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Time as Technique
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Laura Bear
Department of Anthropology, London School of Economics and Political Science,
London WC2A 2AE, United Kingdom; email: l.bear@lse.ac.uk
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Annu. Rev. Anthropol. 2016. 45:487502 Keywords

First published online as a Review in Advace on temporality, capitalism, market time, securitization, precarity, timescapes
August 1, 2016

The Annual Review of Anthropology is online at Abstract

A rapprochement between the anthropology of history and the anthropology
This articles doi: of capitalism has created a temporal turn. This temporal turn has generated
new theoretical insights into the times of capitalist modernity and vectors of
Copyright  c 2016 by Annual Reviews. inequality. Yet research has so far been divided into three separate streams of
All rights reserved
inquiry. Work addresses the techne (techniques), episteme (knowledge), or
phronesis (ethics) of time, following traditions in the social sciences derived
from Aristotelian categories. This review explores the potential and limits
of such distinctions. It also traces contemporary dominant representations
and experiences of time such as short-term market cycles, the anticipatory
futures of the security state, and precarity. It follows how time-maps are as-
sembled into technologies of imagination with associated material practices.
In conclusion, it proposes a new theoretical vista on time for anthropology
based on the heuristic of timescapes. From this perspective, the dynamic
interrelationships among techniques, knowledge, and ethics of time can be
traced and the inequalities generated by conflicts in time become visible.

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In 1992, Munn challenged anthropologists to analyze the temporalizing practices from which
timespaces emerge. Yet there was a significant absence in her influential Annual Review of
Anthropology article. She could not draw on anthropology to explore the social time of capitalist
modernity. Instead, she deployed historical and sociological research to describe its institutional
forms such as clock time, industrial work discipline, and nation-state archival practices. Munn had
encountered the impasse of an aporia generated by the origins of the anthropological study of time.
Our ancestors Durkheim, Hubert, and Halbwachs surveyed the social experience of time from the
unquestioned comparative ground of a modernist technique, knowledge, and ethic of time (Munn
1992, Bear 2014). But now this ground itself has become the subject of inquiry, which has led to
innovative reflection on the anthropology of time and the time of anthropology (Pandian 2012,
Dalsgaard & Nielsen 2015).
Anthropology is now at the forefront of pioneering approaches that go beyond existing analyti-
Annu. Rev. Anthropol. 2016.45:487-502. Downloaded from www.annualreviews.org

cal traditions. Anthropological work has undermined claims that capitalist modernity is character-
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ized solely by a linear, homogeneous, abstract time (Kockelman & Bernstein 2012). Ethnography
has challenged the existence of a single chronopolitics of speed or time scarcity, contributing to
wider interdisciplinary debates (Wajcman 2015, Virilio 2012, Klinke 2013). The most ambitious
interventions raise significant questions about the epistemology of time across the social sciences
(Gell 2001, Hodges 2008).
What are the sources of this temporal turn? In the 1990s, anthropological histories tracked the
diverse historicities of modernity, whereas ethnographies of global capitalism traced the complex
intersections of abstract production time with social reproduction. Since the 2000s, these two
arenas of inquiry have increasingly overlapped in their theoretical approaches to time and inves-
tigations of capitalism. The anthropology of history has questioned standard accounts of a single
internal logic of capitalism or the nation-state. It has explored capitalist value and its governance as a
historical and cultural formation (Bear 2007, Birla 2008, Eiss 2008, Pedersen 2013). It has also gen-
erated analysis of the exclusionary practices, diverse experiences of time, and ruined pasts and fu-
tures within nation-states (Cole 2001; Stewart 2003; Hirsch & Stewart 2005; Stoler 2008; Tambar
2014, 2016; Navaro-Yashin 2009). The anthropology of capitalism has tracked new forms of gov-
ernmentality and frontiers of value, providing innovative accounts of the spatiotemporal media-
tions of market and state institutions. Ethnographies of biocapital and biosecurity have focused on
figurations of the future (Hayden 2003, Rajan 2006, Fortun 2008). Studies of finance have revealed
representations and rhythms of time beyond those of industrial work discipline (Ho 2009, Zaloom
2009). Accounts of mediation through new technologies have raised questions about whether their
rhythms are new and distinct. Work has revealed that different pacings of labor and accumulation
are more significant to global capitalism than time economy or speed (Bestor 2001, Tsing 2015; M.
Savage & G. Nichols, unpublished manuscript, A Social Analysis of an Elite Constellation: The
Case of Formula 1). Our discussions of capitalist time have extended into social reproductive labor,
sex work, and accumulation by care (Day 2007, Kwon 2015). They also now include the experiences
of informalized work and unemployed groups ( Jeffrey 2010, Bolt 2013). In their rapprochement,
the anthropology of history and the anthropology of capitalism have created entirely new vistas
onto the social times of capitalist modernity. We fully understand their diversity and heterogene-
ity. We have moved beyond received accounts of abstract time or time economy. We consider the
complex mediations not just of the rhythms of production and social reproduction, but also of bu-
reaucratic planning and financial circulation. Both historicity and futurity are considered at once.
This temporal turn within our discipline is not simply a product of intellectual debate. An-
thropologists in their fieldsites have increasingly encountered temporal insecurity or conflicts in

