The 2013-2014 DHI Faculty Research Seminar (FRS) is taking up a topic that promises to cut across all areas of humanities scholarship—the nature of time itself. The FRS will convene in Spring 2014 on the theme of “Time-reckoning,” investigating the very perception of time that has developed in the various branches of the humanities.
Led by convener Sudipta Sen, professor of history, the seminar will generate an interdisciplinary dialogue on the divide between so-called objective units of time and temporalities on a human scale. For scholars in the humanities, this topic is especially pressing: across the disciplines there is an assumption that time functions as a stable unit of analysis, flowing in a linear, quantifiable fashion. As this commonplace understanding of temporality comes under more scrutiny, however, the need to re-evaluate the measurement of time itself has never been more pressing.
Drawing from faculty works-in-progress, the Faculty Research Seminar format involves a weekly meeting of participants over the course of an academic quarter. The next in the seminar series, “Time-reckoning,” continues the annual seminar’s legacy of bringing together groups across the humanities and social sciences to engage with the most exigent issues across fields.
The next FRS calls together an array of faculty to take on this engaging area of research. Sen, the FRS convener, has made the investigation into the politics of time and space a key feature of his work, especially in colonial and postcolonial contexts. His forthcoming book on this topic, Ganges: The Many Pasts of an Indian River, is forthcoming from the Yale University Press.
Other faculty in the seminar share Sen’s interest in exploring the social constructions of historical narratives and time. Participants include Simon Sadler, professor of Architectural and Urban History and Chancellor’s Fellow in the Department of Design, whose work studies the ideological history of architecture in the late twentieth century. James Smith, an associate professor of anthropology, touches on aspects of temporality in the narratives of progress and development in the African continent. Beth Freeman, professor of English, targets the construction of time as it intersects with queer literature and media. Julia Simon, professor in the French department, seeks to bridge the gap between centuries, emphasizing the enduring relevance of 18th century French texts and philosophy today.
As the field of participants attests, “Time-reckoning” is oriented toward addressing all aspects of time as it appears in humanities research. Ultimately, the discussions at the center of this seminar will touch on the temporal conventions that continue to frame studies into the past, present, and future. To learn more about the Faculty Research Seminar, and to view past research topics, please visit the FRS page on the DHI website.