(C01)
Polychronicity [Combined format]
Location A4-003
Date and Start Time 07 Dec, 2018 at 09:00
Sessions 2

Convenors

  • Ute Eickelkamp (University of Sydney) email
  • Melinda Hinkson (Deakin University) email

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Short abstract

Multiple temporalities co-exist and are being produced within and beyond living and non-living realms, but on unequal terms. This panel invites contributions that bring into view temporal alliances that might be life-enabling.

Long abstract

Representing opposing regimes of value but sharing common historical 'roots', global capitalism's time-space compression and systemic ecological paradigms both promote a cyclical temporality. Both also promote a discourse of precarious balance, of growth, decline, collapse, innovation and revival across fiscal, biocultural and astrophysical realms. Somewhat paradoxically, the vision of a looming anthropocenic catastrophe that will end life on Earth resumes (in altered form) the modernist sense of time as pressing forward. And as pressing forward fast, as the telos of futurity is shifting its ground from limitless techno-economic progress to implosive ending once and for all.

Polychronicity is a fact of life and of non-life; whether conceived of as an instant or as duration, multiple temporalities co-exist and are being produced within and beyond single organisms and scales. The time of memory and forgetting, of lived experience, of religious faith and cosmologies, of the 'forces of nature', the growth of plants, melting ice, and dying species, of chemical and physical processes, of industrial labor, artistic practices, mechanical and digital technologies, bureaucracy and the state - all co-exist but on unequal terms. Is there such a thing as 'the good' and 'the bad' of time? This panel invites contributions that bring into view temporalities that are life-enabling. We seek empirical and conceptual works that respond to the planet's temporal diversity, by way of counter-narrative or other forms of creative expression.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

Afterness

Author: Ute Eickelkamp (University of Sydney) email
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Short abstract

I ask if a model of tradition that pivots on 'afterness' can safeguard cultural difference in its own terms, drawing on Richter's Nachleben, where objects and ideas are defined by what they are no more and not yet.

Long abstract

Loss of a way of life, I want to argue, becomes the cultural capital when the economy of future making needs symbolic returns. A retrospective orientation that merely gestures towards what was makes difference palatable, narratable, marketable. In the process, radical alterity is domesticated and potentially destroyed.

I begin with Gorz' observation that intellectual capitalism cannot produce the cultural traditions and meaningful symbols it harvests. Arguably, this is why strategies of continuity can persist otherwise. I ask if a model of tradition that pivots on 'afterness' can safeguard difference in its own terms, drawing on Richter's Nachleben, where objects and ideas are defined by what they are no more and not yet. Hence derives openness towards the future, one that flows from being anchored knowingly in the past.

The Anangu in northern South Australia and people in Germany's post-coal region of the Ruhr produce their own modes of afterness. If the Anangu have honed the existential skill of outliving (colonialism, racism, poverty), their idea of 'coming behind' is not only a figure of modernity; rather, it is grounded in their abiding cosmo-ontological concern with the trace. The workers in the Ruhr who had labored for the better future now seemingly at hand, are feeling 'left out and behind'; there are signs of disenchanted resignation in this gentrifying life-world. Recognition of diverse modes of afterness, I propose then, emerges as one critical dimension as humanity at large faces a most precarious future.

Memory work as the future of ontological anchorage

Author: Melinda Hinkson (Deakin University) email
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Short abstract

Displacement involves multiple ruptures, especially fragmentation of familiar time-space conjunctions. This paper explores memory work in one woman's navigation of displacement. Relatedly it considers deployment of nostalgic figures of Aboriginal culture in future-focused governmental imaginaries.

Long abstract

Displacement involves multiple ruptures. Most profoundly it entails the fragmentation of familiar conjunctions of time and space, the upending of ordered temporalities and arrangements in which a person knows oneself in relation to others, particular places, and the world at large. In this paper I explore the role of memory work and nostalgic longing in one woman's transcendence of the traumatic experience of displacement. Taking up Svetlana Boym's distinction between registers of reflective and restorative nostalgia, memory comes to be understood as a vital repository for flexible, creative responses to the existential challenges of the day-to-day. But Boym goes further, showing nostalgia to have significance beyond individual longings for place and times since past. Nostalgia, she writes is 'a symptom of our age, an historical emotion'. It is a product of a new ordering of time and space that made the division into 'local' and 'universal' possible. At one extreme, 'unreflected nostalgia breeds monsters'. Thus the second move in this paper is to consider the deployment of nostalgic figures of Aboriginal culture in future-focused governmental imaginaries. The places where Warlpiri and state practices meet thus involve competing constellations of memory work and ultimately a vigorous contest over the ordering of time and space.

Time travels: how Australian Indigenous screen survivance has found its ways through trauma to 'radical hope', and beyond

Author: Lisa Stefanoff (UNSW Art & Design) email
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Short abstract

A mixed-media presentation surveying how three decades of Australian Indigenous films, video installation works, VR projects and still images have remade and shifted histories - from traumatic memory, to 'radical hope' and beyond - through/as experiments in screen time-play.

Long abstract

Traumatic memories of loss, disruption, destruction and precarious survival have been a constant presence on Australian Indigenous screens for over 30 years, since urban Indigenous artists first began making films and desert storytellers started committing 'endangered' memories and cultural knowledge to videotape. Utopian visions have been rarer sights, but are increasingly claiming space and time on Indigenous screens. Their 'radical hope' pushes across edges of devastation into ways of being and doing that are both familiar and novel.