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time as a crucial element of experiences of inequality (Comaroff & Comaroff 2001, Mains 2007,
Vigh 2008, Auyero 2012). In addition, accumulation through capital and property ownership has
intensified since the 1980s, producing elites with greater security (Piketty 2014, Yanagisako 2015).
This social reality gives urgency to the temporal turn in anthropology. By paying attention to time,
we can critique and measure inequality in new ways. A focus on the varying ability to plan a life
across classes, genders, and racial groups has much potential. In particular, it could generate new
measures of inequality, innovative policy, and claims for rights. On the basis of growing insecuri-
ties in fieldsites, some authors have even suggested that we live in a period in which futures have
lost their utopian qualities. They attribute this loss to the emergence of radically unpredictable,
evacuated near futures or to nostalgias for modernity (Rosenberg & Harding 2005, Guyer 2007,
Hell & Schonle 2010, Piot 2010). Determining whether this experience of uncertainty is, in fact,
widely shared or whether the concept of crisis is useful are important topics of lively debate that
will no doubt continue ( Johnson-Hanks 2005, McGovern 2012, Engelke 2013, Roitman 2013,
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Abram 2014).
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To explore the promise of this recent temporal turn in anthropology, I discuss three distinct
paths it has taken. Research has focused predominantly on the techne (technique), epistemes
(knowledge), or phronesis (ethics) of time. The divisions of techne, episteme, and phronesis were
developed by Aristotle [2002 (350)], who separated human activity in the world into three kinds
of action: first, poiesis or skillful making associated with techne or techniques of acting on the
world evident in craft and work; second, theoria or reflective, categorizing knowledge collected
into epistemes; and third, praxis or acts of ethical and political judgment or phronesis. I use these
categories to discuss recent literature on time for a specific reason. The use of these distinctions
among forms of human action has recurred within the social sciences, and these concepts are the
implicit basis for distinct foci in the anthropological study of time. Techne is linked to acting on
the world in order to bring new objects and processes into being and is associated with craft, art,
and work. Various authors from Malinowski and Marx to Pickering and Latour relate techne to
technological manipulations of nonhuman processes. Epistemes are knowledges of the world that
are associated in later literature, from Heidegger to Foucault, with expertise and science (Flyvbjerg
2001). Phronesis is a sense of the world that leads to action or praxis at the right time in the correct
manner (Ramo 1999). This notion of phronesis is the oldest path in the anthropological study of
time. It is visible in a wide range of anthropological work from Bourdieu (2000) to Munn (1992)
and Lambek (2010).
Much contemporary inquiry into the time of capitalist modernity has followed these traditions
by focusing solely on the techne, episteme, or phronesis of time. Although these divisions do,
as I show, illuminate the different qualities of forms of human action on time, they need to be
supplemented by a further level of analysis. As human-centered distinctions formed from categories
of understanding and individual action, they cannot fully capture the social reality of the complex
networks through which rhythms in time are mediated. I end my review by suggesting a way
forward. Recent work explores the dialectical interrelationship of techniques, knowledges, and
ethics of time by locating human action within timescapes. Even though both anthropologists
and their informants frequently represent technique, knowledge, and ethics as distinct spheres
with divergent qualities, these social practices are not separate in the labor in/of time (Franklin
2014, Rival 2014). This reality is best captured by taking the heuristic perspective of timescapes.
From within this framing, we can trace how human practices of time intersect and affect social and
nonhuman rhythms. What then becomes visible is that all our various kinds of action on and with
time have the quality of poeisis or skillful making (even though from Aristotle onward academics
have associated this quality only with techne). This is as true for our techniques of time as it is for
our ethics and knowledges of time. Thus my review has the title, Time as Technique. I ultimately

