made to other artists and directors experimenting with experiences of time in the 1960s and ‘70s (Akerman, Antonioni, Tarkovsky), as well as to some of those associated with the recent ‘slow cinema’ movement (Apichatpong, Costa, Tarr), a number of whom have explicitly identified Warhol as an influence on their films. Walter Benjamin’s suggestion, in The Arcades Project, that ‘boredom is the threshold of great deeds’, will be used to examine the ways in which this embodied and affective experience can be inflected positively. The experience of boredom, I will suggest, especially as it relates to the moving image, should not be merely abandoned as ‘wasted time’, but recalibrated as a potentially powerful corrective to normative conceptions of speed, chronology and time.
Glyn Davis is Chancellor's Fellow and Reader in Screen Studies at the University of Edinburgh, where he is exploring the relationships between cinema and boredom. He is the co-editor of 'Queer TV: Theories, Histories, Politics' (Routledge, 2009) and 'Warhol in Ten Takes' (BFI, 2013), and the author of monographs on 'Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story' (Columbia UP, 2008) and 'Far from Heaven' (Edinburgh UP, 2011).
The theoretical literature on immaterial labour suggests that work in post-industrial economies has become based principally around the creation and manipulation of ideas, symbols, selves, emotions and relationships, inhabiting as a result the full range of human capacities and activities occupying life itself. As such, for those employed in these forms of production, the boundary between time engaged in immaterial labour and time away from paid employment becomes increasingly indistinct, as the activities of work take on the characteristics of those of leisure and of everyday life, and those of leisure and everyday life assume the characteristics of work. Immaterial labour can thus be seen to transcend the formal confines of the working day to invest the whole of life with its value-producing processes. This paper details a research project exploring how work time is structured in the digital industries in the UK, drawing upon a case study a Bristol web enterprise situated in the ‘Silicon Gorge’ high-tech hub incorporating ethnography, interviews, observation and time diaries. The long and non-standard working hours found in the ICT industry are well-documented, with a veneer of fun-loving flexibility sustained upon an undertow of eighty hour weeks, unpaid overtime and the destruction of the boundary between home life and work. This work pattern is deeply integrated with the production of subjectivities. The culture of flexibility that abounds in the creative digital industries harnesses the subjectivities and selves of individual employees to a cycle of ‘project time’ centred around specific tasks and deadlines, completely divorced from recognition of one’s contribution based upon traditional temporal measures. Thus, an ‘objective work schedule’ is replaced by a ‘subjective demand for commitment’. Thus, greater flexibility and variability of the working day actually erodes worker control over their own time, subordinated to the ebb and flow of the project cycle.
Frederick H. Pitts is a PhD student at the University of Bath, UK. His research concerns work and work-time in post-industrial occupations, informed by the Marxian critique of political economy.
Key words: labour, work, time, value, immaterial labour, creative/cultural/digital industries
My fieldsite Hoyerswerda, Germany’s fastest shrinking city, is known as a city with “no hope” and “no future”. However, what at first looks like the failed transition of a former socialist model city hit by a neo-liberally orchestrated globalization soon provides the context for an unexpected variety of experiences of – and relations to – many different pasts and futures. Indeed, multiple temporal connotations structure local conflicts and their passionate social negotiation. This presentation tracks how some local groups successfully challenge the local government’s “enforced presentism”. Most importantly, in their strive for reclaiming the future, these groups do not replace this neo-liberal “enforced presentism” with some form of “enforced futurism”. Rather, they conceptually open up a space beyond shrinkage and its widely felt and feared social, economic and political repercussions. With the help of my ethnographic material, I show how citizens of Hoyerswerda in their everyday socio-cultural practices thus overcome both, the temporal regime of the post-socialist transformation and the temporal order of neo-liberalism. I posit several examples of their multiple and conflicting temporal practices as indicative of a surprising flexibility in the way my informants through their knowledge practices exist – and reach out – in time. Whilst developing the category of “creative presentism”, I provide a thoroughly anthropological view on time. Through the lens of the currently emerging anthropology of the future, I conceptualise time as a theoretical, analytical and methodological issue of knowledge, which in turn is understood less as culture and more as situated and locally relevant practice. I particularly attend what currency hope and the future, rather than the past, have in local concerns and in human life more generally. As my approach tries to account for the variety of human temporal relations, it will also critically engage with the sometimes misleading term of temporality.
I have recently gained my PhD in Social Anthropology from the University of Cambridge, for which I undertook 16 months of fieldwork in the East German city of Hoyerswerda, Germany's fastest shrinking city. As a post-doctoral researcher and lecturer at the University of Vienna, I continue to work on the issues of knowledge and time. My primary research focus is on how people envision the future once it has been rendered problematic in times of dramatic demographic and socio-economic change. I will soon commence research on the relation between the notion of sustainability and urban regeneration of post-industrial cities in Europe.
