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Divergent Temporalities: Capitalism and the Conquest of Space-Time

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The Panteion University of Social and Political Sciences

136, Syngrou Avenue

176 71 Athina

Greece

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Divergent Temporalities: Capitalism and the Conquest of Space-Time

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Divergent Temporalities: Capitalism and the Conquest of Space-Time

An interdisciplinary approach to temporal changes in global peripheries (18th – 21st centuries)

The conceptualization and the experience of space-time have undergone radical transformations during the transition to modernity, accompanying the global spread of varieties of industrial capitalism. The separation of time and space and, consequently, their emptying, are the most distinctive of such shifts. The stabilization and expansion of the capitalist mode of production, the uses of new technologies, as well as the formation of nation-states seem to be the driving forces behind the disconnection of notions of space from the (local) experienced place, becoming more distant and abstract. Likewise, the spread of mechanical clocks as the dominant means of time measurement and timekeeping and the standardization of time molded different attitudes toward time. Time came to be perceived as a homogeneous, empty and calculable mathematical quantity that reflected the uniformity of social and work organization of time.

In the capitalist economic system, time and space become commodities and their control is at stake. The demand for faster global capital circulation goes hand in hand with the formation of a broader ethical, social and political culture of speeding-up leading to space-time compression, even to the annihilation of space by time. At the same time, one of the main features of the global spread of capitalism has been historically its uneven character, with ‘peripheries’ – broadly defined, and understood here not just geographically, but also culturally – apparent everywhere, even within the metropolitan core. Their presence emphasized the uneasy and frequently conflictual co-existence of differentiated space-time structures, where the standard time of capitalist modernity was modulated, warped, or resisted by allegedly ‘pre-modern’ temporal structures, often more attuned to concrete lived experience and structured just as much by gender, social class, culture, or religion as by geographical location.

Almost invariably conceptualized through the topos of temporal lag by the hegemonic positivist narrative, such alternative temporal registers were not simply remnants of another era, but strategic sites where peripheral actors could articulate their reactions, resistance, or opposition in the context of highly asymmetric power structures. Spanning the micro, meso, and macro levels and ranging from ‘Blue Mondays’ through the discovery of Heimat and ‘heritage’ to revolutionary attempts to re-design the calendar, such temporalities did not merely attest to Reinhard Koselleck’s “contemporaneity of the non-contemporaneous”, but were always-already vectors of political action.

In the contemporary political context, we are at the limits of human time and of the acceleration of reality. Geostruggles involving indigenous temporalities, anticolonial resistances, and the looming ecological disaster affecting the peripheries demand an investigation of alternative temporal registers located across all of the world system, and not exclusive to central and advanced socio-economic settings.

The conference focuses on the fabric of everyday life practices, perceptions, reactions, attitudes and simulations of temporal and spatial assemblages, among different social classes, in different regions, etc., where coexistent and multifarious temporalities can be observed, and on the political potential of such ‘peripheral’ temporal registers as challenges or alternatives to the universal standard time of capitalist modernity.

Our goal is to combine case studies and theoretical analyses to examine these multiple and interwoven space-time transformations through an interdisciplinary lens bringing together history, anthropology, sociology, cultural studies, political science, philosophy, geography and urban studies, theology, gender studies, postcolonial studies, psychiatry and medical sciences, literary studies, cinema and media studies, fine arts.

The topics the conference intends to address include, without being limited to, the following:

  • Temporal modernization as experience and as ideology
  • Capitalist organization of production, modern timekeeping and the quest for time discipline, punctuality and simultaneity
  • The tools of temporal standardization and acceleration: mechanical clocks, from pocket to multifunctional digital watches, diaries, bookkeeping, newspapers, daylight saving time, etc.; technological innovations and space-time transformations (means of communication and transport)
  • Temporal dynamics and the dialectics of acceleration and deceleration. Past and contemporary developments.
  • Alternative ideas about time in the past and in non-Western societies and their challenge by capitalist modernity (temporal secularization, rationalization etc.)
  • Globalization and colonization of space-time: temporal imperialism (commerce and space-time synchronization, imposition and/or adoption of Western European temporal structures in colonies and the semi-periphery); temporal struggles, resistance and adaptation;
  • Cross-cultural studies of time regimes (the concept of Western progressive time and the backward time of the Other, differentiations between urban and rural space-time); cartography and locative media; from Metropolis to Metapolis (terrain vagues, gentrification and the «new urban colonialism»);
  • Utopian ideas about time and revolutionary temporal practices;
  • Temporality and Biopolitics: Time – Labor – Leisure: time as commodity (Fordism, post-fordism, working hours, class and gender differences in time allocation). Time in socialist and post-socialist experience; the invention and commercialization of leisure time (the class and gender dimensions of leisure time, the culture of travelling: from The Grand Tour to the millennial obsession with speed world tours);
  • Medical and psychiatric discourses on temporal practices and ethics: work-life balance, public health policies, capital and time pressure;
  • Posthuman capitalism, algorithmic governmentality, and the acceleration of time: speed, politics, and the state of emergency; utopian concepts of time acceleration and space annihilation; running out of time and the looming ecological disaster
  • Artistic movements: practices, simulations, representations and imaginations of space-time transformations in fine, visual arts and popular culture.

We welcome submissions from doctoral students, postdoctoral and independent researchers, artists, academics and scholars, as well as professionals from various disciplines. Presentations should be in English and should not exceed 20 minutes. Proposals should not exceed 300 words, including proposal title, abstract, full name, affiliation and contact details. Proposals should be submitted by e-mail to temporalities2022@gmail.com by November 30, 2021 (deadline extended upon popular request from original deadline of November 1st). Participants will be notified of the selection of their abstract by January 10, 2022.

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The Panteion University of Social and Political Sciences

136, Syngrou Avenue

176 71 Athina

Greece

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Organiser Divergent Temporalities Organising Committee

Organiser of Divergent Temporalities: Capitalism and the Conquest of Space-Time

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