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suggest that the ethics, knowledge, and techniques of time are all forms of skillful making enacted
within timescapes, which bring social worlds into being and link them to nonhuman processes.
They are all representations or time-maps that are assembled into technologies of imagination,
which may include material objects and concrete media (Gell 2001, Sneath et al. 2009). From
the analytical perspective of timescapes, we can trace the intersections and mediations of various
technologies of imagination.
As I also show below, such a focus on timescapes is particularly important for our understanding
of the times of capitalist modernity. Within capitalist modernity, dominant time-maps assembled
in technologies of imagination reduce time to a medium for the short-term generation of capital
and the evaluation of worth. This limited, reductive mapping generates conflicts in time because
at the level of experience time is always finite, concrete, and meaningful (Postone 1993). It can
also bring social rhythms into dissonance with nonhuman rhythms. Certainly, it sets loose pulses
of institutional and social activity that clash, generating inequalities and time insecurity (Althusser
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& Balibar 1970). Such stripped-down representations are often at odds with the ethical values for
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time that are held by institutions, communities, and individuals. All these mounting contradic-
tions generated by capitalist representations of time are visible from the heuristic perspective of
To begin my exploration of recent research, I turn first to the recent anthropology of dominant
capitalist representations of time as a medium for profit. These ethnographies have focused on
market time as a kind of techne. As is shown below, this work reveals how our measures of value
and concepts of productive agency are founded on reductive time-maps that are represented as just
techniques, with no implications for ethics or knowledge. This reductive mapping makes them
particularly difficult to challenge.


Techne is intentional action which Boellstorff (2008) defines as action that creates a gap between
the world as it was before the action, and the new world calls into being (p. 55). In Greek
mythology, it was such action that made us uniquely human. The deity Prometheus rescued
humanity by stealing fire and craft from the gods. Thus he created civilization by giving us the
capacity to add to nature. In this sense, all human societies have treated time as a technique.
By harnessing nonhuman time to their technologies of imagination, they have brought social
times into being. However, recent work in the anthropology of capitalism on legal regimes,
knowledge economy work, and new technologies helps us to understand current forms of techne.
This research extends earlier insights from Marxist philosophy such as those of Postone (1993),
who demonstrated how abstract time generates an objective temporal norm as now independent
of activity . . . an absolute measure of motion and of labor (p. 278) that can be further commodified
in credit relationships and futures trading. It reveals how we add to time to harness its inevitable
passing to forms of capitalist value. The use of new time-maps and their associated technologies
intensifies the effects of abstract time. This occurs through an extension of the symbolic and
evaluative power of the short-term time of market exchange.
Riless (2011) account of collateral agreements in the global financial markets of Japan and the
United States illuminates central characteristics of recent capitalist techne of time. Such agree-
ments are intended to be an efficient form of private regulation of the uncertainties of markets that
(following Hayek) supersede public governance. The future outcome of each financial exchange
between debtors and creditors is guaranteed by a document of property title or the promissory
note of a third person. The legal agreements about the ownership of these guarantees during the
period of the loan are temporary arrangements or placeholders. In these contracts for the near

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future[,] parties agree to act as if the holder of the collateral . . . always has clear and complete
rights over the collateral, giving attention to a provisionally settled present (p. 169). These
legal fictions (they cannot be proved or disproved) do not overcome risk, but they are agreements
to proceed with financial transactions as if there is no peril. Importantly for everyone concerned,
these fictions are just techniques, tools, means to an end . . . . [T]hey are more like machines than
stories (p. 173). As Riles argues, they are distinct from bureaucratic plans and scenarios. Such
political representations convey meaning, guarantee a longer-term future, and can be criticized
through political criteria. In contrast, the collateral contracts are a nonutopian depoliticized means
to an end of capital circulation. They are, in fact, an intensification of all value-generating and
value-translating devices within capitalism (Callon & Muniesa 2005). Time is both reduced and
abstracted to a technique for bringing capital into being. Although Riles does not track the im-
pacts of such time-maps, we know that they have powerful effects on experiences of time and social
relations. Through the modest claims made about these contracts that they are only techniques,
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these effects are hidden and displaced into realms apparently beyond the market (Maurer 2002,
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Lee & LiPuma 2004). By turning to new workplaces and technologies that have extended this
stripped-down, short-term market time to labor, we can trace their full impact.
Boellstorff s (2008) ethnography of Second Life takes us inside the innovative forms of cre-
ationist capitalism that have emerged from US venture capitalism in the knowledge economy.
Creationist capitalism is an ethical practice of self-formation associated with high-tech indus-
tries that represents labor as an act of aesthetic creativity and freedom. Boellstorff argues that
Second Life demonstrates the universal potential of techne as a positive, creative act of working
on yourself and the world to bring new possibilities into being. Yet he is also sanguine about how
such ludo-capitalism mixes labor time with leisure time to produce self-exploitation. He diagnoses
its inequalities. Second Life is funded by venture capitalists, is centrally governed by a company
focused on increasing cash flows, and is part of the accumulation strategies of corporations. Users
earn virtual Linden money that can be converted into other currencies by buying and selling
property, commodities, and services to others. This marketplace is founded on standard concepts
of capitalist property ownership. These are also the source of Lindens profits because Linden
licenses the rights to property in, and usage of, its platform. Its extractive relation with users is
hidden by the representation of work as a form of creation.
People do not see their labor as labor within the platform of Second Life but instead view it
as a form of self-fulfillment. As a result, they do not place any time limits on their labor because
there is no distinction between work and leisure. In addition, there is no concrete work day on
which to base the payment of wages. Instead prosumers take their products directly to other
online consumers who assess the value of the products. Although the market always determines
the value of commodities, this practice is an intensification of such processes. It is as if the time
spent in labor does not exist at all. There is only the abstract time of the marketplace in which
capital grows and can be reaped. This experience is a total denial of concrete human time and its
finitude. It is characteristic not just of Second Life, but of the new representations and measures
of work throughout the knowledge economy from science parks to software coding units. Work
as creation for client-consumers and work as leisure enable self-exploitation and the extension of
working hours (Massey & Wield 2003, Upadhya & Vasavi 2012).
Even more closely related to Riless account of market time is research exploring the new
technologies of time management within knowledge economy and managerial work. Chongs
(2016) pioneering and important ethnography of a global management consultancy in Beijing
traces the impact of enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems or software designed to evaluate
employee performance. She demonstrates that ERP is not an extension of Taylorism to middle-
class work. Instead the key measures of these software systems rank employees in terms of whether

