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.
A General Introduction
Roxana Moroşanu and Felix Ringel
A Theoretical Introduction
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.
The Special Section that follows focuses on temporal agency and does so in a new way through the idea of ‘time-tricking’. This collection of articles, guest edited by Felix Ringel and Roxanne Moroşanu, draws ethnographic attention to ways in which people attempt to modify, manage, bend, speed up, slow down or otherwise structure or restructure the times they are living in. Examples are taken from the UK, Greece and Yemen. The ‘deadlines’ that journal production imposes readily become part of the ethnography, too. More generally, Laura Bear’s Afterword to this section suggests that a focus on time-tricking can help us to understand the technologies of imagination, the ethics and the inequalities of what is generally seen as secular and ‘capitalist’ modern time.
For a New Materialist Analytics of Time
How might we construct a reinvigorated materialist analytics of human time that pushes beyond Marxist approaches? Here, I suggest that anthropology contains rich resources with which to achieve this aim. In particular, it can help us understand the qualities of secular and capitalist ‘modern’ time. An emphasis on time-tricking is especially useful in revealing the technologies of imagination, the ethics and the inequalities of such a temporal orientation. This concept brings into view the materialist ethic, ludic and aesthetic practices, and misrecognitions characteristic of current forms of ‘modern’ time. In addition, ethnographies of time-tricking provide the foundations for a reworking of Marx’s model of free and disposable time by focusing on informalized, social reproductive, excessive and domestic labour. A re-centring of our theories on these significant activities within capitalism is long overdue.
Time-Tricking and the Limits of Temporal Play in Children’s Online Film-Making
Children in Norway increasingly spend time online, where they play games, create and share videos and hang out with friends. Drawing on fieldwork among immigrant families in Norway, this article investigates the use of avatars to facilitate temporal play in children’s online film-making. By creating animated films starring their own and their friends’ avatars, children playfully engage with a wide range of imagined future selves. Avatars constitute on-screen extensions of selves, allowing inhabitants of online environments to explore and experiment with otherwise inaccessible viewpoints and perspectives. Addressing the limits of time-tricking in children’s temporal play, the article shows how offline conventions shape what avatars can do.