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’m a sociologist currently lecturing at Newcastle University. I have a background in cultural theory and an enduring interest in environmental utopianism. I’m particularly concerned with what utopian fiction can contribute to debates about better futures with nature. Seen as expressions of desire for something different and better, rather than simply structural blueprints, utopian narratives can open up critical and creative spaces for imagining otherness and social change.
The disruptive temporalities offered by utopian thinking are more necessary than ever in relation to contemporary environmental problems and politics. Dominant climate change discourses work with a limited set of temporal repertoires: rational modelling and prediction, popular catastrophism, individual techniques of carbon counting and self-discipline. In these contexts, the capacity to imagine and hope for better social-natural futures seems to be receding. The emphasis is on preserving existing social arrangements and relationships rather than responding to how notions of community might be generatively challenged by bringing nature into matters of ethics, politics and human well-being.
I hope this workshop will help develop my thinking about the powerful resources offered by utopianism, its capacity to critique the present and stimulate affective and experiential engagements with alternative temporalities and different kinds of community. And I hope to learn more about how these ideas might connect with diverse research on time and community, especially approaches that cross boundaries between the humanities and social sciences.
I am an independent researcher whose academic training has primarily been in the area of Literary Studies and Critical Theory. In 2007 I began volunteering at a people’s history museum in Cardiff called the Butetown History & Arts Centre, where I learnt about life stories, oral history and the possibility of using museums as a vehicle for social change. Since then I have pursued an interest in public history and have recently curated an exhibition about feminism in Bristol called Sistershow Revisited. At present I am very interested in creating on and offline spaces where people and historical information can collide. My approach to this workshop will draw on these concerns, specifically exploring the issue of time within researching, documenting and disseminating vulnerable forms of material culture. As a case study I will draw on the Women’s Liberation Music Archive, a recently launched web archive of music from the UK feminist movements of the 1970s and 1980s. I shall be exploring how the creative actions produced by women in these communities, when digitised, has the capacity to transform the temporality of contemporary cultural memory.
Deborah's Lightning Talk