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Against coevalness.

A belated critique of Johannes Fabians project of radical contemporaneity and a plea for a new politics of time Berber Bevernage Abstract
Johannes Fabian criticizes anthropology for treating the Other as if living in another time, and he proposes to counter these politics of time by stressing the coevalness of humanity. I follow Fabians analysis of the political (ab)use of spatiotemporal distancing but argue that this (ab)use cannot successfully be addressed by stressing coevalness. Rather, I radically embrace the idea of noncoevalness and argue this is both necessary on scientific grounds and ethically the most attractive. I argue that allochronism results not necessarily from a denial of coevalness but, rather, from a specific notion of coevalness. Drawing on arguments by Jacques Derrida I claim that Fabians theory of coevalness is dependent on a problematic metaphysics of presence. Drawing on the work of Ernst Bloch, Louis Althusser and Antonio Gramsci, Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe I try to show how a more emancipatory analysis of the politics of time can be developed.

Dear Prof. Johannes Fabian, I am not an anthropologist.1 I did, however, always want to be one: working with these bones and stones. Yet, after reading your book Time and the Other2 and your essays published in Time and the Work of Anthropology,3 I realize that I held a quite mistaken image of anthropology; that I incorrectly treated anthropologists as professionals of an older era; that my longing for anthropology was based on a nostalgia for the exotic Otherness of a past long gone. In fact, I should have known: as a historian I am myself often treated as an anachronistic relic. To my relief I am not alone with my sin: you show that anthropologists have themselves been doing similar things to the people they study; treating them as primitives, as backward, as remnants of the Stone Age, etc. Anthropologists, you argue, do not do this out of ignorance or as a mistake but actively use spatiotemporal distancing in order to stress the Otherness of their natives. You claim that this denial of coevalness or act of allochronism is thoroughly political. Spatiotemporal distancing through its juxtaposing of the West and the Rest and its objectification of the Other always (indirectly) serves imperialism or (neo-)colonial domination. As you powerfully express it: geopolitics

I would like to thank Chris Lorenz who encouraged me to write this paper. I also thank the following people for their critical comments: Henning Trueper, Maria Ines Mudrovcic, Kenan Van De Mieroop, Elias Grootaers, Gita Deneckere, Maja Musi, Jan-Frederik Abbeloos, Lore Colaert and Anton Froeyman. 2 Fabian J., Time and the Other. How anthropology makes its object. New York, Columbia University Press, 2002. 3 Fabian J., Time and the Work of Anthropology. Critical Essays 19711991. Chur, Harwood Academic Publishers, 1991.

has its ideological foundations in chronopolitics.4 You therefore propose to dismantle these politics of time by formulating the project of a radical contemporaneity of mankind.5 Although quite conscious of my outsider status and my belated entrance into the debate, I would like to contribute to your dismantling job or deconstructive labor (as you call it elsewhere). In response to your call for a more dialogical production of knowledge, I will try to stay as close as possible to your text. For the same reason, I chose the format of an open letter: I agree with your (and W. Ongs) claim that the discursive use of the grammarians third person pushes the Other out of the dialogue. Yet, despite the fact that I will attempt to enter into dialogue with you, I will not try to engage into a relation of coevalness because I think such a relation is much more difficult to attain than you assume and because I am not sure it is always a good thing. While I am convinced by your analysis of the political (ab)use of spatiotemporal distancing and share your moral indignation, I differ on one, quite central, point: I believe that this political (ab)use cannot successfully be addressed by stressing coevalness. Rather, I believe that it should be countered by radically embracing the idea of non-coevalness. This conclusion, I will argue, is both necessary on scientific grounds and ethically the most attractive. Let me explain the outline of my argument. Time and the Other offers a powerful critique of the way in which anthropological discourses engage in spatiotemporal distancing. However, the amazing rigor shown in your analysis of the denial of coevalness is strikingly lacking in your theory of coevalness. That theory is highly ambiguous, and despite your repeated attempts to conceptually strengthen it in a series of later essays, I believe it remains the Achilles heel of your account. Except for its (apparent) ethical attractiveness, I argue, the main reason why your account of coevalness has convinced so many people (myself included for some years) is that it is implicitly based on a set of common-sense, modern, Western metaphysical presuppositions which, citing Jacques Derrida, I call a metaphysics of presence. Because I reject these metaphysics I propose to take not coevalness but noncoevalness as the starting point for an analysis of the politics of time. This approach has the advantage that it is epistemologically more convincing and that it avoids reference to essentialist ontological commitments. Moreover, it also leads to a more, rather than less, emancipatory analysis of the politics of time. In order to explain this, I differentiate between the denial of coevalness which I take to be a politically neutral recognition of temporal difference and allochronism the production of spatiotemporal
4 5

