Marking Time: On the Anthropology of the Contemporary

Marking Time: On the Anthropology of the Contemporary

Marking Time: On the Anthropology of the Contemporary

Marking Time: On the Anthropology of the Contemporary

Synopsis

In Marking Time, Paul Rabinow presents his most recent reflections on the anthropology of the contemporary. Drawing richly on the work of Michel Foucault, John Dewey, Niklas Luhmann, and, most interestingly, German painter Gerhard Richter, Rabinow offers a set of conceptual tools for scholars examining cutting-edge practices in the life sciences, security, new media and art practices, and other emergent phenomena. Taking up topics that include bioethics, anger and competition among molecular biologists, the lessons of the Drosophila genome, the nature of ethnographic observation in radically new settings, and the moral landscape shared by scientists and anthropologists, Rabinow shows how anthropology remains relevant to contemporary debates. By turning abstract philosophical problems into real-world explorations and offering original insights, Marking Time is a landmark contribution to the continuing re-invention of anthropology and the human sciences.

Excerpt

The phrase “marking time” is a term with several clusters of meaning surrounding it. Among these clusters three in particular are especially pertinent to the mode, tone, and project of this book. (1) the first grouping forms around pauses: a treading between goal-directed actions. This gathering of energy expended in one task and soon to be directed to another after a pause is of course itself an activity. and given the function of treading—catching one's breath, keeping one's head above water—the modality of this first sense of marking time is frequently a reflective one: where should I go next? and how should I get there? (2) a second semantic cluster forms around meanings that are more performative: for example, a keeping of time as a conductor or musician might be expected to do; or an ordering of temporal sequence that a historian might undertake; or the naming of temporal qualities a philosopher might wish to distinguish. Such timely ordering of things is often followed or accompanied by “composing.” (3) a third, at present largely virtual cluster, that of an anthropologist of the contemporary, attempts to take elements from the first two, gather them together, while adding an active practice of inquiry of a distinctive sort. Marking Time, explores some of the dimensions of what that practice entails. This book continues work already accomplished in Anthropos Today: Reflections on Modern Equipment devoted to the formation of concepts useful for an anthropology of the contemporary.

The book is itself a punctual intervention marked, as it were, by a particular set of circumstances although its ambitions are of a more general kind. Marking Time took shape during a period . . .

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