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they are contributing to shareholder value. They track how many employee work hours can be
billed directly to clients in an effort to drill down to how much each individual contributes to the
companys profits and market value. The effects of ERP are problematic in another way. These
systems perform a commensuration on the basis of which employees, who are not very distinct
in their productivity, are ranked. Using this hierarchical conversion, companies either reward or
dismiss employees. Time spent idle according to ERP systems is, in fact, a period of intense labor
as consultants attempt to attract business by writing proposals and seeking leads. Billability creates
a measure of worth throughout the organization by generating a hierarchy of value that has little
relation to actual contributions to productivity. Personnel are divided into categories of billable
personnel or consultants, nonbillable or back office staff, monitors of billability or senior executives,
and reporters of billability or human resource experts. Chong demonstrates that the use of ERP
systems and performance-related pay is the primary knowledge product sold by management
consultancies. They introduce these systems into workplaces to orient them toward shareholder
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value. The value of labor inside workplaces is increasingly measured as if the short-term technical
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time of market exchanges can evaluate the qualities of people and their work.
Boyer (2013) follows the extension of market models into the labor of news making in online
portals. Our political imaginaries, he argues, are transforming via these portals into a crypto-
liberal public of individual unique users whose interests are similar to those of consumer desire
and preference. He demonstrates how journalists working in an online news forum in Germany
measure the value of stories according to the number of times users click on the story. These
figures are updated every 15 minutes. The reports measure the quality of news in a new way,
according to quantity and intensity of interest in a story in short segments of time. This practice
allows journalists to imaginatively project a nation of users whose attention they must snare. Their
relationship with the public is that of a service provider to a consumer. These short-term techniques
and metaphors of the market shape the content of news and the experience of labor. News becomes
spectacular and event led. The routines of journalists are marked by a state of anticipation in which
journalists attempt to track the next current of response in limitless, uncontrollable networks.
These metaphors and practices exist because the operating revenue derived from advertisers, and
therefore the market value of portals, depends on click performance. Short-term market time is
folded inside the work of news making. It provides a metaphor for relations in the public sphere
and is an evaluative measure of journalistic labor.
These symbolic and evaluative extensions of short-term market time to situations of labor are
particularly potent intensifications of capitalist time associated with new forms of audit culture
(Shore 2008). Dominant representations of abstract time always draw us into behaving as if the
concrete time of human finitude, uncertainty, and labor did not exist. Time is stripped of its mean-
ing in order to make it a technique for assessing our worth according to market criteria and to
accrue capital. These contemporary time-maps and their associated technologies of imagination
are difficult to oppose because they make no overt ethical or knowledge claims. They are simply
techniques. Nevertheless, like all technologies of imagination, they are much more than tech-
niques; they are acts of creative, skillful making that intervene in our experiences of the passage
of time and senses of agency.


Epistemes are expert forms of knowledge that are associated with bureaucratic, scientific, and cor-
porate institutions. These are different from the time-maps that anchor reckonings of market value
because they contain meaningful representations. Rather than stripping time down to a mere tech-
nique for measuring and generating capital, expert knowledges layer time with resonances. As a

