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 Post subject: Time
PostPosted: Thu May 08, 2008 5:20 pm 

Joined: Thu May 08, 2008 5:02 pm
Posts: 2
One of my favorite parts of the internet is the BBC Africa Have Your Say. The "have your say" columns? message boards? are for each continent. BBC asks some question and then readers answer. This one is about "African Time." Here in the US it's called BPT and it's racist, apparently on the English internet it's fine: ... 0508180826

But seriously, I was watching John Boorman's Excalibur last night (yeah dude, yeah, it was exactly as sweet as you are imagining) and I was thinking about the middle ages, i.e. pre-capitalism life. Time did not matter to them at all in the same way as it does now! Someone is supposed to come and meet you in your village, it could be any time of day, or tomorrow. A wedding? It lasts a week in part to wait around for everyone to show up.
Anyway, this africa have your say is interesting because it shows people in the midst of this transition from the premodern to the modern.

 Post subject: Re: Time
PostPosted: Thu Jun 12, 2008 6:37 am 

Joined: Fri May 23, 2008 1:48 pm
Posts: 2

Anthropological pruritus: time is culturally constructed. Any conception of time, including ours, is not a result of "progress" but more likely a (socially and historically) unique response in our relationship with the physical world, just one possible among infinite responses. Most simple example is different calendars: our calendar is based in the Roman (later revisited by Catholic church), which at its time is based on pre-Roman, agriculture-based, calendars. Even within those agriculture-based ones, different cultures have developed totally different time arrangements. Other: linearity. Some peoples understand time as a cycle. That means that we live an eternal re-run, there's no failure neither developement - actually, there's no change at all. Other: some peoples divide human life not in years, but in segments marked by rites of passage.

We tend to think that our perception of time is the universal one. Time as we conceive it, with clocks, precise hours, minutes and seconds, is a child of modernity. Like Greenwich, and stuff: the guys did set the whole thing (late 18th c.) to arrange an increasingly complex world of trains, ships, harbours, stations, blahblah. I guess maybe to optimize productivity too? Whatever.

As any other component of culture, socially and historically particular, time conception can be imposed, adopted and transformed. It took a long time until the mass population integrated this modern time in their lives: for a long time, the pocket-watch was a sign of status. Modernity spreaded slowly along the centuries its new timing, stuffing the public space with clocks in churchs, town halls and so on.

Our conception of time is not just not universal, but neither correct, true nor better than other possibilities. It doesn't draw the line between "civilized" and "uncivilized".

Indeed, time is a cornerstone where all the rest of the cultural whole is built upon. Our cultural perception of time frames our memory (how we fit events and processes, change, in our account of we have experienced), our identity and conception of ourselves, our daily behaviour, and so on.

Maybe someone would find this interesting: ... id=1144211

Ok, um, yeah.

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