Fabian, Time and the Other, p. 144. Ibid., p. xli.

distancing-effects (evident in the use of terms such as primitive, backward, etc) which is inherently political. While you seem to use these concepts as synonyms, I will argue that allochronism results not necessarily from a denial of coevalness but, rather, from a specific notion of coevalness. That the West manages to treat the Rest as backward does not primarily result from a stress on the non-coevalness of that Rest (which is hardly deniable) but rather from an ideological positing of the coevalness of the West that is taken as the norm I call this referential coevalness. Only from the perspective of such a referential coevalness, can Others be characterized as backward, pre-historical, belonging to the past, or, in contrast, forward, embodying the future, etc. Thus, the so-called denial of coevalness is a necessary but insufficient condition for allochronism. A radical deconstruction of allochronism should therefore not proceed from a positing of the coevalness of humanity but rather from a radical questioning of presumed or naturalized referential coevalness. Instead of denying the non-coeval that characterized the relations between the West and the Rest, one should stress the internal non-coevalness that characterizes the West and the Rest themselves. In order to illustrate how non-coevalness can be theorized, and to show how allochronism can result from the positing of referential coevalness, I will focus on the Marxist thinkers Ernst Bloch and Louis Althusser and, more exactly, on the way they theorize the relation between time and social totality. Bloch and Althusser, I will argue, offer a good starting point for a sophisticated theory of non-coevalness, but in the last instance supplement their theories with a referential concept of coevalness, thereby regrettably weakening the coherence of their account and creating an opening for allochronist abuse. There is one important argument that you repeatedly formulate against the idea of noncoevalness: you claim this idea necessarily leads to irreducible pluralism or relativism. I take this argument seriously. Doubtless it was a similar fear for relativism or pluralism that made Bloch and Althusser recoil from the potential consequences of their own theories. However, I will argue that a solution for this problem can be found in notion of totality developed by Antonio Gramsci yet another Marxist philosopher or more exactly on the anti-essentialist interpretation of the latters theory by the post-Marxist thinkers Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe. Inspired by the Gramscian concept of hegemony I will propose a way out of irreducible pluralism/relativism by admitting a politically constituted hegemonic coevalness, or coevalness effect. This hegemonic coevalness is not primordial or natural and is never total/always contested, but it helps to explain why allochronism can be so effective.

My brief discussion of the work of Bloch, Althusser, and Gramsci should not be interpreted as an attempt to contribute to the history of ideas, but rather, in merely functional terms, as part of an attempt to set up an argument. I refer to Althusser and Bloch primarily because they show how notions of time are closely linked with ideological/political concepts of totality. Of course, you know that. You brilliantly describe this link for the phenomenon of allochronism, but I miss a similar analysis in your account of coevalness. By relating coevalness to hegemony I try to reveal what I believe to be the most important difference between your perspective and mine: while you seem to read coevalness as signifying equal power relations and respectful interaction, I read it a display of power and believe it cannot come into existence without a certain degree of dominance. Time and the Other, the argument A book as rich and dense as Time and the Other can only be summarized at the cost of great simplification. Yet, would it be fair if I presented the general argument of your book as follows? You warn right away that you do not write about the anthropology of time but focus on the ways in which time is used by that discipline to construe its object of research and how this is a thoroughly political act a politics of time. Time, you explain, much like language or money, is a carrier of significance, a form through which we define the content of relations between the Self and the Other.6 In a survey you demonstrate how the discourse of anthropology from its earliest paradigms to its more recent ones from evolutionarism, over diffusionism, functionalism, and culturalism, to structuralism has always tended to treat the Other as if (s)he lived in another time a tendency you call the denial of coevalness, or allochronism. Spatiotemporal distancing functions as an epistemological mechanism that reinforces the scientific status of anthropology as a practice based on the observation of objective facts. However, you argue, the concept of time used in the discourse (writing) of anthropology is not the only one used by anthropologists: in ethnographic field-research, time is employed in a way which stands in fundamental contradiction to the former. That anthropology never turned into a totally uncritical apology for colonialism or imperialism is due to the fact that anthropologists from relatively early in the history of their discipline agreed that ethnographic knowledge must be based on empirical field research carried out

