No Future: Recessionary Time
This paper is concerned with forms of critique that have no time, or better said, forms of critique that have run out of time or are dispossessed of time and therefore make demands for time itself. Such demands have been heard across austerity hit Europe, and have been encapsulated in the cry of ‘No Future’. From a sociological point of view, what is of significance regarding these demands is that they seek not different kinds of time but the right to time itself and especially the right to a future. This is of particular importance when we consider that sociologists typically understand critique as thoroughly entangled in the logic of the former, that is, in demands and hopes for different kinds of time. Thus in Boltanski and Chiapello’s The New Spirit of Capitalism the time of critique, change and the new is the time of the singular, the authentic and of difference. The context of demands for access to time or the right to time itself, therefore, demand that sociologists rethink the dynamics of critique, change and the new and in particular directly confront the issue of time in the making. This includes the issue of how futures can – or cannot – be actualized in the contemporary moment. In this paper I aim to contribute to this rethinking and do so by recommending the development of a pragmatic sociology of the future.
Lisa Adkins holds the BHP Billiton Chair of Sociology in the School of Humanities and Social Science. Before coming to the University of Newcastle in 2010 she was Professor of Sociology at Goldsmiths, University of London. She has also held posts at the University of Manchester, the Australian National University, and the University of Kent.
Lisa Adkins' research interests and contributions to sociology fall into three main areas: economic sociology (especially the sociology of post-industrial economies and the new political economy), social and cultural theory, and the sociology of gender. Her contributions to economic sociology have included both empirical and theoretical interventions. A current project considers changing temporalities of labour and value. In the area of social and cultural theory her work includes a wide-ranging critical exploration of the work of Pierre Bourdieu. Finally, in the area of the sociology of gender her interventions have included a broad scale exploration of shifting formations of gender in late modernity.
The BHP Billiton Research framework brings together and extends Professor Adkins’ extensive research and publication record in the areas of economic sociology, social and cultural theory and social science methodology. Details of the BHP Billiton Research Framework “Labouring Futures” can be found @ www.labouringfutures.com
Jane Elliott (King's College London)
'Decision Time: Neoliberalism Personhood, Popular Aesthetics, and the Inexorability of Agency'
In this talk, I examine the challenges that the hegemony of neoliberal forms of governance presents to our understanding of the relations among time, power and agency. While many such theorizations seek means through which agency might be located or enhanced—Judith Butler’s performativity would be one classic example—the work of many contemporary thinkers has made clear that neoliberal governance works through rather than against individual agency; it constantly requires that people make meaningful choices whose outcomes differ significantly, and it assigns sole responsibility for these choices and outcomes to the individual in question. I consider the effects of this transformation by turning to a series of texts that focus on what I term suffering agency, or the experience of agency as a form of anguished entrapment rather than self-enhancing empowerment. These works, which include texts from Dave Eggers’ novel What is the What to the torture-porn Saw franchise, offer visions of neoliberal personhood in which to be an individual making agential choice appears either akin to or literally a form of torture. I offer an account of how these works map suffering agency and the role that time plays in both generating this experience and in imagining potential alternatives.
Dr Jane Elliott's research focuses on three main areas: post-1945 fiction, with a particular emphasis on the intersection between popular forms and political theory; contemporary theory; and the novel during and after postmodernism. She also has interests in contemporary fantasy fiction and film, ethnic American literature, and contemporary American popular culture.
Dr Elliott's current research explores the conjoined aesthetic and political developments that have emerged since the turn of the 21st century and the waning of the postmodern moment. This interest is reflected in the twenty-essay collection she has recently co-edited, entitled Theory after 'Theory' (Routledge 2011); the second editor for the collection is Derek Attridge. The collection draws together a diverse body of thinkers from various disciplines, including Rey Chow, Roberto Esposito, Simon Gikandi, Brian Massumi, Elizabeth Povinelli, Bernard Stiegler and Eugene Thacker, in order to examine the ways in which theory has taken on new forms that challenge some of the fundamental intellectual stances that once defined ‘Theory’. Dr Elliott is currently working on a monograph that explores the intersection of neoliberal microeconomics, popular aesthetics and the Left theorization of agency in a variety of American and British novels and films, from the novel and film Never Let Me Go to the horror franchise Saw to Hurricane Katrina documentaries. Essays from this project have appeared in Novel and the collection Old and New Media after Katrina.
Dr Elliott's first book, Popular Feminist Fiction as American Allegory: Representing National Time was published by Palgrave in 2008, and her work on contemporary literature and theory has also appeared in Cultural Critique, Modern Fiction Studies, and the PMLA. In addition, she serves as the Humanities Editor for The Public Intellectual, an online journal devoted to bringing academic insights to a mainstream audience.