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consequence, they can be evaluated and related to ethical and political questions. They are chrono-
topes formed from narrative and given body in documents and visual representations (Gusterson
2008, Klinke 2013). They acknowledge the finitude of human life spans, nonhuman forms, and
social institutions and are associated with policies that aim to intervene in and sustain life. When
practiced by bureaucracies, epistemes are often performative promises made between institutions
and citizens in the specific form of a plan (Abram & Weszkalnys 2013). In scientific contexts, they
aim to shape and predict nonhuman and human cellular rhythms conjoining practices of ethics and
episteme in physical forms (Franklin 2014). In corporations and popular economies, they project
and attempt to make visible hidden frontiers of capital (Tsing 2005). Ethnography tracks some of
their current dominant forms in accounts of the security state, biocapital, and speculation.
Studies of the security state reveal the emergence of preparedness as a form of anticipatory
knowledge from the 1990s. A conjoined history of militarization and securitization has been en-
abled through technologies of imagination that have projected scenarios of threat (Lakoff 2007,
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2008; Masco 2014). These scenarios are apocalyptic, generating affects of fear and urgency. Initially
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emerging from within military expertise, they have spread into the government administration
of public health and vital infrastructure. They also mobilize international strategies of protection
against pandemics and terrorism (Lowe 2010, MacPhail 2014). At their core are scenario-based
exercises that were first proposed by Robert Kupperman and James Woolsey in the 1980s and
disseminated by their think tank, the Center for Strategic and International Studies. These simu-
lations persuaded public health officials of the necessity of preparedness and shifted bureaucracies
toward treating infrastructures as vulnerable networks. Adams et al. (2009) argue that, more gen-
erally, anticipation has become a dominant new virtue, giving us a particular temporal orientation.
This temporality is one in which the continually receding horizon of the future determines our
actions in the present. Yet, because such epistemes assert meanings and promise futures, their le-
gitimacy is highly contested. As Choi (2015) shows in post-tsunami, postconflict Sri Lanka, citizens
were uncertain about what security was being offered by officials because they lived chronically
precarious lives. In addition, other nonstate actors such as Pastor Jerry Jones or activists in the
Arab Spring use media technologies to make their own imminent version of the future affect the
present by taking control of threats (De Abreu 2013).
As Holbraad & Pedersen (2013) argue, the anthropology of securitization raises deeper an-
alytical questions. They suggest that it could be the basis for a new political anthropology that
moves beyond the oppositions between individuals and society that still linger in our discipline.
They propose a study of various scales and forms of collectivities that gather under the threat
and promise of security. In addition, they urge us to track the multiple times of security, which
will not always follow a linear trajectory as suggested by Adams et al. but may be eschatological,
cyclical, or imminent. To track the formations of security within bureaucracies, we need much
more ethnography of how the rhythms of work within institutions are oriented toward both short-
and long-term planning (Abram 2014). In addition, we need to track the conflictual pacings of
bureaucratic action in response to threats and how these affect experiences of citizenship (Mathur
2015). In short, a greater exploration of the quotidian rather than the spectacular aspects of current
forms of bureaucratic anticipation would be valuable.
More attention has been given to the mundane, routine usages of technologies of imagination
within scientific rather than within bureaucratic institutions. In particular, this work traces the
practices of potentiality in the life sciences (Ong & Chen 2010). Potentiality, anthropologists
argue, is a utopian counterpoint to bureaucratic dystopian futures of risk and threat ( Taussig
et al. 2013). However, when applied within medical practice, it is fraught with dilemmas, as
Gammeltofts (2013, 2014) exemplary work demonstrates. Her ethnography follows concerns
about the futurity of children in Hanoi in nation-state institutions, in medical settings, and within

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families. Various understandings of potential intersect in the experiences of being pregnant and
in the diagnostic moments of sonographic imaging. As women undergo 3D ultrasounds, they live
an anxious collapsing of temporalities. They fear the past of the Vietnam War and the aftereffects
of Agent Orange, while simultaneously they project themselves forward into a series of possible
futures. Their anxiety reflects their fears for their kinship status if their children are malformed
and their knowledge of bureaucratic concerns about the quality of the national population. One
interesting way to think of these 3D ultrasound images is that they act as a transtemporal hinge.
Pedersen & Nielsen (2013) coin this powerful concept. They define it as a representation that
conjoins past, present, and future and links various kinds of temporal regimes. They allow us to
see several kinds of social and nonhuman time at once. We can find such transtemporal hinges in
all varieties of representations of time.
Turning finally to corporations, the technologies of imagining the future associated with these is
still underexplored. A growing body of significant literature on the practices of financial institutions
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has revealed the intersections within expert practices of market devices, epistemes, and ethics in
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order to divine rhythms in the market (Fortun 2001, 2008; Zaloom 2004; Leins 2013, 2015). Yet
anthropologists who work within corporations on their speculative predictions and the expertise
of marketing are still comparatively rare (Applbaum 2000, 2004; Sedgwick 2007). To theorize
speculation, we could turn to the growing field of research that traces popular forms of imagining
and acting on productive tensions between visibility and invisibility (Walsh 2004, Peterson 2014,
Bear et al. 2015). Economies of anticipation as they intersect with popular dreams of prosperity
are likely to yield much insight on the junctures of expertise, governance, and affect (Cross 2015,
Weszkalnys 2015).
Epistemes or technologies of imagination are dominant institutional forms through which
time is thickened with chronotopes. They create excluded futures or side shadows of blocked
and foreclosed possibilities (Hodges 2012). But they are more vulnerable to contestation than are
capitalist market-oriented techniques of time. As the next section illustrates, this contention about
bureaucratic epistemes of time occurs because we live in societies filled with divergent and diverse
ethics of time.