Fabian, Time and the Other, p. xxxix.

among people who are our contemporaries.7 Since fieldwork involves personal interaction and communication with the Other, and since communication presupposes shared or intersubjective time, even the most autistic8 anthropologists cannot but recognize or acknowledge the coevalness of the Other. As you formulate it succinctly: If coevalness, sharing of present Time, is a condition of communication, and anthropological knowledge has its sources in ethnography, clearly a kind of communication, then the anthropologist qua ethnographer is not free to grant or deny coevalness to his interlocutors.9 However, once the practical knowledge gained during field research is turned into written discourse, the coevalness of the Other is soon forgotten or disavowed and through a conjuring trick the Others empirical presence turns into his theoretical absence.10 The disjunction between the conceptions of time employed in anthropological writing (science) and ethnographic research (experience) is so striking that you write about a schizogenic use of time.11 Nonetheless, your story is not a pessimistic one. You do not call for the end of anthropology or for a moratorium on the production of knowledge about the Other.12 You believe that an emancipatory anthropology is possible. In order to work toward such an anthropology you develop a double strategy: first you analyze the allochronist aspects of the existing anthropological discourses; second you try to develop an alternative discourse able to reinforce the experience of coevalness that, according to you, underpins all good field research. Among the most important factors that push toward allochronism you name the literary habit to describe the Other in the present tense and the grammarians third person; the ignoring of the autobiographic aspects in anthropological writing; and the epistemological vice of visualism (the habit to treat vision as the nobles of all senses) which work[s] against the grain of temporal continuity and coexistence between the Knower and the Known.13 In contrast, an emancipatory anthropology should, on the one hand, be dialogical and pay attention to the experiential/hermeneutical dimensions of intersubjective time. On the other

Ibid., p. 143. Also see: Fabian J., Of dogs alive, birds dead, and time to tell a story [1991]. In: Fabian, Time and the Work of Anthropology, p. 226. 8 Expression used in Fabian J., Culture, Time and the Object of Anthropology. In: Fabian, Time and the Work of Anthropology, p. 198. 9 Fabian, Time and the Other, p. 32. 10 Ibid., p. xli. 11 Ibid., p. 21. & p. 33. 12 You explain the senselessness of such an option for silence in: Fabian J., Presence and Representation. In: Fabian, Time and the Work of Anthropology, pp. 207223. 13 Fabian, Time and the Other, p. 109.

hand, it should overcome the contemplative stance (in Marxs sense, you specify) and develop a materialist theory of knowledge. A great way to combine these hermeneutic and materialist approaches, you argue, is to focus on the way in which coevalness is created/implied in the production of meaningful sound or speech. Speech has a material dimension, but moreover, the temporality of speaking (other than the temporality of physical movements, chemical processes, astronomic events, and organic growth and decay) implies cotemporality of producer and product, speaker and listener, Self and Other.14 Finally you claim that a materialist anthropology should recuperate the idea of totality as developed by thinkers such as Hegel, Marx, and Althusser. The last sentence of Time and the Other inspires great confidence: [there] are ways to meet the Other on the same ground, in the same Time.15

