Berlin, 2009

Berlin, 2009
We want more voices, thoughts and languages!

Thursday, March 3, 2011


Butler: "our understanding of what is happening 'now' is bound up with a certain geopolitical restriction on imagining the relevant borders of the world"

There are 2 cases where this is particularly true:

The first is when 'what matters' is happening in one location*, from which news takes some time either to travel or to be assimilated.

Think of classic imperialism, where news and ideas move, along with power, from the centre to the periphery. Where the local gentry in, say, Algeria, get their news from Paris in the form of day-old newspapers. Within this centralised system, whatever matters in Algiers today mattered in Paris yesterday. So Paris is naturally, prosaically, ahead in time, and Algeria backwards.

A relationship of power and geography is thus expressed through time. Claiming to be up-to-date means claiming to be close to the centre of power. Those receiving old news are powerless to do anything but read it, while those receiving it prompty might be able to change it. Thus speed means power, both as correlation (being close to the imperial centre, thus probably powerful), and as causation (being able to participate, without time-lag, in whatever process is shaping the news)

This first process above doesn't require any broad sense of social or political change. The news could be day-to-day trivia with no wider pattern, and the time differential would still exist.

The second kind of time/place connection occurs when there is a direction of change. This time it doesn't necessarily replicate power relationships -- a place, although otherwise not regarded as important or powerful, could be recognized as having moved faster in the general direction. Tunisia is in that position today for supporters of the current revolutions; Russia was after 1917 for world socialists.

[I'm leaving out the most-discussed time/place pattern, where the powerful present themselves as a model, the rest as behind, and propose 'modernisation' to reshape the powerless in the supposed shape of the powerful. The difference between this and the second category above lies partly in whether the most temporally advanced place is also the most powerful. Tunisians are 'ahead' of the rest of MENA, but aren't exerting control over them]


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