Making Time: Temporality, History, and the Cultural Object

One of the most sustained criticisms of Bourdieu’s work is its poverty with respect to theorizing time, change, and history. In this light, this article traces out a series of novel paths in the analysis of temporality and history in relation to cultural production, informed by recent work in anthropology, social theory, and (less so) art history. The challenge of developing new perspectives on such matters does not arise solely from critiques of Bourdieu, but from wider recognition across the humanities of the problematic nature of prevailing forms of historicism, contextualization, and periodization. Several linked departures are proposed: the need to analyze the multiplicity of time in cultural production; the contributions of the art or cultural object––as a nonhuman actor––to the production of time in not one but several dimensions of temporality; and the importance of integrating such thinking into the theorization of history. Advancing beyond philosophical process theory, yet learning its anti-teleological lessons, the article develops a materialist framework for the analysis of those “multiple, interacting, and partially open temporal systems” (Connolly)––including the distinctive scales, speeds, and shapes of change enacted by cultural objects and events––that through their complex interactions participate in the emergent processes we identify as history. The conceptual lessons are general ones, but their key features are exemplified by music––specifically, by recent research on contemporary digital musics. Rather than music being exceptional with respect to the other arts, it is shown to be pregnant with insights for the other arts in regard to theorizing time. Music, it becomes clear, provides an auspicious terrain for retheorizing time and history.