Phronesis is the ethics of right action that contains accounts of what time is and what it should be
used for. We anticipate the future on the basis of both learned experience and ethical representa-
tions of the past and future that found our sense of agency (Bourdieu 2000, Stafford 2012). Our
phronesis is experienced as personal discernment, aesthetics, and duties of care (Lambek 2010). It
takes the form of an explicit working on yourself, the world, and social relations (Laidlaw 2013).
Nation-state histories and teleological, developmental projects alongside religious, revolutionary,
and kinship representations of time all have this explicit ethical character. These have been a field
for anthropological exploration since the origins of the discipline. But in an important recent
trend, research has provided subtle accounts of how people ethically engage with the concrete in-
equalities of spatiotemporal relations and attempt to rebuild senses of agency (Mole 2010, Auyero
2012, Bolt 2013, Millar 2014, Nielsen 2014, Kwon 2015). It has also begun to examine materialist
secular ethics of time beyond those of nation-state histories and development.
Both Harms (2011, 2013) and Han (2011, 2012) provide exemplary ethnographies of spatiotem-
poral inequality and ethical responses to this predicament. Their work is particularly interesting
because it centers our understanding of the times of capitalist modernity in practices of social
reproduction and accumulation by care among the working poor. Harms reveals how people liv-
ing in the peri-urban outskirts of Hanoi are marginalized by epistemes of state and corporate

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planning, which has intensified with the expectations of the construction of a new urban zone in
Thu Thiem. People respond to their exclusion and the uncertainty of their situation in terms of
their ethical model of time and space. This response divides the world into an inside and an outside.
The inside is associated with patrilineal linear history. This is a bounded domestic space in which
the family is reproduced that persists over time through social reproduction. The outside is a zone
of capitalist work discipline and of short repetitive durations that represents an expansive time
and space. Agentive movement between these zones is assumed to generate capital. Overall time
should be used to generate social relations and permanent households of kin. This phronesis has
been disrupted by the uncertainty of the piecemeal, slow, demolition of neighborhoods and threat
of redevelopment. Women focused on the domestic inside experience insecurity most. They say
their lives have become liminal. In contrast, men, who are associated more with the expansive
outside, represent the pause of waiting as productive. Men characterize waiting as a featureless
now-time of choi in which they can build social relations to accrue capital and status. Men here,
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unlike women, are able to recreate a sense of agency. As Harms shows, there are dialectical rela-
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tions between the content of ethical representations of time and the material inequalities faced by
In her ethnography of a barrio, La Pincoya (in Santiago, Chile), Han (2012) focuses on womens
projects of care in households and neighborhoods. Households are faced with intense uncertainty
of livelihood, welfare, and medical provision. Women experience repetitive and persistent contra-
dictions between their kin obligations and the insecurity of their livelihoods. This conflict is the
result of a governance of the economy since the 1990s that has focused on debt repayment, priva-
tization, and limited welfare. Women find ways to regain their agency through representations of
time as possibility. They describe their lives as a process of waiting to see what might be that could
be different from the present. To enable time to wait when they are faced with medical, financial,
or relational crises, women deploy material resources from private credit and social networks.
Although debt relations become more intensively extractive over time within households, women
still retain a sense of agentive power through care-as-waiting.
Applying a similar analytical lens, ethnographies of middle- and lower-middle-class groups
experiencing downward mobility in austerity reveal a profound (and politically problematic) crisis
of agency. Their previous investment in a linear historicism and sense of the limitless possibilities
of a national growth economy lead to a deep disorientation, especially when projects of social
reproduction collapse (Knight & Stewart 2016). These groups experience the present as filled
with vertigo, puzzling reversals of time to a previous generations experiences of privation and
strange coexistences of historical times that should be kept apart (Knight 2015). Time is suddenly
experienced as layered, folded, and nonlinear. Some even experience the present as intensified and
uncanny because they can no longer anticipate the future on the basis of it (Bryant 2016). Muirs
(2016) fascinating longer-term historical analysis of middle-class disorientation after the collapse
of Argentinas national economic project in the 1990s demonstrates that this sense of crisis can
generate a radical negativity with political effects. The failure of developmental, linear narratives
leads to negative visions of predatory sociality akin to that of witchcraft. This notion surfaces in
accounts that attribute the parlous state of the nation to corruption and lead to a loss of faith in
public institutions. This loss of faith in institutions contributes to middle-class strategies of social
reproduction and politics that support the growth of private-sector institutions.
Taken as a group, these ethnographies raise questions about the characteristics of materialist,
secular ethics of time. Such questions need greater exploration through an ethnography of secular
materialist practices in general (Hirsch & Macdonald 2005; Engelke 2013, 2015; Copeman &
Quack 2015). A recent volume has pioneered the study of such ethics via an intriguing focus on
time-tricking (Morosanu & Ringel 2016). Time-tricking is the sense that you can outmaneuver,