The interiors of Versailles have long been subjected to a regime that aims to restore them to their state on the eve of the French Revolution; but in 2011, an exhibition disrupted their temporal singularity. Imagining that Versailles was still the seat of state, the apartments were furnished with contemporary pieces from the Mobilier National (the descendant of the original Garde Meuble du Roi). The exhibition was greeted as if a blasphemy had been committed against rooms whose history had, supposedly, ended once their royal occupants had left them. Visit any museum of design, and you will come across ‘period rooms’. Interiors variously ripped from medieval castles or modern flats are furnished with objects from the same era and presented as monuments to the spirit of their respective ages. It is a paradox, for if real rooms were like period interiors, nothing would survive from the past to exhibit today. More usually, rooms occupy buildings and are filled with furnishings which are older – or newer - than they are. This paper will argue that interiors are constructed conversations between the present and the past in which, like the memory palaces discussed by Frances Yates, objects carefully arranged remind their occupants what rhetorical stance to adopt. This paper will also argue that the ars memoriae is in itself in flux: the same antiques and rooms are used and arranged differently today, for example, than they were a century ago, and encode differing notions of memory. The 2011 refurnishing of Versailles formed an assault on conventional modes of history, conducted in cushions and curtains. This paper will argue that we all engage in such exercises all the time, and explore the encoding of time in the domestic interiors of which the palace of Versailles is merely a rhetorical amplification.
Edward Hollis studied Architecture at Cambridge and Edinburgh Universities. For the subsequent six years he practiced as an Architect. He worked first in Sri Lanka, in the practice of Geoffrey Bawa, at that time the ‘grand old man’ of Sri Lankan Architecture, famous for his garden of follies and ruins at Lunuganga; and then in the practice of Richard Murphy, well known for his radical alterations to ancient and historic buildings in and around Edinburgh.
In 1999, Edward Hollis began lecturing in Interior Architecture at Napier University, Edinburgh, working with students both in the design studio, and in more theoretical disciplines. In 2004, he moved to Edinburgh College of Art, where he is now deputy director of research.
Working with follies and ruins in Sri Lanka, with modern interventions to historic buildings in Scotland, and in the slippery discipline of Interiors, has focussed Edward’s theoretical thinking on the notion of time, story, and building.
He is involved with current plans to revive the ruins of Gillespie Kidd and Coia’s seminary at Cardross. His first book, ‘The Secret Lives of Buildings’: a collection folk tales stories about mythical buildings was published in 2009; and he is currently writing ‘The Memory Palace’ a book of lost Interiors, due for publication in 2013.
Keywords: architecture, interiors, historiography, narrative
In my lightning talk I would like to flesh out some central concerns of my PhD project. My research deals with time and temporality in contemporary literary post-apocalyptic fiction. This genre is always intertwined with discourses on time. After all, according to the Christian view – which still founds the western conception of apocalypse, no matter how secular this might have become – apocalypse equals the end of history and of time. The general argument of my thesis is, thus, that the apocalyptic imagination is temporal in its very essence and that conjuring up post-apocalyptic worlds always entails a change in the way time is conceived of. In particular, in my talk I would like to focus on how the novels I analyse often experiment with counter-narratives to the Western paradigms of linear time, history and progress. Cyclical temporalities and plots abound, and so does the phenomenon I term “temporal inversion”, namely representing the post-apocalyptic future as a return to a past state in man’s evolution. These alternative temporalities, critical of the Western classic conceptions of time, are obviously aimed at communicating a sense of apocalyptic change to the readers. However, when coupled with utopian depictions of the post-apocalyptic future, they may also contribute to foster social change. In the last part of my talk I will briefly focus on Jim Crace’s The Pesthouse (2007) as an example of how, by imagining a different temporality than the linear and progressive one, these authors afford a revelatory dimension which touches upon the contemporary world and its issues - from climate change, to excessive technologization, from inequalities to wars.
I graduated in Philosophy (MPhil) from the University of Milan, Italy, in 2010, with a dissertation on contemporary non-mimetic theories of representation. I am now a second-year PhD student in American and Canadian Studies at the University of Nottingham. My research deals with time and temporality in contemporary literary post-apocalyptic fiction. It looks at texts written from the nineties onwards by authors coming from different national backgrounds – American, Canadian, British and French. The general argument of my thesis is that the apocalyptic imagination is essentially temporal and that conjuring up post-apocalyptic worlds always entails a change in the way time is conceived of. I have attended an Erasmus year at the department of Philosophy, Université Paris-Sorbonne, and an intensive programme in Critical Theory at Utrecht University. I have presented papers at BAAS (British Association for American Studies) annual conference and at the American Literature Symposium, University of Cambridge.
Key words: post-apocalyptic literature, temporality, critique of teleology, critique of the ideology of progress
from our workshop on Power, Time and Agency held in Manchester, January 2013