Metaphysics of presence in Time and the Other Although I think your work provides an invaluable contribution to the analysis of the politics of time one which goes far beyond the discipline of anthropology I am not convinced by the way you theorize coevalness. Your account, I will argue, cannot realize its emancipatory potential and even reinforces the allochronist epistemology that it criticizes, because, despite all its sophistication, it is founded on a problematical notion of temporality which Jacques Derrida calls the metaphysics of presence. The entire tradition of Western thought, Derrida claims, is grounded in, and organized around, the metaphysical presupposition of presence whether this is defined as the proximity of (material or ideal) objects, as the self-presence or the self-identity of a subject/cogito in the immediacy of its own mental acts, as the copresence of self and other in intersubjectivity, or, on the most fundamental level, as the maintenance of the point-like now of the temporal present itself.16 Derrida strongly criticizes this presupposition, and he never stops stressing the problematic and contradictory nature of its different forms. I cannot discuss in detail Derridas many vigorous intellectual attacks against the concept of presence here. Yet, in what follows I will apply the critique of the metaphysics of presence to your work by freely paraphrasing, interpreting, and elaborating upon some of Derridas arguments.

14 15

Ibid., p. 164. Ibid., p. 165. 16 Derrida J., Speech and Phenomena. And Other Essays on Husserls Theory of Signs. Evanston, Northwestern University Press, 1973, p. 99. Also see: Derrida J., Of Grammatology. Baltimore, The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997, p. 12.

I am guessing, but am I correct to assume that you were first struck by the strange habit of the denial of coevalness which contradicts the common-sense recognition of coevalness qua copresence long before you became convinced that the seemingly evident fact of coevalness itself also deserves some theorizing? This would explain why a positive account of coevalness is only provided summarily toward the end of Time and the Other and in some subsequent essays. It could also explain the strange way in which you sometimes simply posit or assume coevalness and contemporaneity instead of defending them by argument.17 Yet, since this open letter is a constructive attempt to work toward a thoroughly emancipatory analysis of the politics of time, I will focus on the way you do provide arguments. One of your great intellectual contributions is your analytical differentiation between coevalness and two other temporal relations which are often mixed or confused. You describe these three relations as follows: 1. First there is synchronicity/simultaneity which refers to events occurring at the same physical time. You add that this physical time is often used as a parameter or vector in describing socio-cultural processes, but that it is conventionally taken to be neutral in relation to these processes and that it is thus allegedly not subject to cultural variation. 2. Second there is contemporaneity which you define as co-occurrence in [] typological time. This typological or mundane time you explain: [...] is measured, not as time elapsed, nor by reference to points in a (linear) scale, but in terms of socioculturally meaningful events or, more precisely, intervals between such events. Typological Time underlies such qualifications as preliterate vs. literate, traditional vs. modern, peasant vs. industrial, and a host of permutations which include pairs such as tribal vs. feudal, rural vs. urban. In this use, Time may almost totally be divested of its vectorial, physical connotations.18 3. Finally there is coevalness which combines the meanings of both simultaneity and contemporaneity and which you relate to the German term Gleichzeitigkeit. Beyond that, you add it is to connote a common, active, occupation, or sharing, of time. Coevalness is closely related to intersubjective time which has its philosophical

You repeatedly use expressions such as the people who are our contemporaries, or speak about coevalness as a condition for communication/field research. 18 Fabian, Time and the Other, p. 23.


sources in phenomenological thought and connects to the communicative nature of human action and interaction.19 These sophisticated definitions guard you from simply equating coevalness or

contemporaneity with the physical presence or co-existence of material objects as is often done in vulgar versions of the metaphysics of presence. You repeatedly state that coevalness is not reducible to the merely physical simultaneity of natural law.20 Merely defending the physical simultaneity of mankind would indeed not be an emancipatory project. The ideological crux of allochronism is dependent on typological time or mixtures of typological and physical time rather than pure physical time: straightforwardly denying the physical simultaneity of the Other would be a simple mistake, and a stupid one moreover. So, in order to provide a negation of what is denied in the denial of coevalness your notion of coevalness indeed has to refer to more than mere physical simultaneity, it indeed has to include the insight that time is a carrier of significance. One could say that you want/need a significant or meaningful coevalness. I endorse this position: reducing coevalness or contemporaneity to physical simultaneity would render them meaningless or insignificant. When applied consistently, your differentiation between physical simultaneity on the one hand and the more significant relations of contemporaneity and coevalness on the other hand can offer a way out of the metaphysics of presence. The problem, however, is that you do not apply this differentiation very consistently. In many passages throughout your work the notions of simultaneity, contemporaneity, and coevalness are mixed or switched. Despite your claim that coevalness cannot be reduced to physical simultaneity, I think that at many points in your work your argument for the undeniable reality of coevalness can in fact be reduced to a claim about the undeniable reality of the physical simultaneity of the co-existent or the co-present. It is precisely where you try to make the step from simultaneity to coevalness that your argument becomes problematic: there the metaphysics of presence return with a vengeance. The problem is most clear in your reference to the temporality of speech as a guarantee for coevalness or intersubjective time. At first sight you seem consciousness of the presentist assumptions that underlie the preference of speech over writing what Derrida famously calls phonocentrism.21 You criticize Walter Ongs idea that the oral and auditory would be more

