The IAS annual theme on 'Time' is designed to attract researchers from across the disciplinary base to address a wide variety of topics spanning the sciences, social sciences, and the arts. A number of sub-themes have been identified and are currently under development by inter-disciplinary teams of staff at Durham to ensure a wide-ranging programme of activities in 2012/13. These include:
Calendars and Festivals: Identity, Culture, and Experience
Our experience of time in the Western world is based on the interplay of a weekly structure and annual festivals. Its origins lie in religious traditions. Thus, the seven-day week featuring one day that is set apart is Judaism’s lasting contribution to time reckoning. Its ultimate success in the West was mediated through the adoption of the Hellenistic Planetary Week in Rome. Annual festivals are ‘appointed time’; borrowing the language of spatiality, they ‘enter’ and ‘exit’ (so e.g. in Hebrew, Latin or German), or, conversely, can be ‘entered’ (cf. German ‘ein Fest begehen’). Unlike Bank Holidays, each festival has its own particularity that differentiates it from the others.
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.
Additional information (States of Rest & Times of Transition)
This sub-theme will explore the relationship between 'time' and 'narrative' in research conducted in the present and the future. Possible topics might include: Narrative Time Travelling, Narrating Lives, Narrating the Past, Narrating 'Time', Time and Objects. The sub-theme seeks to address the wider debates about narrative in the sciences, social sciences and humanities - what do we mean when we use the word 'narrative'? What is narrative's relationship to time? And what might different disciplines have to learn from each other from our uses of narrative? Other strands to this sub-theme include discussing how particular events, experiences and encounters led scholars' awareness of time and how the ideas exposed by them became a mesh of expectations from which to embark on further research for those starting later in time. The network of thoughts accepted in particular moments of time have effects in later undertakings.
Nature and Geometry of Time
This sub-theme will focus on the nature of space-time. Contemporary developments in string theory and M-theory seek to provide a coherent description of quantum mechanics and gravity that will allow us to address some of the most fundamental questions relating to the nature and structure of time. Why do we live in one temporal dimension and three spatial dimensions? What happened to space-time in the Big Bang? Is time continuous? How does time evolve? What is the ultimate 'future'? How does the quantum nature of time affect our understanding of causality or consciousness?
In many areas of life, both within academia and without, people are interested in discovering and understanding what occurred in the past. The driving force behind subjects such as archaeology and history is the impulse to explore the past. This drive to unveil the workings of time is central to our understanding of how the universe came into being. It is a key strand of biology, motivating accounts of evolutionary history of life and relationships between species. Accurate reconstruction of what happened in the past is of immediately practical use: a key feature, for example, of police work. It is of great interest to millions researching their family history and genealogy. The feature common to all these pursuits is that information which was readily available when events occurred is lost as time passes. Time turns into a misty window through which the past is blurred and only some information is transmitted. Is it possible to ever know exactly what happened in the past?
At the heart of this sub-theme lie the following questions: how do we experience time and live in time? How do our life courses assume and consume a temporal span? Does time itself have a 'living' quality? Attention to the experiential alerts us to qualitative differences in our perception and sense of time as animate and/or inanimate, as lived and living, as 'dead' time, as something that we feel the need to 'kill'. By allowing us to make non-periodic what is periodic, to make non-secular what is secular, to make non-historic what is historic, the arts help us find our way through the world - to live time by making it dance according to an imaginative rhythm. A further strand of this sub-theme will be a focus on the experience of time through calendars and festivals and how they help shape cultures and identities.
Time and the Present
A concept inextricably linked with 'time' is that of 'heritage'. Heritage, in its cultural and natural form, is all around us and has a profound temporal dimension. We experience our life and form our identities through the influence of and reinterpretative engagement with the past and our environment. Personal and community identities are shaped by our interaction with tangible objects and landscapes and intangible legacies: the source of pride and the cause of divisions. Tensions often arise over questions of stewardship and ownership of heritage, with competing claims being made by different ethnic, local and national communities worldwide. These disputes deeply affect the ethical and legal framework of heritage.
Additional information (Time and Heritage: stability and conflict in global and local cultures: Series)
The IAS, as one among a small number of centres in the world covering all the disciplines, is well placed to address this wide-ranging theme, one that will be of interest to scientists, social scientists, scholars in the arts and humanities, historians, theorists and practitioners, artists, and policymakers, politicians and opinion formers.