The Anthropology of Time: A Reading List In-the-Making

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This post builds on the research article “Time at Its Margins: Cattle Smuggling across the India-Bangladesh Border” by Malini Sur, which was published in the November 2020 issue of the Society’s peer-reviewed journal, Cultural Anthropology.

Introductions, Invitations

Given the renewed scholarly attention to time and temporality, we present a reading list on the anthropology of time. This list is an invitation for anthropology students and instructors to begin exploring how time has been studied in diverse cultural contexts and situate themselves in contemporary debates in anthropology on time’s changing contours.

The works listed mostly demonstrate how anthropologists have approached time and temporality ethnographically. Among others, the readings include writings on time in pastoral and agrarian societies and under the changing configurations of capital (Sudan/Algeria/England/India); time’s intrinsic association with indigeneity, race, and modernity (Australia); recent monographs on time, boredom, and economic precarity (Ethiopia/Romania); the importance of calendric times, national times, and times of unrest (Indonesia/Iran/Vietnam); time and violence (European borderlands); time’s relationship to fragile ecologies and global futures; and critiques of ethnography. Read together, these works foreground how time is created, experienced, manipulated, and resisted as people live through economic uncertainties, political struggles, and social action.

This reading list is an invitation to encourage new conversations on the anthropology of time and temporality. The readings we have included focus mostly on people’s lived experiences of time rather than the philosophy or history of time in anthropology and other disciplines.

Partial, incomplete, and still growing, we invite your contributions to this list, which will be updated and reorganized at the end of 2021. Please submit suggested additions to Scott Schnur (scott.schnur and Malini Sur ([email protected]), including full bibliographic information and a short explanation of how the source will contribute to the list and to broader conversations about time and anthropology.

A Reading List In-the-Making

Abram, Simone, and Gisa Weszkalnys. 2014. “The Time It Takes: Temporalities of Planning.” Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 20: 129–47.

Ahmann, Chloe. 2018. “‘It’s Exhausting to Create an Event out of Nothing’: Slow Violence and the Manipulation of Time.” Cultural Anthropology 33, no. 1: 142–71.

Andersson, Ruben. 2014 “Time and the Migrant Other: European Border Controls and the Temporal Economics of Illegality.” American Anthropologist 116, no. 4: 795–809.

Adams, Vincanne, Michelle Murphy, and Adele E. Clarke. 2009. “Anticipation: Technoscience, Life, Affect, Temporality.” Subjectivity 28: 246–65.

Appadurai, Arjun. 2013. The Future as a Cultural Fact: Essays on the Global Condition. New York: Verso.

Awasis, Sakihitowin. 2020. “‘Anishinaabe Time’: Temporalities and Impact Assessment in Pipeline Reviews.” Journal of Political Ecology 27, no. 1: 830–52.

Bear, Laura. 2014. “Doubt, Conflict, Mediation: The Anthropology of Modern Time.” Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 20: 3–30.

———. 2016a. “For a New Materialist Analytics of Time.” Cambridge Journal of Anthropology 34, no. 1: 125–29.

———. 2016b. “Time as Technique.” Annual Review of Anthropology 45: 487–502.

Bourdieu, Pierre. 1963. “The Attitude of the Algerian Peasant Towards Time.” In Mediterranean Countrymen: Essays in the Social Anthropology of the Mediterranean, edited by J. Pitt-Rivers, 55–72. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood.

Bowles, Ben. 2016. “‘Time Is Like a Soup’: Boat Time and the Temporal Experience of London’s Liveaboard Boaters.” Cambridge Journal of Anthropology 34, no. 1: 100-112.

Cons, Jason. 2020. “Delta Temporalities: Choked and Tangled Futures in the Sundarbans.” Ethnos, May 14: 1–22.

Evans-Pritchard, E. E. 1940. The Nuer: A Description of the Modes of Livelihood and Political Institutions of a Nilotic People. Oxford: Clarendon.