19 20

Ibid., p. 24. Ibid., p. 147. 21 Derrida, Of Grammatology, p. 8.

existential or personal than written texts.22 You even mention Derridas notorious reversal of the relation between writing and speech. However, your argument changes. The true epistemological reasons why the aural and oral have to be invoked, you argue, are situated in their interpersonal (rather than personal) time economy which provides a good starting point for a dialectical concept of communication. The oral and the aural can guarantee a coeval dialogue ultimately due to the sensuous nature of meaningful sound. The production of meaningful sound, involving the labor of transforming, shaping matter, is constitutive of human consciousness or the Self the Self, you write, is constituted fully as a speaking and hearing Self and enables the coeval dialogue between two or more Selves.23 I will come back to this constitution of the Self, but for now let me concentrate on the link you make between the material or sensuous and the meaningful/significant or coeval. I have sympathy for your attempt to ground coevalness on a material basis, but I do not think it works, at least not in this way. I see how sound can make people aware of their physical simultaneity or how it can encourage people to attempt to engage in a relation of meaningful coevalness, but I do not grasp how the sensuousness of sound can guarantee meaningful coevalness. Is the meaning of meaningful sound determined by its sensuousness? Does the meaningfulness of my speech increase when my vocal cords produce vibrations of a greater magnitude? Do anthropologists have a better chance to set up a coeval dialogue if they speak louder? Does the tactile sign language in which deaf-blind persons communicate by touching each others hands free them from the need for semiotic rules and from the possibility of differnce or non-contemporaneity which Derrida relates to the latter? I raise these (rhetorical) questions because I believe that your reference to the sensuousness of speech is part of an attempt to reach a pure presence that reduces epistemological distance and preempts those dimensions of communication that restrain us in reaching perfect meaningful coevalness.24 On the whole your defense of coeval field-research seems to be based on a nave belief in the existence of a naked ethnologist who can enter his/her field unburdened by the bad epistemology that characterizes his life as a writing scientist. As if the practice of distancing and the need for representation or epistemological mediation simply can be shaken off when anthropologists leave their writing desk. However, your belief in the naked ethnologist is not total. You recognize that no knowledge can be produced without some kind of distance or
22 23

Fabian, Time and the Other, p. 119. Ibid., p. 164. 24 This longing for non-mediated presence is very clear in your essay Presence and Representation [1990] where you contrast these two concepts and propose the former as a solution for the allochronic tendencies of the latter.

distancing. Yet, instead of being armed with classical spatiotemporal distancing-devices, emancipatory anthropologists, you argue, should be equipped with an alternative epistemology based on what you call reflexive or hermeneutic distance.25 This analysis of different notions of distance is another of your great intellectual contributions, and interestingly you develop this analysis in the direction of a reflexive or hermeneutic theory of coevalness. Your argument is so clear and succinct that I can do no better than reproduce it: Reflexivity asks that we look back and thereby let our experiences come back to us. Reflexivity is based on memory, i.e., on the fact that the location of experience in our past is not irreversible. We have the ability to present (make present) our past experiences to ourselves. More than that, this reflexive ability enables us to be in the presence of others precisely inasmuch as the Other has become content of our experience. This brings us to the conditions of possibility of intersubjective knowledge. Somehow we must be able to share each others past in order to be knowingly in each others present.26 You immediately add that this kind of reflexive distancing is not allochronic, on the contrary: To say that reflexive distance is necessary to achieve objectification does not mean that the Other, by virtue of being located in our past, becomes thinglike, or abstract and general. On the contrary, an ethnographic past can become the most vivid part of our present experience.27 The intellectual field explored here is fascinating. Your analysis reminds of the work of the German historian Reinhart Koselleck. It is one of Kosellecks great merits to have recognized that historical time cannot be reduced to a physical phenomenon, but that it is in its turn subject to historical change. In order to explain changing notions of historical time Koselleck famously introduces the hermeneutical concepts of space of experience [Erfahrungsraum] and horizon of expectation [Erwartungshorizont].28 These concepts, borrowed from anthropological discourse, are perfectly fitting to analyze changing conceptions of time because they have a meta-historical status: all human beings have some experience or memory about what has happened and certain expectations or hope about what will happen.29 Despite or, better, thanks to this high degree of generality, every specific conception of time can be defined by the specific way it interrelates a space of experience and a horizon of
25 26

Fabian, Time and the Other, p. 90. Ibid., p. 92 (italics in the original). 27 Ibid., p. 93. 28 Koselleck R., Vergangene Zukunft. Zur Semantik geschichtlicher Zeiten. Frankfurt am Main, Suhrkamp, 1989. 29 Ibid..


expectation. The tension between the two in their ever-changing patterns offers a phenomenological explanation for the experience of (historical) time. You probably were not yet so familiar with Koselleck when writing Time and the Other, but would you agree that the inclusion of expectation can enrich your analysis?30 Admittedly, it makes your quest for coevalness a little more difficult. But it is compatible with your perspective. In line with Kosellecks analysis, coevalness could be reached by sharing each others space(s) of experience and horizon(s) of expectation. The possibility of intersubjective time would then simply seem to depend on better communication in which people are a little more open about their experiences and expectations and willing to share them. However, one should not become too optimistic. Your account of shared time depends on the idea that one can simply share ones experiences and expectations with an Other, and this idea in its turn depends on the idea that the Self can freely dispose of, access, or make present its own experiences and expectations. Both ideas are problematic for several reasons. First, the idea that we can take possession of our experiences and expectations supposes the metaphysical idea of a Self that exists separately of its experiences and expectations instead of being the sum of these experiences and expectations. This idea contradicts your claim that the Self is constituted by the experience of speaking and hearing others speak. Second, the idea that the Self can gain unmediated access to its own experiences is, once again, as in the case of the reference to sensuous speech, based on an underestimation of the need for signification and representation. You speak about the Selfs capacity to (make) present its own past experiences, but Derrida would argue that this act too compels even the Self to engage in representation. Even the Self has to represent its own experiences in order to take conscious/cognitive possession of them, and this always involves a certain distance (I prefer the term mediation) and signification. In fact, human experiences are in their turn mediated by other (non-coeval) experiences and expectations, and it needs no saying that this leads to an infinite regress which obstructs the practical feasibility of the communicative sharing of experiences and expectations. Even sensuousness cannot gain us unmediated access to our experiences because the sensuous has to be made sense of too. When I catch a black eye it makes a big difference on an experiential level whether I brought it upon myself by running into a door or whether it was done to me by a hostile Other. This difference in

Koselleck is included in the bibliography of Time and the Other but you mention him as a newly discovered author in a later essay. Fabian, Of dogs alive, p. 226.



