Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Robin Wagner-Pacifici

Robin Wagner-Pacifici is the University in Exile Professor of Sociology at the New School for Social Research. She is the author of a number of books, most recently What is an Event? (University of Chicago Press, 2017) and The Art of Surrender: Decomposing Sovereignty at Conflict’s End.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading? Wagner-Pacifici's reply:
I'm currently reading three books that, quite by coincidence, all seem to touch on how humans experience time:

Fran├žois Hartog, Regimes of Historicity: Presentism and Experiences of Time (2016)

Hartog is an historian and this book's focus (and target) is our current time-regime, what he calls "presentism" or "short-termism" a way of living in time in which only the present seems to exist. Through a series of explorations of different experiences of time, "regimes of historicity", in different ages and cultures (including those of Homer, of Augustine, of the 19th century Maori dealing with the imperial British, and of the French writer Chateaubriand), Hartog reveals how we can live history so differently, sometimes putting all our emphasis on the present, sometimes living the present as an extension or recurrence of the past, sometimes living the present only for its journey toward the future. It's a deep book, and a beautiful one, filled with moments that illuminate the lives of others. Sometimes this is sobering as when Hartog writes that the chronically unemployed are forced to live a relentless presentism of one day at a time.

Benjamin H. Snyder, The Disrupted Workplace: time and the moral order of flexible capitalism (2016)

Snyder is a sociologist who has studied the experiences of work-time in the early 21st century, for financial service professionals, for truck drivers, and for unemployed white-collar workers. His multi-faceted ethnography is keyed into the intensities and rhythms of work, work that is no longer clearly guided by clock-time or predictable career paths but rather pushed and pulled by "flexible" global capitalism run rampant. Snyder's deeper questions are about what kind of moral order emerges from disruption - can our disrupted work times and lives provide us with an armature for living moral lives?

Sarah Perry, The Essex Serpent (2016)

This is a novel set in London and Essex in 1893 and features a wonderful, if flawed, main character Cora Seaborne. Cora is a widow (actually somewhat merry) who throws off gendered constraints to roam the coastal byways of Essex collecting fossils and other objects of interest to her as a burgeoning naturalist. Perry also provides a "super" natural mystery in the form of a possibly returning mythical 'Essex Serpent'. In her quest to discover the truth about this creature, Cora is provided with several counterparts, comrades, collaborators and suitors. These are characters as diverse as a socialist activist, a cutting-edge London surgeon, a local Essex vicar and his ethereal wife, and a cast of wealthy and working-class men and women in London and Essex. All the them are sympathetically drawn - even, improbably, a vengeful attacker. Time flows almost melodically in this novel, with keen observations about the light and shadows of days, the mists of evenings, and the darkness of nights by the sea. The seasons come and go, history marches forward with medical advances, urban housing reforms, women actively shaping their own lives, even as the mythical time of monstrous creatures also continues to shape the characters' experience of time.
Learn more about What Is an Event? at the University of Chicago Press website.

The Page 99 Test: The Art of Surrender.

The Page 99 Test: What Is an Event?.

--Marshal Zeringue