I am developing new ideas for a post-globization ethics – an eco/alter ethics. Using ideas rooted in the work of Emmanuel Levinas, I am developing theory for “receptive affection” in which the world creates possibility to make time and space for what is ‘other’ than the desires satisfied by the social and political economy of market liberalism. The pace of economic productivity and development moves at a speed that has little time or space for the rhythms of the natural body and the time it needs to regenerate. The ‘time out’ to care, heal and repair, when it does not exclude, exploit or marginalize, can then take on a diversity of socio-political expression. Patience is the resistance that can pause and wait (a ‘making of time’) despite the imperatives for speed and efficiency. Generosity is the extension of self to alter-positions – others – in which one ‘makes room’ for what remains in marginalized and excluded spaces, in which receptive affections manifest as the ‘welcome’ and the ‘gift.’ A language that seeks world habitability and respect for what is already ‘rooted’ is what I hope emerges out of these efforts, thinking of this also as a post-Holocaust ethics.
I am an Associate Professor of Philosophy at The College of New Rochelle and Chair of Philosophy and Religious Studies. I have my Ph.D from The New School for Social Research. My work is in Continental Philosophy, particularly in Phenomenology and Ethics. I have written on Levinas, Heidegger, and Arendt. My teaching expertise is in feminist theory, environmental ethics and I use critical pedagogy in my Philosophy of Education curriculum. I am beginning to develop and research in disability theory.
Marli Huijer (Erasmus University)
Today, power over time is primarily conceptualised as an individual task. Rather than being submitted to collective or institutional disciplinary forces, which impose time regimes that maximally exploit the human body, contemporary individuals aim to discipline themselves, thus imposing self-chosen time regimes on their working and life styles. However, the more free the institutional time orderings are, the more difficult it is to discipline oneself. Today self-discipline seems to become a burden, which ultimately deprives the individual of his/her power over time.
Marli Huijer has a Civis Mundi Chair in Philosophy of Culture, Politics and Religion in the Faculty of Philosophy of the Erasmus University. Huijer studied Medicine and Philosophy (University of Amsterdam). She obtained a doctorate in Philosophy of Medicine in 1996, with a dissertation on AIDS and Michel Foucault’s aesthetics of existence. Huijer was employed as senior researcher in Practical Philosophy at Groningen University, visiting academic at the London School of Economics and Political Science (UK) and from 2002 till 2005 she was extraordinary professor in Gender and Biomedical Sciences at Maastricht University (Center for Gender and Diversity).
Her research focuses on rhythm, culture and religion; time (how social and technological developments transform our experience and dealings with time); philosophy of science and technology; gender and biomedical sciences.
Emily Grabham (University of Kent)
A Likely Story: HIV and the Definition of Disability in UK Employment Equality Law, 1996-2005
Cancer is first of all a disease of the body’s geography, in contrast to syphilis and AIDS, whose definition depends on constructing a temporal sequence of stages. (Sontag, 1988: 110) This paper engages the question of how to understand legal temporalities. In particular, it asks what fresh methodological approaches we can use to animate socio-legal studies on time. Drawing on approaches from material culture, legal anthropology, and actor network theory, my current work analyzes what ‘things’ do within equality law networks; how objects create legal time. One example of this is how anti-retroviral drugs, biological phenomena, and medical reports, contributed to the legal construction of ‘HIV futures’ in disability discrimination law in the 1990s. Many HIV positive workers in the UK during the 1990s faced employment harassment and dismissal. HIV/AIDs was widely represented, in racialised and homophobic terms, through tropes of moral decline and impeding apocalypse (Sontag, 1988), a socio-temporal phenomenon that we would now analyze for its ‘chrono-normative’ (Freeman) or ‘chrono-biological (Luciano) effects. Despite many of their problems being to do with stigma, the only legal route for positive people was to claim disability discrimination. This required proving, on a case-by-case basis, that HIV was a disability under the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 through ‘likelihood of future impairment’. Legal status was thereby intimately linked to a person’s future through medical prognosis and discussions about their T-cell count and viral load. Importantly, even though developments in anti-retroviral therapies had led to a rapid shift in how positive people viewed their own futures (from ‘near death’ in the 1980s to ‘chronic and treatable condition’ by the late 1990s), claimants had to eschew these brighter futures to gain legal rights. Drawing on interviews, case reports, and interdisciplinary research, this paper attempts to analyze the role of objects such as anti-retrovirals, medical reports, and T-cell counts on the construction of legal futures for HIV positive claimants at this key juncture in recent legal history, asking what objects add (and do not add) to our understanding of law and time.
