Academic journal article Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute

On Heterochrony: Birthday Gifts to Stalin, 1949./heterochronie: Les Cadeaux D'anniversaire De Staline, 1949

Academic journal article Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute

On Heterochrony: Birthday Gifts to Stalin, 1949./heterochronie: Les Cadeaux D'anniversaire De Staline, 1949

Article excerpt

  We are in the epoch of simultaneity: we are in the epoch of
  juxtaposition, the epoch of the near and far, of the side-by-side, of
  the dispersed. We are at a moment, I believe, when our experience of
  the world is less that of a long life developing through time than
  that of a network that connects points and intersects with its own
  skein....
    Time ... appears to us only as one of the various distributive
  operations that are possible for the elements that are spread out in
  space.
  Michel Foucault, Heterotopias

  He leads 170 million people in a landmass of 21 million square
  kilometres. His figure is raised full-length over Europe and Asia, and
  over the past and the future.
  Henri Barbusse, Stalin

Current anthropological interest in global processes fermented in the critique of representation of the 1980s and, in particular, in the explication of the previously 'assumed isomorphism of space, place and culture' (Gupta & Ferguson 1997b: 34). Laying open this view as previously taken-for-granted drew attention to 'new forms of cultural difference and new forms of imagining community' (Gupta & Ferguson 1997b: 36) that are 'nonisomorphic with standard units of analysis' (Collier & Ong 2005: 3). By examining these new forms, the anthropology of global modernity has documented the 'shift from two-dimensional Euclidean space, with its centres and peripheries and sharp boundaries, to a multidimensional global space with unbounded, often discontinuous and interpenetrating sub-spaces' (Kearney 1995: 548).

Insightful as it is with regard to space, however, this critique leaves unquestioned assumptions about time. The historical positioning of this critique of space 'at the end of an era' (Gupta & Ferguson 1997a)--in the (un)bounding social space in transition from modernization to globalization--conceptually restates a cultural narrative that globalization tells about itself (Tsing 2000): that of the radical break between 'before' and 'now'. In its very interest in new, emergent forms, this perspective retains a familiar, and much criticized, temporal analytic, even if its inner discursive orientation is no longer backwardness (Fabian 1983) but novelty. Time enframes this exchange as a measure of difference and a means of its classification and discursive distribution no matter if we agree that high modernity no longer exists in 'tightly territorialised, spatially bounded, historically self-conscious, or culturally homogenous' units (Appadurai 1991: 191; see also Hannerz 1989); or that the ecumenes of 'interconnected space ... always already existed' (Gupta & Ferguson 1997b: 37; see also Friedman 1994; Kearney 1995); or that 'different historical moments' of global processes 'cannot be linked in a developmental or teleological sequence' (Maurer 2000: 690-1).

State socialism easily fits within this temporal analytic as an example of classic high modernity. Indeed, the end of the Cold War became one of the most commonly referred markers of globalization. In this article, I explore one of the events at the beginning of the Cold War, but my goal in doing so is not merely to historicize global modernity, but to explore some of the meanings of time within it. The event in question is the exhibition of birthday gifts to Joseph Stalin in Moscow between 1949 and 1953. This indeed 'global assemblage' (cf. Collier & Ong 2005) included gifts from ordinary Soviet people and highly positioned Party officials, from Mao Tse Tung and Harry Truman, Native Americans, West and East Europeans, members of the post-Civil War Spanish diaspora, veterans of anti-fascist resistance, and so on.

In looking at this event, I trade, so to speak, space for time: global modernity appears, in this perspective, not as an 'age' but as a site and even as object--as in models of the globe which were prominent among these gifts (Figs 1 and 3). In turn, I argue that such models of social macrocosm are representations of time and that they reveal not merely the two-dimensional Euclidean time frame, but also its constitutive limits. …

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