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.
Exploring Interspecies Temporality (with Tarsh Bates)
In the context of the global honeybee crisis, there is perception that we are running out of time. The race is on to save the bees and ourselves. Albert Einstein is rumoured to have claimed that “if the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe then man [sic] would only have four years of life left. No more bees, no more pollination, no more man [sic].” This presentation describes an artistic research project by Tarsh Bates and Sue Hauri-Downing that explores ideas of multispecies agency in the space/time entanglements between humans and the European honey bee Apis mellifera. This ongoing project traverses the globe, investigating historical and material bee/human naturecultures in Australia and Switzerland, combining sculpture, performance, evolutionary biology and ethnography to understand interspecies agency, ecology and place. The 'busy bee' has long been considered by humans to be a metaphor of industry and efficiency. Strangely however humans in contemporary technologically rich societies seem to be increasingly time poor. Industrialization does not seem to have made us more efficient. In fact this project has shown that having to engage, research and perform at the pace of the 'busy bee' forces us to slow down; to shift into bee time. This paper explores the challenges and complications of our attempts to shift into bee time, to understand (and fail to understand) the material affects of interspecies space/time.
Susan Hauri-Downing is an Australian artist living in Switzerland. She is interested in Biocultural diversity, Biopolitics, Solastalgia and the Intricacy of interspecies relationships. Her work includes explorations of the personal and cultural implications of the global cultivation of native and foreign plant species, including aesthetics; ties to ‘home’; food security; traditional food availability; materials for artifacts; and medicines.
Time-Horizon and Agency
I argue that our subjective sense of remaining time is vital to our agency. The argument, in outline, is this:
(1) A diminishing time-horizon diminishes one’s capacity to self-reauthor.
(2) The capacity to self-reauthor is constitutive of agency par excellence.
(C) Therefore, a diminishing time-horizon attenuates agency.
(1) says that the sense that we are running out of time saps our ability to deliberately change our characters. (2) says that this ability is essential for being creatures maximally in control of what we do. (2) is intuitively obvious: since your actions are partly determined by your character, the more control you have over your character, the more control you have over your actions. The argument for (1) has two stages. First, I argue on conceptual grounds that self-reauthoring requires, at a minimum, the capacities (a) for negative self-evaluation and (b) for long-term planning. Second, I adduce empirical evidence (from Socioemotional Selectivity Theory) that these are precisely the capacities that get eroded with time. If these arguments work, (C) follows deductively: our agency wanes with the waning time-horizon. Thus, if we ignore the integrity of the time-horizon to agency, we will miss both a vital feature of agency and the central tragedy of running out of time.
I obtained my PhD in Philosophy from Cambridge in 2007. Since then, I have held three Philosophy postdocs - in South Africa, Mexico, and currently at Vienna University. Although my areas of specialization are epistemology and metaethics, I have recently become really interested in the philosophy of old age. (A forthcoming publication in the area: ‘Age and Agency’, Ageing and the Elderly, special issue of Philosophical Papers).
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.
Kat Deerfield (Cardiff University)
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.
from our workshop on Power, Time and Agency held in Manchester, January 2013