Cutting Off History at the Pass: The Rise of Homogenous Empty Time in Asia and its Consequences

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Monday, October 21st, 2013

Monday, October 21, 20134:00PM - 7:00PMThe Vivian and David Campbell Conference Facility, Munk School of Global Affairs- 1 Devonshire Place
Vivian and David Campbell Conference Facility
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Dr. David Chu Distinguished Visitor Series


Lecture from 4:00 – 6:00pm, with Reception to follow

This talk concerns the fascinating nexus between Time and Nationalism in the late 19th century and especially in the colonized world. This was the time when suboceanic telegraph cables, owned by huge private corporations, spread fast across the globe, thereby creating a new consciousness of global simultaneity outside the control of colonial governments. Nationalist movements, sometimes influenced by Social Darwinism, began to compare themselves with each other, in the framework of an accelerating world-time staring at the Future and the Past. The futurism was what gave nationalism a new utopian side, and separated itself from ethnicism. But it also created a mythologized ancient history, turning once geographically peripheral communities into “backward” proto-citizens, who were to be pushed into a time-machine that would quickly make them modern like the ‘rest of us.’ One significant contribution to the pervasive desire to “catch-up” on the autobahn of the Future was the appearance of a new form of fiction, which juggled with Time. One could write futurist novels, relocating current developments in Europe into the colony, and written in the past tense. Or one could imagine, from the colony, a dark vision of a violent colonial present transposed into a yet-to-come Europe.

Benedict R.O’G Anderson is the Aaron L. Binenkorb Professor of International Studies (Emeritus) at Cornell University. Professor Anderson is renowned for his highly influential study of the origins and spread of nationalism, Imagined Communities (1983), which has been translated into more than 20 languages. His work on nationalism is widely read across the social sciences and humanities and has been particularly influential in the fields of political science, history, anthropology, geography and comparative literature. In addition to his work on nationalism, Professor Anderson has also published extensively on the culture and politics of Southeast Asia, and their place in the broader world. His books on these topics include: Java in a Time of Revolution (1972), In the Mirror: Literature and Politics in Siam in the American Era (1985), Language and Power: Exploring Political Cultures in Indonesia (1990), The Spectre of Comparisons: Nationalism, SE Asia, and the World (1998), Under Three Flags: Anarchism and the Anti-colonial Imagination (2005), Why Counting Counts: A Study of Forms of Consciousness and Problems of Language in Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo (2008), and The Fate of Rural Hell: Asceticism and Desire in Buddhist Thailand (2012). Professor Anderson is the recipient of numerous honours for his work, including the Association of Asian Studies Award for Distinguished Scholarship, the Fukuoka Prize for Studies on Asia, the Albert Hirschman Prize in the Social Sciences, a doctorate honoris causa from the Pontifical University of Peru in Lima, and the Asian Cosmopolitan Prize (Nara, Japan).

Presented by: Dr. David Chu Program in Asia Pacific Studies
Co-presented by: Centre for Southeast Asian Studies
Co-sponsor: Centre for South Asian Studies
Co-sponsor: Canada Research Chair in Southeast Asian History


Lori Lytle


Benedict R.O'G Anderson
Aaron L. Binenkorb Professor Emeritus of International Studies, Cornell University

Main Sponsor

Dr. David Chu Program in Asia Pacific Studies


Canada Research Chair in Southeast Asian History

Asian Institute

Centre for South Asian Studies

Centre for Southeast Asian Studies

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