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?
I lecture in geography at the Open University. I have a long term interest in environmental issues that has gradually morphed into a concern with earth processes – and the question of how to live as best we can on an inherently volatile planet. My take on community always involves a working across difference, and I’m interested in the way that the dynamics of the earth are amongst the things that can make us different – or cause estrangement. Just as there is a great deal of mobility across the surface of the earth, I like to think about the way different groups or communities have made it through long and often turbulent environmental histories as a kind of journey through time. So that we might come to see all communities, one way or another, as bearing the trace of their tussles with a changeable earth, stretching all the way back into deep, geological time. But I’m also drawn to the very mundane, ordinary ways that people help each other in times of crisis. Put these two themes together, and I think there’s potential for rethinking community for times of rapid climate change – especially as we encounter 'others’ whose lives have been thrown off course by environmental stresses. So I’m interested in exploring ideas about how notions of belonging and hospitality towards others might be enlivened by a stronger sense of the way every community is always already a kind of sedimented set of struggles with earthly volatility. My talk is titled Community and the Time of the Earth: from Katrina to Climate Change
Nigel's Keynote Presentation
My interest in the themes of the workshop is ethnographic and comparative. My first book involved a community – strongly self-identified as such – in the southern USA, where the temporal idioms of progress and salvation played against each other as rationales for personal choice and community development. The intricate intertwining of secular and sacred discourses of time (and eternity) in that project became the theme of subsequent work -- a comparative ethnographic account of local ideas of community, in collaboration with David Engel and Barbara Yngvesson (Law and Community in Three American Towns ), and in a book on the anthropology of time (A Moment’s Notice ). In the latter work, my focus was on what Emile Durkheim called social time – both as a sign of divergent constructions of agency (within social science), and as a repertoire of political symbols (in contested states). My interest in the relationship of ethnographic and political discourses of community and democracy has continued (in edited volumes: Ethnography and Democracy , Ethnography in Unstable Places [edited with E. Mertz and K. Warren, 2002], and Ethnographies of Neoliberalism ). And meanwhile, U.S. social policy highlights emergent stakes in the politics of time (mainly through markets and counter-terrorism) in relation to larger questions of solidarity and belonging (The Paradox of Relevance ). My presentation for the workshop takes up some of those terms – drawn from legislation affecting civil rights, welfare, immigration and deportation. The title for my remarks is: Time In, Time Out, Time’s Up: Regulating the Temporality of Inclusion and Exclusion. I very much look forward to the workshop.