Where Isn’t Anthropology Headed?

Speculations like this are always tricky.

On the one hand, there’s the inevitable likelihood of being wrong. On the other hand, it’s always possible to misread the present. Sometimes we look back at periods and wonder how we missed the obvious.

One popular sentiment I’ve heard recently, however, is that timespace is the cutting-edge of anthropology.

I would like to suggest here that timespace is unable to travel very far as a valuable area of inquiry unless anthropologists clean up their deeper ontological/epistemological commitments.

Whether Nancy Munn, Laura Bear, or Nikolai Ssorin-Chaikov, we run into the same problem over and over again: what is time really?

It was recently explained to me (by someone far more intelligent) that anthropologists should think of time in the way that we have thought about space – just as a shopping mall can be a consumerist space, a gendered space, a racialized space, a securitized space, etc., we can also talk of consumerist time, gendered time, racialized time

Does this guide us to an ontology of time or do we begin with an ontology that allows us to make sense of time?

It’s unclear to me.

Does time just add a new dimension to the spatial turn? Are we doomed to repeat the spatial turn just with time added? The temporal-spatial turn?

When we talk about timespace, aren’t we taking this problem even further? What is timespace really? Are we going to challenge Einstein on this? Shall we take up Bergson’s banner?

It seems to me that when theorists say things like “modernity is time”, what they’re saying is that modernity is an idealist construct and that time is an idealist construct. If all of us were to die tomorrow, there would be no modernity and there would be no time. Such a perspective prevents realism. For these theorists, there is no time outside of the human brain.

For this reason, I doubt that timespace holds the keys to the future.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: