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Power and Time

Temporalities in Conflict and the Making of History

Time is the backdrop of historical inquiry, yet it is much more than a featureless setting for events. Different temporalities interact dynamically; sometimes they coexist tensely, sometimes they clash violently. In this innovative volume, editors Dan Edelstein, Stefanos Geroulanos, and Natasha Wheatley challenge how we interpret history by focusing on the nexus of two concepts—“power” and “time”—as they manifest in a wide variety of case studies. Analyzing history, culture, politics, technology, law, art, and science, this engaging book shows how power is constituted through the shaping of temporal regimes in historically specific ways. Power and Time includes seventeen essays on human rights; sovereignty; Islamic, European, Chinese, and Indian history; slavery; capitalism; revolution; the Supreme Court; the Anthropocene; and even the Manson Family. Power and Time will be an agenda-setting volume, highlighting the work of some of the world’s most respected and original contemporary historians and posing fundamental questions for the craft of history.

464 pages | 17 halftones | 6 x 9 | © 2020

History: European History, General History, History of Ideas


“As the editors argue, the temporal landscape of history is always replete with conflict and conflict potential. And, as the essays amply demonstrate, this provides rich pickings for the attentive historian. ‘Chronocenosis’ not only attunes us to the complex temporal frequencies of power conflicts but also enables us to locate new conflicts that may otherwise lie hidden from the historian's eye. . . . There are seemingly few domains of historical research that could not benefit from this approach. The dazzling diversity of these essays is testament to this. . . . A genuinely productive foundation on which to expand the historical study of time in a very practical–and global–sense. . . . The book’s subject matter is expansive, its temporal registers vast. [It] is difficult to imagine a historian who could not benefit in some way from consulting it.”

Contemporary European History

“What a gift this magnificent edited volume will be for those of us who have long sought to identify the implicit and violent ways in which power is garnered in battles over timing and time. With conceptual and empirical acuity, this is a volume that ‘harasses’ disciplinary strictures as it explodes the most revered canons. Moving from ‘multiple temporalities’ to conflictual ones is at the heart of this collective agenda, each author showing why such a conceptual and methodological move disrupts the seamlessness of linear histories and are critical moves we need to make. Here is a volume of depth, creativity, and inspiration for those long obsessed with thinking time and temporalities and for those who have not broached how profoundly such thinking recalibrates our collective futures—both their dark diagnostics and enabling horizons.”

Ann Stoler, The New School

“This exciting and wide-ranging collection explores a crucial nexus of modern life: how social-political visions and conceptions of time shape each other. Its dazzling collection of case studies brings to life political leaders, scientists, economists, activists, and jurists as the authors chart how the interaction between temporality and authority transformed life across the globe. With original research and fresh methodological insights, Power and Time is a vital contribution to our understanding of contemporary history.”

Udi Greenberg, Dartmouth College

“In Power and Time, Edelstein, Geroulanos, and Wheatley have curated a constellation of essays that take up the fascinating and vexed relation between the history of time and the times of history. The essays provide incredible range but maintain a tight thematic focus through the analytical pairing of power and time. In doing so, they offer an original and comprehensive survey of temporal regimes and the reciprocal feedback loop between the nodes of power that create them and the means by which that power is maintained. Power and Time is impressive in scope and depth and an important contribution to the new metaphysics of time.”

Ethan Kleinberg, Wesleyan University

Table of Contents

Chronocenosis: An Introduction to Power and Time
Dan Edelstein, Stefanos Geroulanos, and Natasha Wheatley

PART I Temporal Pluralities in Conflict

1 Legal Pluralism as Temporal Pluralism: Historical Rights, Legal Vitalism, and Non-Synchronous Sovereignty
Natasha Wheatley

2 The Invention of the Muslim Golden Age: Universal History, the Arabs, Science, and Islam
Marwa Elshakry

3 Rise and Fall of the Sattelzeit: The Geschichtliche Grundbegriffe and the Temporality of Totalitarianism and Genocide
Anson Rabinbach

4 A Technofossil of the Anthropocene: Sliding Up and Down Temporal Scales with Plastic
Andrea Westermann

PART II Loops, Layers, Assemblages

5 Long Divided Must Unite, Long United Must Divide: Dynasty, Histories, and the Orders of Time in China
Zvi Ben-Dor Benite

6 The Temporal Assemblage of the Nazi New Man: The “Empty” Present, the Incipient Ruin, and the Apocalyptic Time of Lebensraum
Stefanos Geroulanos

7 Prehistory and Posthistory: Apes, Caves, Bombs, and Time in Georges Bataille
Maria Stavrinaki

PART III The Splintered Present

8 Brain-Time Experiments: Acute Acceleration, Intensified Synchronization, and the Belatedness of the Modern Subject
Henning Schmidgen

9 Cryopower and the Temporality of Frozen Indigenous Blood Samples
Emma Kowal and Joanna Radin

10 “Now Is the Time for Helter Skelter”: Terror, Temporality, and the Manson Family
Claudia Verhoeven

PART IV Speed(s)
11 Legal Panics, Fast and Slow: Slavery and the Constitution of Empire
Lauren Benton and Lisa Ford

12 Time and the Economics of the Business Cycle in Modern Capitalism
Jamie Martin

13 History and Temporal Sovereignty in the Thought of Jawaharlal Nehru
Sunil Purushotham

PART V “Already Here . . . Just Not Evenly Distributed”: Heterochronies of the Future

14 Future Perfect: Political and Emotional Economies of Revolutionary Time
Dan Edelstein

15 The Future in the US Supreme Court
Kristen Loveland

16 Commemorating the End of History: Timelessness and Power in Contemporary Russia
Kevin M. F. Platt

Index of Temporal Terms

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