Fabian, Johannes. 1983. Time and the Other: How Anthropology Makes Its Object. New York: Columbia University Press.

Ferry, Elizabeth Emma, and Mandana E. Limbert, eds. 2008. Timely Assets : The Politics of Resources and Their Temporalities. Santa Fe, N.Mex.: School for Advanced Research.

Garza, Ana Gutiérrez. 2018. “The Temporality of Illegality.” Focaal 2018, no. 81: 86–98.

Geertz, Clifford. 1973. “Person, Time, and Conduct in Bali.” In The Interpretation of Cultures, 360–411. New York: Basic Books.

Greenhouse, Carol J. 1989. “Just in Time: Temporality and the Cultural Legitimation of Law.” Yale Law Journal 98, no. 8: 16–31.

———. 1996. A Moment’s Notice: Time Politics Across Cultures. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press

Guyer, Jane I. 2007. “Prophecy and the Near Future: Thoughts on Macroeconomic, Evangelical, and Punctuated Time.” American Ethnologist 34, no. 3: 409–21.

Harms, Erik. 2013. “Eviction Time in the New Saigon: Temporalities of Displacement in the Rubble of Development.” Cultural Anthropology 28, no. 2: 344–68.

Hoskins, Janet. 1997. The Play of Time: Kodi Perspectives on Calendars, History and Exchange. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Ialenti, Vincent. 2020. Deep Time Reckoning: How Future Thinking Can Help Earth Now. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.

Janeja, Manpreet K., and Andreas Bandak, eds. 2019. Ethnographies of Waiting: Doubt, Hope and Uncertainty. London: Bloomsbury.

Jeffrey, Craig. 2010. “Timepass: Youth, Class, and Time among Unemployed Young Men in India.” American Ethnologist 37, no. 3: 465–81.

Khosravi, Shahram. 2017. Precarious Lives: Waiting and Hope in Iran. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Kowal, Emma. 2015. “Time, Indigeneity and White Anti-Racism in Australia.” Australian Journal of Anthropology 26, no. 1: 94–111.

Knight, Daniel M. 2016. “Temporal Vertigo and Time Vortices on Greece’s Central Plain.Cambridge Journal of Anthropology 34, no. 1.

Mains, Daniel. 2007. “Neoliberal Times: Progress, Boredom, and Shame among Young Men in Urban Ethiopia.” American Ethnologist 34, no. 4: 659–73.

Majumdar, Atreyee. 2018. Time, Space, and Capital in India: Longing and Belonging in an Urban-Industrial Hinterland. New Delhi: Routledge.

Mathews, Andrew, and Jessica Barnes. 2016. “Prognosis: Visions of Environmental Futures.” Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 22, no. S1: 9–26.

Miyazaki, Hirokazu. 2003. “The Temporalities of the Market.” American Anthropologist 105, no. 2: 255–65.

Munn, Nancy D. 1986. The Fame of Gawa: A Symbolic Study of Value Transformation in a Massim (Papua New Guinea) Society. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

———. 1992. “The Cultural Anthropology of Time: A Critical Essay.” Annual Review of Anthropology 21: 93–123.

Musharbash, Yasmin. 2007. “Boredom, Time, and Modernity: An Example from Aboriginal Australia.” American Anthropologist 109, no. 2: 307–17.

Nielsen, Morten. 2014. “A Wedge of Time: Futures in the Present and Presents without Futures in Maputo, Mozambique.” Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 20, no. S1: 166–82.

O’Neill, Bruce. 2017. The Space of Boredom: Homelessness in the Slowing Global Order. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press.

Solomon, Marisa. 2019. “‘The Ghetto Is a Gold Mine’: The Racialized Temporality of Betterment.International Labor and Working-Class History 95: 76–94.

Thompson, E. P. 1967. “Time, Work-Discipline and Industrial Capitalism.Past and Present 38, no. 1: 56–97.