FACULTY RESEARCH SEMINAR What is the meaning of time? How is it measured? Is our relationship to time changing in the current age of sound bites, pixelated information and social media? These are just a few of the questions that animated the conversations in spring 2014 among the participants of the Humanities Institute’s Faculty Research Seminar. Conceived as collaborative incubators for works-in- progress, Faculty Research Seminars bring together faculty across the humanities and social sciences to engage themes that cross disciplines. The seminar participants meet weekly for a single quarter to think in community, challenge each other, and generate new insights into individual research trajectories.
Led by Professor of History Sudipta Sen, the 2013-2014 seminar entitled “Time-Reckoning” generated an interdisciplinary dialogue on the perception of time as it has developed in various branches of the humanities and social sciences. For scholars in the humanities, this topic is especially pressing: across the disciplines there is an assumption that time functions as a stable unit of analysis, flowing in a linear, quantifiable fashion. As this commonplace understanding of temporality comes under more scrutiny, however, the need to re-evaluate the measurement of time itself has never been more pressing.
Sen has made the investigation into the politics of time and space a key feature of his work. His book on this topic, Ganges: The Many Pasts of an Indian River, is forthcoming from Yale University Press. Other faculty in the seminar shared Sen’s interest in exploring the social constructions of time. Participants included Simon Sadler, professor of architectural and urban history and Chancellor’s Fellow in the Department of Design, whose work studies the ideological history of architecture in the late twentieth century. James Smith, an associate professor of anthropology, touches on aspects of temporality in the narratives of progress and development in the African continent. Beth Freeman, professor of English, targets the construction of time as it intersects with queer literature and media. Julia Simon, professor in the French department, seeks to bridge the gap between centuries, emphasizing the enduring relevance of 18th century French texts and philosophy today.
Although never a requirement of participation, we always hope that the seminar seeds further collaboration, and in this case, we were not disappointed. Because the participants felt their work together was “just getting started,” they submitted a successful application to expand their work, including more faculty and broadening the conversation, through the institute’s Research Cluster program.
2013-2014 Faculty Research Seminar Participants:
Sudipta Sen, History Ganges: The Many Pasts of an Indian River
Julia Simon, French Someday, After Awhile: The Poetics of Time in the Blues
Elizabeth Freeman, English Time-Sense-Method: Theorizing the Sacramental
Simon Sadler, Design The Long Now
James Smith, Anthropology: Network Fantasies and Coltan Dreams: Temporal Dispossession and the Drama of Fluctuating Temporality in the Eastern DR Congo
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