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Can Time Be Tricked?

A Theoretical Introduction

Felix Ringel

This theoretical introduction develops a conceptual argument stemming from the concept of ‘time-tricking’. Whilst most theories of time in anthropology develop a coherent definition of the nature of time – for instance, as ‘cyclical’ or ‘linear’ – I draw attention to a seemingly common metaphysical distinction in our temporal ontologies, that between the past and the future. This distinction allows me to do two things: first, I present two different versions of time-tricking, one focusing on references to time and particularly to the past, the other conceptualizing effects on the future; and then, second, I present the future as the main object of temporal agency. By developing the notion of ‘future-tricking’, I point to a specific kind of temporal agency which is based on metaphysical commitments heavily embedded in the present in politics, interests and possibilities.

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Differences in temporal reasoning

Temporal complexity and generational clashes in an East German city

Felix Ringel

Hoyerswerda, Germany's fastest-shrinking city, faces problems with the future that seem initially unrelated to the past and yet excite manifold conflicting accounts of it. The multiple and conflicting temporal references employed by Hoyerswerdians indicate that the temporal regime of postsocialism is accompanied, if not overcome, by the temporal framework of shrinkage. By reintroducing the analytical domain of the future, I show that local temporal knowledge practices are not historically predetermined by a homogenous postsocialist culture or by particular generational experiences. Rather, they exhibit what I call temporal complexity and temporal flexibility-creative uses of a variety of coexisting temporal references. My ethnographic material illustrates how such expressions of different forms of temporal reasoning structure social relations within and between different generations. Corresponding social groups are not simply divided by age, but are united through shared and heavily disputed negotiations of the post-Cold War era's contemporary crisis.

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Time-Tricking

A General Introduction

Roxana Moroşanu and Felix Ringel

This general introduction presents the term that is the theme of this Special Section: ‘time-tricking’. Whilst initially mapping a few problems and perspectives that arise from it, we focus particularly on the question of temporal agency. We claim that the concept of time-tricking allows a reconsideration of temporal agency, and then set out how the articles that make up this Special Section contribute to this reconsideration. We will see that two versions of temporal agency are particularly salient in this endeavour: first, as a response to crisis; second, as a form of maintenance work.

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Dina Gusejnova and Felix Ringel

Serguei Alex Oushakine, The Patriotism of Despair: Nation, War, and Loss in Russia. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 2009

Alexander Etkind, Internal Colonization. Russia’s Imperial Experience. Cambridge: Polity Press, 2011

Stephen J. Collier, Post-Soviet Social: Neoliberalism, Social Modernity, Biopolitics. Princeton: Princeton University Press, pp. 304, 2011