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
Paul Reynolds (Edge Hill University)
Time and Agency: A Critical Reflection on Marxist Temporalities
Marxists have an ironically contradictory approach to time and the scope of agency in time. Time is the essence of value and the primary expression of what is exploited in the commodified system of production - “As values, all commodities are only definite masses of congealed labour-time.” (Marx 1998 Capital p60). It follows that the re-appropriation of time, the re-evaluation of how time relates to value and the transformation from the quantitative measure of exchange value to measures of value in quality and are central to Marxist critique. Yet critical attempts to subvert chronormativity within post-structural influenced critical temporalities appear to query this radical project in two senses. First it engages time outside of some measure and concept of time outside of subjective experience – as a material condition and variable. Second, it queries the relationship between categories of time, labour, quality, utility, quantity and exchange, and so diminishes the Marxist diagnoses of exploitation and alienation in contemporary capitalism. This double bind in relation to theorising time – in diagnosis and emancipation project, sets an agenda for Marxist engagements with the idea of critical temporalities, and there are fruitful sources from which to engage. Drawing from Marx and critics such as Lukacs, Thompson, Marcuse, Meszaros, Jameson and more recently Negri and Postone, this paper will emphasise the dialectical tensions between chromonormativity and critical temporalities, and argues for a critical temporality that recognised the constitution of time as conjunctural, contextual and phenomenological, yet allows for a materialist basis for time from which a Marxist radical critique can critique both subjective and objectivist notions of time.
Paul taught at Universities in Hull, York and Leeds in areas as varied as political economy, political sociology, public administration, politics and social sciences before taking up a lectureship at Edge Hill in 1992. His current teaching and research reflects his main trans-disciplinary interest in the intersection of ethics and politics with identity and difference, with particular reference to sexuality. Paul leads teaching in the 2nd and 3rd year modules on sexuality and on Marx and Marxism in the Sociology Programme, and leads the 1st year module on social and cultural theory and thinking for sociology, early childhood and childhood and youth programmes, as well as leading the professional practice module in the 3rd year of the childhood programmes. His current writing interests include sexual ethics and politics, focused on the relationship between sexual consent, sexual literacy and sexual well-being, and the problems of sexual law and citizenship, although he also writes on radical intellectuals and the ethics and politics of political radicalism.
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.
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.
This talk considers the ways in which people currently involved in political action in Athens think about the Polytechnic Uprising of 1973. The uprising is an event which is memorialised annually, and part of the dominant narrative of collective history surrounding post-dictatorship Greek 'democracy' and resistance. This talk will focus on the importance of temporality in exploring the ways in which the past acts as a resource for current action, through memory, myth and embodied performances. It will also touch upon the ways in which the position of the uprising within the landscape of political action, has changed over the years; the how it has been embedded in different public discourses and part of the political system that is currently being contested.
Miranda is a Sociology MPhil student at Goldsmiths, looking at how people talk about political subjectivity through participation in memorialised violent events of the past, and how these events are talked about today by people involved in political action.
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