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The tempo of wageless work

E. P. Thompson's time-sense at the edges of Rio de Janeiro

Kathleen M. Millar

This article puts E. P. Thompson's writings on time-sense in conversation with the temporality of work on a garbage dump in the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. At this site, several thousand urban poor (catadores) collect recyclables for a living outside relations of wage labor. The lived experience of “woven time” on the dump, which combines labor with other activities of the everyday, has fashioned what these workers call “a different rhythm of life.” Diverging from other temporalities of neoliberal capitalism, such as “ruptured time,” woven time emerges as an important dimension of a life well lived, as conceived by catadores. Attention to the micro-temporalities of wageless work reveals how precarious forms of labor in contemporary capitalism constitute processes of subject making that both parallel and diverge from the transition to wage labor that Thompson describes in his social history of capitalism.

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‘Time Is Like a Soup’

Boat Time and the Temporal Experience of London’s Liveaboard Boaters

Ben Bowles

Itinerant boat-dwellers (‘boaters’) on the waterways of London speak about their lives as occurring in a time zone that is separate from the sedentary world around them. ‘Boat time’, as boaters call it, is simultaneously slow and unpredictable. The slow aspect of boat time is said to provide a much-needed contrast to the fast and highly choreographed movements of the city surrounding the towpaths. It becomes part of the boaters’ rhetoric of difference from, and resistance to, the state and other sedentary elements surrounding them. This article suggests that temporal experiences are a constitutive part of identity, a strategic component of resistance to the sedentary order, and a thread that links the disparate aspects of boaters’ own lives aboard.

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Intimate Politics

The Art of the Political Relationship in Lebanon

Isabelle Rivoal

This article aims to analyse the patron–client relationship through a detailed ethnography of the everyday life of Walid Junblat's followers in Lebanon. It reveals how intimate people are with political figures, talking to them (in the form of their pictures), talking about them, thinking through them, playing off this intimacy to enter the political competition. Patrons also play their part in this relationship. The weekly political gatherings held at Junblat's Palace are the apex of this aesthetic of power. Detailed observations indicate how the lord orchestrates and varies the tempo of his interactions with the ritual audience, adding complexity and fluidity to the relation.

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Stephen Kalberg

The process of social integration between eastern and western Germans has been significantly slowed by unexpectedly severe tensions along two major axes: the tempo of life and work on the one hand, and interaction patterns on the other. Although distinct explanations for the antagonisms have been offered by easterners and westerners, they share a number of similar weaknesses: a tendency to look outward toward the putative weaknesses of “the other,” a failure to provide multidirectional and broadly multicausal explanations, and a neglect of the manner in which single factors are embedded contextually in configurations of forces. Articulating a series of arguments in opposition to all unidirectional, monocausal, and acontextual modes of analysis, and emphasizing the importance of bringing values, customs, and conventions into the debate, this study calls for an expansion of the parameters of the explanatory framework and a greater acknowledgment of the complexities of east/west social integration.

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Gijs Mom, Georgine Clarsen and Cotten Seiler

At Eindhoven University of Technology, which has a modest reputation for collecting contemporary art, an exhibition of large machines and poetic video clips by father and son Van Bakel invites passersby to reflect on mobility. Gerrit van Bakel, who died more than a quarter century ago, became known for his Tarim Machine, a vehicle that moves at such a low speed that it almost does not matter whether it moves or not. The propulsion principle—for those who love technology—rests on the dilatation energy of oil in tubes propelling (if propelling is the right word …) the contraption a couple of centimeters over a hundred years or so, as long as there is change in temperature to trigger the dilatation. Emphasizing his father’s insights, Michiel van Bakel, exhibits a video clip of a horse and rider galloping over a square in Rotterdam, where the position and camera work are operated so that the horse seems to turn around its axis while the environment rotates at a different tempo. Mobility, these Dutch artists convey, is often not what it seems to be.