significance is not reducible to the sensuousness of the black eye; it is negotiated by my Self, the Other (not in the case of the door, of course) and the society that surrounds me. It should not be thought that experiences are first pure presence and only later represented or contaminated with signification. Signification is inherent in experience, and experiences are mediated or represented from the very first moment. The temporality of experiences can hardly ever be reduced to the physical time of their occurrence, and it is a clear sign of the poverty of the historical code of chronology that it cannot recognize this. To give an extreme example: In order for an experience of rape in contrast to ordinary violence to occur, one needs the a priori experience of living in a society that invests (human) sexuality with a special value. Moreover it is characteristic for rape to be typically followed by a-posteriori experiences of shame, humiliation, or trauma. I speak about apriori and a-posteriori experiences for explanatory reasons only; in fact these non-coeval experiences are part of the experience of rape, and it is as distorting to reduce the temporality of this horrific experience to the physical time of its physical occurrence as it would be to reduce its significance to a merely physical dimension. Or to give another, admittedly also extreme, example: it is known that political prisoners or members of political movements (e.g., members of the ANC in South Africa during Apartheid) often better endure torture or extreme hardship in captivity than people who are subjected to this horror for seemingly random reasons because prior training/experience or anticipations/expectations help them to make sense of the injustice done to them. Finally one must take into account that the Self can be constituted by several different spaces of experience and horizons of expectations, so that the Self itself can be non-coeval for example because it has different experiences of temporality in its private and its professional life, or because it combines expectations of an imminent new millennium in the sphere of technology with a profound cultural pessimism and a belief that, generally seen, history always repeats. I list these arguments because I think they show how your defense of coevalness is based on different forms of metaphysics of presence which all, implicitly, reduce coevalness to physical simultaneity or material (co-)existence. You seem to solve the problem of intersubjective coevalness by a problematic reference to a coeval (self-present) subject/Self which can take possession of its experiences as if they were objects with a physical presence. Although the problem is moved from one level to another, coevalness remains problematic. The problem does not start with the sharing of time between coeval Selves but already with the assumed coevalness of these Selves.

Remarkably, you share the metaphysics of presence with the very epistemology which you reject as allochronic. Contrary to what you think, practices such as classical representationalism and visualism do not contradict the idea of presence but are dependent on it. Visualism, though allochronic in its effects, is only convincing as an epistemological device capable of producing objective knowledge of another Self or other cultures and social relations if one presupposes that the latters existence can be reduced to that of self-present physical objects. The classical notion of objective representation similarly presumes a distance between the represented object and its representation, but it is ultimately based on the idea that the represented object itself has, or once had, a full presence. Similarly, anthropologists can only treat the Other as object of knowledge in their writings, because they claim to have been in the Others presence during field research i.e. because they ignore the Others non-self-presence and mistake their relation of physical simultaneity with the Other for a relation of coevalness. Seen from this perspective, thus, there is no contradiction between uses of time in anthropological writing and in ethnographic research. And since there is no contradiction, I do not think coeval field-research can provide an antidote to allochronism. I do not claim that it is absolutely impossible to engage in a coeval relation with Others: a certain hegemonic coevalness or coevalness effect can exist. Only I am convinced neither by your attempt to base coevalness on sensuousness nor by your argument that coevalness can be reached if only people are willing to share experiences (and, I added, expectations).

Totality: Ernst Bloch and Louis Althusser Of course, there is a way to evade the problem of the creation of coevalness as the active sharing of experiences and expectations: in an anti-pluralist or anti-relativist way one could assume the existence of coevalness by denying the existence of (fundamental) cultural, social or historical differences and by positing the universal existence of shared experiences and expectations. I assume this is the logic that underpins your call for the recuperation of the idea of totality. A theory of coevalness, you argue, has to elaborate upon the notion of totality that was developed by Hegel and Marx. Marx, despite the allochronist tendencies of some of his writings, developed a radical presentism a theory about the simultaneity of different historical moments and forces which contained the theoretical possibility for a


negation of allochronic distancing.31 You approvingly quote Louis Althusser, who in his Reading Capital calls for a renewed reflection on the structure of totality.32 At another place in Time and the Other you quote Ernst Bloch, who criticizes cultural relativism for breaking up historical totality. It is on the notions of totality of the latter two thinkers that I now want to focus. It is strange to find Bloch and Althusser in your defense of coevalness without any reference to the theories of non-coevalness each of them developed. Although ultimately striving for totality, Bloch and Althusser, like many other Marxists, first of all problematize totality because of their preoccupation with social fragmentation, antagonism, uneven development, etc.33 Instead of illustrating the presumed absurdity of a denial of coevalness, I argue that Bloch and Althusser on the one hand demonstrate the direction in which a thoroughly emancipatory analysis of the politics of time should proceed and on the other hand illustrate how this analysis can get stuck by positing a primordial or natural coevalness or contemporaneity.