Emily Grabham is a Senior Lecturer in Law at the University of Kent. She is currently writing a book on how concepts of time influence equality laws ('In Law's Time: Legal Temporalities in Equality Projects', under contract with University of Toronto Press). Her recent article 'Doing Things with Time: Flexibility, Adaptability, and Elasticity in UK Equality Cases' won the Canadian Law & Society Association 2011 English Article Prize. She has published widely on law and time, sociological theories of time, and feminist and queer legal theory. She is the holder of a 2012 ESRC Future Research Leaders award for a 3 year project studying gaps in equality and employment law affecting precarious workers with care commitments.
Frida Buhre (Uppsala University)
Borders and Change: The Temporalities of an Emerging Critical Rhetorical Theory
Claiming powerful conceptions of time is often used to legitimize the growth of an academic discipline. This study analyzes the temporal argumentation put forth in academic journals concerning the growth of critical rhetorical theory in the USA from the 1970s through the 1980s. What time did the scholarly agents presume or argue in favor of when they tried to legitimize rhetoric’s values in relation to other knowledge regimes in academia? The study shows that the various agents assumed a conception of rhetoric that was not only limited with regards to gender, class, race, and to Western liberal democracies, but that it also excluded non-progressive temporalities. The scholars at the time argued that the role of rhetoric was to study how people became good citizens, active in creating a morally sound community in search of either the ideal future or the eternal present that would enable social change. This study shows how the first, the teleological and normative temporality of rhetoric, along with the second, the eternal present temporality, both became tied to values of unity and knowledge borders in the name of change. The study shows that any temporality can become the function or underpinning logic of exclusion of alternative knowledge production when used to gain power. It invites further studies of knowledge producers’ conceptualization of time in order to find less exclusive alternatives.
Frida Buhre is a doctoral fellow in rhetoric at the department of Literature, Uppsala University, Sweden. Her research interests include, but are not limited to: critical rhetorical theory; feminist theory intersecting with postcolonial theory; rhetorical enactments of space and time; nomadism and borders; and knowledge production.
Change4Life: Calculation, prediction and the future
This paper focuses on the British government’s ongoing attempt to intervene in the predicted obesity crisis through the Change4Life health campaign, ‘a society-wide movement that aims to prevent people from becoming overweight by encouraging them to eat better and move more’ (Department of Health). Drawing on recent analyses of the campaign (Evans 2010, Evans et al 2011, Moor 2011), the paper explores the ways in which Change4Life is organised around particular versions of the future that are brought into the present via predictions, calculations and measurements, and that become materialized as current ways of life. The paper contributes to a renewed interest in time and futures (Adkins 2008, 2009, Adams, Murphy and Clarke 2009, Anderson 2010, 2011, Adam and Groves 2007, Cooper 2006, Coleman 2012) by conceiving time not only in terms of linear progression, butalso as multiple, affective, intensive. Indeed, as Adams et al indicate, contemporary life might be defined in terms of anticipation, where ‘possible futures […] are lived and felt as inevitable in the present’ (2009: 248). If Change4Life is a campaign that aims to bring the future into the present so that the obesity crisis can be intervened in, now, in what ways does it function as a form of anticipatory politics? Or, in Brian Massumi’s terms, how is prediction converted into pre-emption, where the present becomes organised around the future, ‘as if it had already occurred’ (2005: 8)? In this sense, how is politics acting on the future, on time itself? How is time a ma(r)ker of the social, and of social difference? The paper addresses these questions via a concern with the role of measure and valuation in predictions and calculations about the ‘obesity crisis’.
Rebecca Coleman's research interests are in bodies, images, time and futures, and affect. She is currently leading an ESRC Research Seminar Series on 'Austerity Futures? Imagining and Materialising the Future in an "Age of Austerity" which examines possible changes in the ways in which the future is imagined, planned for, worked towards and brought into being. She has recently published Transforming Images: Screens, Affect, Futures (2012, Routledge) which tracks a socio-cultural and bodily imperative for transformation across a range of different screens and considers how images of transformation function affectively through a version of a better future. Also on bodies, images and time is her previous book, The Becoming of Bodies: Girls, Images, Experience (2009, Manchester UP).
Keywords: time and futures; bodies; materialisation; images; affect.
