Oral Presentation Session
Reviewed by: Society for Cultural Anthropology
Primary Theme: Ethics
Secondary Theme: Persistence
This panel explores the intersection between the anthropological investigations of temporality and ethics. That is to say: What emerges from the intercession of temporality into the anthropological engagement with ethics? While anthropology has a rich tradition of critical engagement with issues of temporarily, the study of ‘ethics’ as a proper anthropological object has a much more recent genesis. Happily, the overlap of the two fields promises to be highly productive, when we consider that time and ethics are often inseparable from the perspective of agents within their lived worlds. The way that everyday actions of living unfold in the present, complexly related to interpretations of the past and anticipation of the future, are a question of ethical practice with momentous implications for trajectories of individual life and communal history. Ethical practice always unfolds within a 'timescape (Bear, 2014)’, whether it is cyclical, messianic, progressive, apocalyptic, or otherwise. As Dave (2017) has shown, ethical positions always hold a relationship to time. The continuities, discontinuities, and the choices which comprise ethics are temporally defined, whether they refer to a morally transcendental ‘always’ or an ethically immanent ‘otherwise.’
The emergent anthropological investigation of ethics has numerous conceptual tools and points of connection for theorizing the telos, temporality and historicity of ethics: narrativity (Mattingly 1998), ordinary ethics (Lambek 2010), historical objects (Keane 2014), immanent ethics (Dave 2012), and temporalization (Zigon 2014) are all significant examples. This panel invites ethnographic works that expand the temporal horizon of the ethical turn in anthropology: for instance, modernization, development, political utopias, nostalgia, causality and ethical responsibility, haunting, historical trauma and memory, etc. Our hope is that, in introducing anthropological theories of time into the investigation of ethics we will enrich the vision of the anthropology of ethics to highlight the contingency in ethical practice. Equally, we hope that bringing experiences of time into our analyses will enable a better understanding of the motivations, desires and frustrations of ethical life.