What Paul Ricouer has called the “phenomenology of temporality” is one of the defining conditions of modern identity and the disciplines developed to explain it, including cultural theory. In the works of major students of modernity, from Kant, Hegel, and Freud to W. E. B. Du Bois, Frantz Fanon and Paul Gilroy, time is considered to be the essential mode of being in the world. The existence of an absolute and continuous temporality is assumed to be indispensible to the discourse of history, consciousness, and even the “constitution of human life” (Thomas Luckmann). But this privileging of an efficacious and universal temporality raises many difficult questions: What is the nature of time on the margins of the “World System”? Is the phenomenology of progressive time universal, or part of the European drive toward rationalization and, by implication, imperial expansion? What functions do chronotypes serve in the worlds of the marginalized? This lecture will address these questions by reflecting on the nature of time in the cultural politics of the “Black Atlantic” and its implications for cultural theory in the postmodern moment.
Simon Gikandi is Robert Schirmer Professor of English at Princeton University and editor of the PMLA, the official journal of the Modern Languages Association of America. As editor of the journal he has been involved in discusses about the future of publishing in the digital age and the role of libraries in the dissemination of scholarly knowledge. He is the author of many books and articles including Writing in Limbo: Modernism and Caribbean Literature, Maps of Englishness: Writing Identity in the Culture of Colonialism, and Ngugi wa Thiong’o, which was a Choice Outstanding Academic Publication for 2004. He is the co-editor of The Cambridge History of African and Caribbean Literature and the editor of the Routledge Encyclopedia of African Literature. His new book, Slavery and the Culture of Taste was published by Princeton University Press in 2011.