Where traumatic memory has often been performed on screen through the jolting counter-narrative of the flashback, experimental image work and screen dreams infused with radical hope play differently with time. They claim breathing space and give time to 'survivance' as real-time ontology and politics, envisioned as enduring autonomy of people and country and possibly emancipated times-to-come. In this way, [de]colonising Indiegnous screen art reshapes itself through aesthetics that value stillness, conjure endurance, and enframe social extensiveness as perduring life. Playful appropriations and tactics of defamiliarization, within time-traveling sci/cli-fi, anachronistic and mockumentary genres, and experimental new media forms provide open frameworks to hold these lived temporalities in view.

This presentation surveys the ways in which some films, video installation works, VR projects and still images have remade histories through/as experiments in screen time-play. I suggest that a genealogy of this play, made in changing contexts of production support and exhibition, has seen Australian Indigenous media-makers dislodge stories from spaces of traumatic memory into tales of 'radical hope', and beyond.

Credit lines: permanence or possibility for Saharawi refugees

Author: Randi Irwin (The New School for Social Research) email
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Short abstract

This paper explores the tensions that emerge in the competing and complementary projects of neoliberalism encountered across scales in the Saharawi refugee camp, focusing on how credit and markets have altered the perception of permanent displacement for some and liberation for others.

Long abstract

Displaced for forty years, Saharawi refugees and their political leadership have developed various decolonization strategies that aim to end Morocco's presence in Western Sahara. Drawing on fieldwork in the self-governed Saharawi refugee camp in Algeria, this paper looks to the neoliberal governing strategies that the Saharawi government leadership emphasizes as essential to demonstrating their fitness for sovereignty. However, this interpretation of neoliberalism as a sovereign ideal also has ramifications for its citizen-refugees who point to neoliberal practices and responsibilities as the death of decolonization. This paper highlights how the temporality of neoliberal reforms in the refugee camp generate widely different interpretations across actors. This paper explores the tensions that emerge in the competing and complementary projects of neoliberalism encountered across scales in the Saharawi refugee camp, focusing on how credit and "open markets" have altered the perception of permanent displacement for some and liberation for others. Saharawi leaders point to the governance of the refugee camp as necessary preparation for sovereignty and evidence of the state's capabilities to smoothly transition into a fully-fledged sovereign state that will operate within norms and abide by "best practices" in the international community. But what are "best practices" and what does it mean to be a "good" state? How might these be performed as part of a decolonization movement? How does the obligation and desire to build a sovereign, independent future coexist alongside struggles for a financially secure existence within the refugee camps?

The emperor's new time: authoritarianism, revolution and the temporality of waste in Tunisia

Author: Siad Darwish (Deakin University) email
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Short abstract

This paper argues that a garbage crisis that gripped Tunisia in the earliest days of the Arab revolutions, and uncovered a much larger crisis of pollution, became the focus of a temporal conflict between a nostalgia for the dictatorial past and a revolutionary future.

Long abstract

Revolutions are temporal ruptures. In a post-authoritarian setting they can even give rise to separate temporal realities. One, intrinsically nostalgic, relies on the lingering propaganda of a dictatorial past. And another, unleashed by the revolutionary spirit, seeks to overturn this past and build a new future. While nostalgia for authoritarianism has been widely discussed, few studies have investigated how these competing temporalities shape post-revolutionary realities. Based on 15 months of ethnographic research in post-revolutionary Tunisia, this paper argues that a garbage crisis that gripped the country in the earliest days of the revolution, and uncovered a much larger crisis of pollution, became the focus of this temporal conflict. To those in affluent areas, that hadn't suffered from environmental pollution all along, garbage signified regression, backwardness, and a temporal inversion that sullied the revolution. But to those in the poorer peripheral areas, whose lives had been marred by pollution all along, garbage presented the lingering violence of Ben Ali's authoritarian neoliberalism. Waste in the revolution thereby created different temporal audiences depending on their social and spatial positioning before the revolution. The temporality of waste thereby revealed a tacit agreement or rejection of an image of Tunisia as presented by dictatorial fictions: A Tunisia that was democratic, clean and progressive, and not one that was authoritarian, polluting, and oppressive.

My life in a death cult; or, Accruing flextime for the end times: an insider's account of the final days of the Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) bureaucracy

Author: Malcolm Haddon email
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Short abstract

A semi-auto-ethnographic, wholly hypothetical exercise in applied apocalyptic anthropology that imagines the worst possible nightmare scenario for Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) bureaucrats: that ISIS is right, these are the end times.

Long abstract

In the cosmic war at the end of days, what on earth are desk-bound, time-poor, hand-wringing social policy bureaucrats to do? No amount of disaster resilience planning can prepare us for the apocalypse. No visioning exercise ever envisioned a strategy for the end of time. It's far too late for early intervention. If only the faithful servants of the faithless state could transcend their petty secularisms, feel the messianic zeal of the zeitgeist and join the holy warriors on the front line at Armageddon.

This paper is a semi-auto-ethnographic, wholly hypothetical exercise in applied apocalyptic anthropology that imagines the worst possible nightmare scenario for Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) practitioners and policy makers: that ISIS is right, these are the end times, we are powerless to prevent it, what to do, what to do?

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.