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overcome, or manipulate time. This notion is likely to be an agentive mode that is particularly
characteristic of secular ethics. In this mode, we imagine an amplified power for ourselves unaided
by gods or spirits. When we try to trick time, it is to be in relation with an abstract nonhuman
physical force on which and within which we can act. It is to be a social and historical being
oriented to the imminent material powers of this world. We also attempt to reorient the passage
of capitalist time toward our control. And in an entrepreneurial hope, we imagine that we can
draw flows of capital toward ourselves if only we act skillfully (Miyazaki 2006). There are many
examples in this volume: Greek housewives who attempt to manage family credit (Streinzer 2016),
London boat dwellers who aim to slow down time (Bowles 2016), UK medical professionals who
determine and enforce pregnancy due dates (White 2016), and German curators who try to stop
the wear of time (Ringel 2016).
Time-tricking is taken to its most elaborate and self-conscious form in the creative, aesthetic
practices of music and film. Soundscapes are generated that aim to alter perceptions of temporality
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by enlisting the flux of time (Shannon 2003). These become irrefutable sites for the emergence
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of experiences of authenticity, culture, or cosmopolitanism (Bryant 2005, Feld 2012). In addition,

as Born (2015) has argued, music is a condensed temporal artifact that can help us understand
how various aspects of social time appear simultaneously in action. A performance is at once an
act of creative improvisationsomething new, a result of a tradition, a historically authored
event, and a singular moment for its assembled audience. Within capitalist modernity, therefore,
music is perhaps both a profound sensory counterpoint to the techne of abstract market time and
an important site for the emergence of senses of agency characteristic of secular materialism. The
creative aesthetics of film making and viewing too foreground being attentive to time and altering
its sequences (Pandian 2011). The concept of time-tricking importantly illuminates these themes.
Indeed, most of the ethnographies I have discussed in this section contain attempts to trick time.
Time-tricking occurs because people are trying to regain a sense of ethical agency in settings
of spatiotemporal inequality and conflictual experience. Now we have reached the question of
contradiction, which I suggest can be further explored by attention to the labor in/of time in
material timescapes.


The techniques, knowledges, and ethics of time in capitalist modernity are composed of assem-
blages of time-maps in technologies of imagination. Each of these varieties of temporal representa-
tion has different degrees and sorts of legitimacy. Techne are frequently a source of accumulation
and spatiotemporal inequality. They reduce time to a tool to create and increase capital. They
are the most impregnable representation of time. Epistemes are associated with hierarchies of
expertise and political relations. They are layered with meaning through the use of narrative and
chronotopes. They create foreclosed, abandoned, and unrealizable futures but can be contested.
Challenges to them often take place in political situations (Barry 2013). Phronesis is an attempt
to refill time with symbolism and to regain agency. From the perspective of human actors, each of
these time-maps is related to distinct spheres of action and aspects of personhood. But if we look
at them from the vista of timescapes, we can trace their dialectical interrelationship in mediating
action on the world.
May & Thrift (2003) define timescapes as networks of representations, technologies, disciplines,
and rhythms in time. The extent and content of a timescape are decided through a process of
inquiry in which an analysts questions are brought into relation to a material fieldsite. It consists
of both human and nonhuman elements (Roy 2012). The term timescape is meant to evoke
the mutual interdependence of time and space (Massey 2005). Within timescapes, techniques,

