ASA Conference 2018: Transformation and Time

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ASA2018, 18-21 September
The University of Oxford and Oxford Brookes University


How do sociality, matter, and the imagination transform over time? Whether addressing short- or long-term processes, anthropologists and archaeologists are confronted with questions relating to the temporal nature of the phenomena they analyse. As social relations form and change over time, how are these shifts registered and expressed in material terms? In what ways do material objects emerge, stabilise, and then disintegrate or re-form? And how does time figure in imaginative processes?

In relation to this theme we welcome panels that explore temporalities and transformations in social life, material formations, and acts of imagining. How is the past reconstructed and the future predicted through material practices? What kinds of institutions promote change or aim to preserve the present? How do the political, ethical, and economic aspects of social, material, and imaginative transformations develop and play out?

caitlin desilvey

Keynote speaker: Caitlin DeSilvey

Caitlin DeSilvey is Associate Professor of Cultural Geography at the University of Exeter, where she has been employed since 2007. Her research explores the cultural significance of material and environmental change, with a particular focus on heritage contexts. She has worked on a range of interdisciplinary projects, supported by funding from UK research councils (AHRC, EPSRC, NERC), the Royal Geographical Society, the Norwegian Research Council and the European Social Fund. Recent publications include Anticipatory History (2011, with Simon Naylor and Colin Sackett), Visible Mending (2013, with Steven Bond and James R. Ryan), and Curated Decay: Heritage Beyond Saving (2017). For more information, click here.

ASA2018 keynote lecture: Placing Time

Caitlin DeSilvey will speak on the relationship between temporality and perceptions of (past and future) place. Drawing on research in heritage contexts, she will explore how material transformation and ruination afford a continuous relation with past time, in contrast with the discontinuity introduced by efforts to restore or conserve. She will also discuss the complex temporalities invoked in landscape-scale rewilding initiatives, in which radical landscape transformation is often indexed to deep ecological time, but through an iterative, experimental (rather than a restorative) framework.

michael rowlands web

Keynote speaker: Michael Rowlands

Michael Rowlands is Emeritus Professor of Anthropology and Material Culture at University College London. Most recently he has completed field research on heritage and locality in South-West China. He is completing a book with Stephan Feuchtwang entitled Civilisation Recast. For more information, click here.

ASA2018 keynote lecture: Passing: Duration, Permanence and Time

My lecture will focus on different senses of passing. I make a distinction between duration and time: I associate duration with permanence/perpetuity and time with transformation. The perception of permanence is that things will continue to exist. A familiar cognitive example is the first experience of the mother-child relation, created by touching and sucking the breast, relating to the child touching, feeling, and handling and manipulating objects before speech and language. This gives us a clue as to the origin of the ideal of permanence over change - the famous Freudian observation of fort/da. The ideal is materialised as struggles to create permanence, for example, the attachment to furnishing, decorating, cleaning, and cooking, or the ideal of curating to create a sense of permanence. But if duration is permanence, the former is active; or, as Bergson taught us, duration involves redefinition of memory, an investment which in turn involves creativity and the acceptance of transience and movement. Fashioning provisionally stable lives out of instability also requires access to social and economic lives and relationships outside the immediate conditions of unstable futures, as for instance in the struggle to maintain ancestral continuity alongside modernisation in Africa, China, Europe, or North America. This implies the possibility of time or the control of time.  Control of time implies control of futures, but who has this? I will therefore limit the notion of transformation to a more absolute idea of time as breaks and ruptures that destroy the sensibility of futures.  

The Call for Papers is now closed. Registration for the conference will open on 4 June. Please see the conference registration website here.