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Institute of Advanced Study

Experiencing Time

Time in conversation with Dr Felicity Callard

Time in conversation with Dr Felicity Callard

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This sub-theme will bring together researchers working in a range of disciplines to explore new approaches to the embodied experience of time. Challenging dominant linear approaches to ageing, this sub-theme seeks to further our understanding of everyday experiences of time - from the mundane to the exceptional, the repetitive to the disruptive, the meaningless to the wonder-filled - in the context of transformations in our bodies, identities and social roles. Rather than approach the ageing process in strictly biomedical terms, as a teleological process, or as something that is registered only at the level of the individual, the sub-theme will explore the collective and contextual ways in which people grow up, grow old and go on. Special attention will also be paid to temporal variation in specific states of being, including depression, voice-hearing, stillness, and wonder. 

Under this broad sub-theme two half-day workshops will explore complementary aspects of embodied temporal experience. ‘Times of Transition’ looks at the social dimensions of experiencing time and the rituals and artistic practices that help facilitate and celebrate transitions at various stages in the life course. ‘States of Rest’ turns the focus inwards – to the rhythms and valences of the body, mind and brain – in order to interrogate the dynamics of ‘passivity’ and of other phenomena that evade the imperatives of goals and tasks. 

The aim of these workshops is twofold. First, to shine new light – both conceptual and methodological – on these frequently taken-for-granted aspects of embodied temporal experience. This shall be done by bringing medical humanities into conversation with other fields (as diverse as critical theory, family studies, cognitive neuroscience, arts in health, and cultural geography). The second aim is to further existing research collaborations – and in so doing demonstrate the fruitfulness of pursuing interdisciplinary investigations involving humanities scholars, social scientists, and life scientists. 

Three external speakers will be invited as well as including staff and affiliates of the Durham Centre for Medical Humanities. The workshops are designed to open up the possibility of future collaborations, including the potential development of grant applications, and will be open to anyone who wishes to attend. 

Convenors: Angela Woods and Felicity Callard, Centre for Medical Humanities.

Times of Transition 

Ritually celebrated yet sometimes invisible, momentous and gradual, buoyed by hope and laced with loss – our lives consist of a series of transitions, transformations in our bodies and relationships, our identities and our place(s) in the world. This extended seminar explores questions of time, transition and creativity in three phases of the life-course – old age, adulthood, and early adolescence. Speakers at this workshop are: François Matarasso,  Arts researcher, writer and Honorary Professor, Centre for Cultural Research, Griffith University, Australia: “Winter Fires”; Elizabeth Sharp, Associate Professor, Human Development and Family Studies, Texas Tech University, USA: “‘I’m a Loser, I’m Not Married, Let’s Just All Look at Me”: Women’s Experiences of Missing the Marital Transition” and Mike White, Research Fellow in Arts & Health, and Mary Robson, Associate for Arts in Health and Education, Centre for Medical Humanities, Durham University: “Roots and Wings - Celebrating Transition in Schools".  This workshop is open to all. Enquires can be made via Details of the date, time and location are available at the back of this programme. 

States of Rest

Time is often studied and conceptualised in ways which emphasise dynamism, flow and movement, the labours of attention, striving and growing. But what of those aspects of our corporeal existence which appear to depart from these concepts and notions? What is happening – existentially, ethically, neurologically – during states of rest? And how, methodologically, might be best explore such states? Speaker for this workshop are: Paul Harrison, Lecturer in Geography, Durham University: “The Subject of Passivity”; Daniel Margulies, Neuroanatomy and Connectivity Research Group Leader, Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive & Brain Sciences: “Giving the Brain a Rest” and Felicity Callard, Senior Lecturer in Social Science for Medical Humanities, Durham University: “Wandering Minds”. This workshop is open to all. Enquires can be made via

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