496 Bear
AN45CH29-Bear ARI 10 September 2016 13:10

knowledges, and ethics of time conjoin in the mediating labor in/of time that is carried out
by individuals and collectivities (Bear 2014). This action is better captured by the myth of the
Indian deity Vishwakarma than that of the Greek god Prometheus. Vishwakarma, the god of craft
and ironworking, brought the entirety of space, time, and the world into being by sacrificing
himself to himself. His sphere of action is not circumscribed to an arena apart from epistemes
and phronesis. Here is an image of techne, creative making, that does not follow in the Greek
tradition of Aristotelian distinctions that have shaped anthropological approaches to time. Instead,
it suggests that we need to think of techniques, epistemes, and ethics as emerging together and as
in a dialectical relationship in the creative production of timescapes.
Three ethnographies might suggest a way forward in this respect. Hodges (2012) explores the
conflictual timescape of a biotech laboratory that is focused on producing self-reproducing seed
stock. Here, episteme fails to emerge because of conflicts between the rhythms of nonhuman cells,
the market devices of funding contracts, and the scientific ethics of investigators. My own work on
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the contradictions between the pacing of global trade, sovereign debt repayment regimes, and the
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nonhuman rhythms of the Hooghly River reveals the ethical fixes that enable accumulation (Bear
2015). Palumbos (2015) work on the clashing of the millennial time of radical anarchist politics
and local government debt repayment regimes in Sicily takes a similar path.
Various elements of a timescape may be in contradiction. Representations may conflict with
human experiences of time. Representations and their associated technologies of imagination
may generate contradictory social rhythms in time. Social rhythms may undermine nonhuman
patterning and vice versa. Spatiotemporal inequalities may disrupt representations of time. Con-
flictual forms of agency and social relationships may emerge in relation to representations of time
(Watanabe 2015). Side shadows of foreclosed futures may make other representations of time un-
stable. Symptoms of such conflicts will emerge in various forms, including nonhuman and human
devastation (Dawdy 2010), inequalities, moods such as boredom or despair ( Jeffrey 2010, Sjrslev
2013), experiences of temporary or lost states (Andersson 2014, Walsh 2014, Norum et al. 2015),
reversals of ethical orders of time, and events described as accidents. Through our labor in/of
time, we both suture together and generate these conflictual unequal relations.
This review has shown how heterogeneous the times of capitalist modernity are. Contrary to
the arguments of political theorists, there are no guarantees that a particular ethical orientation to
time (millennial or emergent, for example) can alter spatiotemporal inequalities (Casarino 2008).
To create new times would require a combination of critical analysis, attritional activism, and
embodied assertions that the future can be differentnow (Krijer 2010, Lazar 2014, Porter

The author is not aware of any affiliations, memberships, funding, or financial holdings that might
be perceived as affecting the objectivity of this review.

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Annual Review of

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A Life in Evolutionary Anthropology
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Clifford J. Jolly p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p 1
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Archaeological Evidence of Epidemics Can Inform Future Epidemics
Sharon N. DeWitte p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p63
Collaborative Archaeologies and Descendant Communities
Chip Colwell p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p 113
Reaching the Point of No Return: The Computational Revolution
in Archaeology
Leore Grosman p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p 129
Archaeologies of Ontology
Benjamin Alberti p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p 163
Archaeology and Contemporary Warfare
Susan Pollock p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p 215
The Archaeology of Pastoral Nomadism
William Honeychurch and Cheryl A. Makarewicz p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p 341
Urbanism and Anthropogenic Landscapes
Arlen F. Chase and Diane Z. Chase p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p 361
Decolonizing Archaeological Thought in South America
Alejandro Haber p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p 469

Biological Anthropology
Out of Asia: Anthropoid Origins and the Colonization of Africa
K. Christopher Beard p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p 199
Early Environments, Stress, and the Epigenetics of Human Health
Connie J. Mulligan p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p 233

AN45-FrontMatter ARI 28 September 2016 9:1

Native American Genomics and Population Histories

Deborah A. Bolnick, Jennifer A. Raff, Lauren C. Springs, Austin W. Reynolds,
and Aida T. Miro-Herrans p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p 319
Disease and Human/Animal Interactions
Michael P. Muehlenbein p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p 395

Anthropology of Language and Communicative Practices

Intellectual Property, Piracy, and Counterfeiting
Alexander S. Dent p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p17
Science Talk and Scientific Reference
Matthew Wolfgram p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p33
Annu. Rev. Anthropol. 2016.45:487-502. Downloaded from www.annualreviews.org
Access provided by Columbia University on 08/13/17. For personal use only.

Language, Translation, Trauma

Alex Pillen p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p95
Jurgen Jaspers p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p 147
Some Recent Trends in the Linguistic Anthropology of Native
North America
Paul V. Kroskrity p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p 267

Sociocultural Anthropology
Urban Space and Exclusion in Asia
Erik Harms p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p45
Historicity and Anthropology
Charles Stewart p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p79
Anthropological STS in Asia
Michael M. J. Fischer p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p 181
Juliet McMullin p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p 251
Affect Theory and the Empirical
Danilyn Rutherford p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p 285
Where Have All the Peasants Gone?
Susana Narotzky p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p 301
Scripting the Folk: History, Folklore, and the Imagination of Place
in Bengal
Roma Chatterji p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p 377
Reproductive Tourism: Through the Anthropological Reproscope
Michal Rachel Nahman p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p 417

Contents vii
AN45-FrontMatter ARI 28 September 2016 9:1

Design and Anthropology

Keith M. Murphy p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p 433
Unfree Labor
Filipe Calvao p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p 451
Time as Technique
Laura Bear p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p 487


Cumulative Index of Contributing Authors, Volumes 3645 p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p 503

Cumulative Index of Article Titles, Volumes 3645 p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p p 507
Annu. Rev. Anthropol. 2016.45:487-502. Downloaded from www.annualreviews.org
Access provided by Columbia University on 08/13/17. For personal use only.


An online log of corrections to Annual Review of Anthropology articles may be found at


viii Contents