The Temporal Modes of Maintenance Work
This paper develops a temporal awareness of practices of ‘maintenance’ – practices that seek to sustain the material conditions and the hopes of others, or the belief in anachronistic ideals. It draws on Lauren Berlant’s recent work on ‘cruel optimism’, specifically her analysis of practices such as over-eating that are neither imply acts of resistance to the wearing out of the body brought about by neoliberalism, nor acts of self-destruction, but what Berlant calls ‘suspension’ of the self as a form of self-maintenance. Berlant’s argument is that as the gap between the fantasy of the good life (upward mobility, job security, political and social equality, and lively durable intimacy) and the actual lives we lead have got wider and wider, these acts that suspend the self are forms of maintenance of this frayed fantasy. Maintenance, however, has its own temporal dynamics - it a durational practice, one concerned with the time of suspension, of waiting, of bearing the state of nothing happening, of the inability to bring about tangible or obvious forms of change. Rather than characterizing the time of maintenance as ‘dead’ time, I read Berlant alongside the seminal work of the feminist performance and social artist Mierle Laderman Ukeles. Since the late 1970’s Ukeles has called herself a ‘maintenance artist’, seeking, amongst other things to raise the profile of waste, and also those, such as the City of New York sanitation workers, who work on behalf of the city to process and manage waste. Ukeles links this to a feminist agenda of making visible maintenance work in its temporal dimensions – the ongoing commitment to making the lives of others possible, and to the now ‘anachronistic’ belief in the central role of public institutions in the management of the social fabric. In doing so, Ukeles produces an alternative temporal mode to that of the continuous work time of capitalism, asking us to think again about what has become a degraded object world, and a degraded social system.
Lisa Baraitser joined Birkbeck as a faculty member in 2005, and has been involved in the development of Psychosocial Studies at Birkbeck since then. Her first degree was in Medical Science and Psychology, followed by a Masters in Counselling and Psychotherapy, and a PhD in Psychology. Between 1995 and 2005 she trained as a psychodynamic counsellor, and worked in NHS and third sector settings, thinking through the psychological ramifications of violence, abuse and poverty in the lives of women. During this time, she was also the Artistic Director of an experimental theatre collective known as PUR. Since taking up an academic position, Lisa has developed research interests in gender and sexuality, motherhood and the maternal, feminist theory, psychoanalysis, and philosophies of ethics, affects, materiality, temporality and event.
Laurel Mackenzie (RMIT)
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.
Kinneret Lahad (Tel Aviv University)
Ethnography of Waiting in Line for Night Clubs in Tel-Aviv: Time, Emotions, and Inequality with Avi Shooshna (Bar-Ilan University)
The following paper explores the temporal dimensions and manifestations of ethnic discrimination and oppression. The relations between inequality, waiting, and emotions are surveyed based on ethnography of waiting in line to get into night clubs in Tel-Aviv (Israel). Previous studies (Bitton, 2011)have shown that in certain trendy clubs the waiting time for entry can range between an hour to an hour and a half and those who often do not pass the selection process are those marked as "ethnic" or "orientals" ( Jews from Arab countries). Drawing upon ethnographic fieldwork, the findings of our research display multiple temporalities and temporal orientations. Our findings suggest that there are dramatic differences in the waiting experiences and temporal orders among subjects of European origin and Oriental ones. The first among them is "Party Time" Vs. "Prison Time. Those of European descent report that waiting time is considered part of the “foreplay” (as one of the interviewees has put it) before entering the club. Waiting time is described as time that passes quickly, mainly through interactions with friends who are also standing in line. By contrast, the waiting experience of the Oriental subjects is a slow one and is embedded with tension, alertness, uncertainty, and shame. The passage of time is described by them as “frozen time”, “nigger time”, and is especially experienced as “prison time”. Indeed, as Bourdieu (2000) has elaborated, the art of making people wait is an integral part of the exercise of power. In addition, we have also found that by “doing time” the oriental subjects attempt to “become white” by covering up and removing any of their ethnic features. In a sense, the effects of waiting time render the oriental selves as hyper-visible to themselves and others and construe the waiting line as an important site of interpellation (Althusser 1971). In conclusion, this pattern of ethnic queuing exemplifies Schwartz’s (1975) assertion that the distribution of waiting time coincides with the distribution of power and thereby produces and maintains differential access to power and privilege.
Kinneret Lahad is an associate professor lecturer at the NCJW Program of Gender and Women’s Studies at Tel-Aviv University. Broadly defined, her areas of interest include: theorizing singlehood, sociology of time, the cultural sociology of the family, feminist cultural studies, sociology of emotions and cyber culture. She is also working on a book that aims to develop a theoretical and critical analysis of singlehood in contemporary culture. She teaches various graduate and undergraduate courses and research seminars ranging from feminist cultural studies, sociology of gender and family life, media representations of romance, the study of singlehood and the sociology of time.
from our workshop on Power, Time and Agency held in Manchester, January 2013