Anthropology Conference 2019


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Biennial Conference of the Finnish Anthropological Society 2019
together with Social and Cultural Anthropology at the University of Helsinki and the Finnish Literature Society

On Time

Helsinki, August 28–30, 2019

The Edvard Westermarck Memorial Lecture of 2019 will be given on the eve of the conference by Prof Laura Bear, on August 28th 5pm (Unioninkatu 40).

Biennial Conference of the Finnish Anthropological Society 2019

Time is a classic topic in anthropology: it has been viewed as a natural, linguistic, religious, economic and generational phenomenon, among other things. But it is hard to recall when time would have been as widely researched as it is right now. The theme of the 2019 conference of the Finnish Anthropological Society was chosen largely to find out “why time now?” Is it because we have become increasingly aware of the plurality of temporal regimes in our lives, for example, or because of our increased sensitivity to these due to the increased movement of ever more people? And is this why the plural “temporalities” is now often favoured over the singular “time”?

Ultimately, it must be anthropology’s versatility that makes it particularly well suited for grasping and narrating time as a combination of politics, space, materiality, language, scale, valuation, prediction, and growth – again just to name but a few themes. But what has anthropology learnt from the study of time? Has the current “temporal turn” gone far enough for us to take stock of its accomplishments?

The 2019 Finnish Anthropological Society Conference “On Time” investigates these themes in 19 panels and a film programme. The conference is organised in co-operation with the discipline of Social and Cultural Anthropology at the University of Helsinki and the Finnish Literature Society. The keynote speaker of the conference is Ghassan Hage, and the 2019 Edvard Westermarck memorial lecture will be given by Laura Bear on the eve of the conference (August 28).

The conference takes place in various locations within or near the University of Helsinki central campus. The main venues are:

  • The House of Sciences and Letters (Kirkkokatu 6): Panels, films, and book launch on Thursday and Friday
  • Unioninkatu 35: Keynote lecture and panels on Thursday
  • The Finnish Literature Society (Hallituskatu 1): Panels on Thursday and Friday

Additionally, the Edvard Westermarck Memorial Lecture takes place in Metsätalo / The Forest House (Unioninkatu 40) and the opening film in Unioninkatu 37. See the conference program, films, and panels for further details.

General inquiries regarding the conference can be addressed to timeFAS2019[a]

The conference registration has closed.

The full list of abstracts can be downloaded here:

The Call for Panels was circulated from December 4 to January 31. Please find the call here.
The Call for Papers closed on April 1st.

The Call for Films closed on May 31. Please see the Films section for further information. The film programme is curated by Carlo A. Cubero and Ingrid Nielsen from Tallinn University.

Keynote abstract

The Difficult Temporality of Diasporic Nostalgia
Ghassan Hage

That notions of time are closely entangled with notions of space is something taken for granted by most anthropologists. While in modern European conceptions of nostalgia time-centred notions, such as ‘remembering the past’ and ‘the irreversibility of time’, have been central, it is always assumed that notions of space and place are nonetheless lurking there, even when not explicitly mentioned. The past we remember is always a past that happened ‘somewhere’. While migrant nostalgia is also a similar yearning for another time-space, it nonetheless involves a greater foregrounding of place. That is, what is explicitly yearned for is often another place (even if, here also, this place is entangled with time). But this raises difficult philosophical and ethnographic questions: is the irreversibility of place even when it is a place-in-time the same as the irreversibility of time? And, relatedly, is time-space entanglement a culture free concept as philosophy treats it, or is it something that needs to be ethnographically analysed as it takes different forms in different cultural settings?


Edvard Westermarck memorial lecture abstract

Fixing Inequalities in Time: Radicalising Westermarck’s moral emotions for a critique of financialised speculation
Laura Bear

Why should we care about inequalities in Time and why fix these now? When we reflect on our informants’ insecurity, the time-pressures academics face or the precarity of the earth —time and timing appear as urgent issues. Why is this, and how do we fix it? How do we generate an abundance of time and widely shared secure futures? To answer these questions we need to understand, and then change, the moral action that creates the timescapes we live in. This moral action is financialised speculation built on limited sympathy and an anti-altruism, which has intensified uncertainty. To guide our exploration of this speculation I will return to an earlier moment of anthropological critique—Westermarck’s engagements with Adam Smith. Through his comparative project of exploring moral emotions Westermarck challenged the ethical and epistemic foundations of older forms of speculation. This is particularly visible, although not solely, in his analysis of slavery and racism. Using Westermarck’s insights we can similarly critique the emerging field of narrative and behavioural economics linked to newer forms of financialised capitalism. However we also need to go further, by exploring the political economy that links moral-affective action to timescapes of accumulation and inequalities in time. I will illustrate this approach with examples from my fieldwork with central banks and maritime economies. My conclusion will address how to create a new abundance of time through reform of government and financial institutions. This could be achieved through a new kind of speculation that explicitly addresses how to achieve altruism, unlimited sympathy and social value.


(Image credit: frankieleon, CC BY 2.0)