Ernst Bloch Although certainly considering himself a Marxist, the German philosopher Ernst Bloch (18851977) had a rather problematical relation with the orthodox Marxist tradition. Blochs differences with orthodox Marxism mainly revolved around two points: first he rejected its evolutionarist philosophy of history; and second he scorned its simplistic notion of totality. Both criticisms come together in Blochs philosophical concept of

Ungleichzeitigkeit a term which can properly be translated as non-coevalness. Blochs most explicit theoretization of Ungleichzeitigkeit can be found in his Heritage of our Times [Erbschaft dieser Zeit], first published in 1935, in which he provided an analysis of the rise of German fascism that strongly differed from most orthodox Marxist analyses at the time.34 Heritage of our Times, as Anson Rabinbach remarks, is organized around two heterodox questions: first, could it be true that in a country like Germany there exist profound social contradictions in addition to the one between proletarians and bourgeois?35 And, second, could it be said that the Left has facilitated its own defeat by neglecting these
Fabian, Time and the Other, p. 159. Ibid., p. 158. 33 The Marxist preoccupation with social fragmentation was brilliantly analyzed by Alvin Gouldner in his book Against Fragmentation. New York, Oxford University Press, 1985. 34 Bloch E., Heritage of Our Times. Cambridge, Polity Press, 1991. 35 Rabinbach A., Unclaimed Heritage. Ernst Blochs Heritage of Our Times and the Theory of Fascism. In: New German Critique, 11 (1977), pp. 521, 56.
32 31


contradictions and leaving their anti-capitalist force to the fascists? Bloch answers both questions with a whole-hearted yes! According to his analysis, German society in the 1920s and early 1930s was subject to a multitude of social contradictions that constituted a dialectically useful inheritance that was gratefully usurped by fascism but remained unclaimed by Marxism. To understand the rise of fascism, Bloch claimed, it must be recognized that there is such a thing as genuine historical Ungleichzeitigkeit.36 Not all people exist in the same Now, Bloch states, they do so only externally, through the fact that they can be seen today. But they are thereby not yet living at the same time with others.37 Bloch names at least three non-coeval groups in inter-bellum Germany, all attracted to the extreme right. First there is the youth which is not in step with the barren Now, and whose hollow being-young is not entirely present.38 Second there is the peasantry, which still lives and acts almost exactly like their ancestors did centuries ago and economically and ideologically represents an older position.39 A third non-contemporaneous group is that of the impoverished middle class, which is nostalgic about the pre-war period when it was better off. The revolutionary nostalgia of this group, Bloch complains, places figures in the midst of the city which have not been seen for centuries. While some of the features described above could be called mere backwardness or false Ungleichzeitigkeit, Bloch argues that attention must be paid to real Ungleichzeitigkeit. To understand why Ungleichzeitigkeit can be so politically explosive it must be understood that there are in fact two kinds of Ungleichzeitigkeit: an objective and a subjective one. Objective Ungleichzeitigkeit refers to the remnants of earlier times or sub- and superstructures that survive in the present.40 Subjective Ungleichzeitigkeit, in contrast, refers to a non-desire for the Now that can turn into embitterment and rage. This subjective rage can be especially explosive if it meets objectively non-contemporaneous contradictions. Bloch therefore launches a call to recognize these non-coeval contradictions and mobilize them against capitalism and fascism.41 Therefore the simplistic Marxist notion of dialectics has to be replaced by a multi-layered or polyrhythmic dialectics that recognizes the fact that aspects of the past can survive into the present.

Louis Althusser
36 37

Bloch, Heritage of Our Times, p. 62 (italics in the original). Ibid., p. 97. 38 Ibid., p. 99. 39 Ibid., p. 101. 40 Ibid., p. 106. 41 Ibid., p. 113.


It would be hard to think of any Marxist intellectual more of an opposite to Ernst Bloch in style and thought than Louis Althusser (19181990). However, just like Bloch, Althusser criticized simplistic notions of dialectics and reductionist notions of social totality which he similarly related to notions of time. Hegels concept of time is the main object of Althussers critique. Hegelian time has two essential characteristics: its homogeneous continuity and its contemporaneity, which underlies the notion of a historical present.42 The second aspect is the most fundamental and functions as a condition of possibility for the first one. The notion of the contemporaneity of time, according to Althusser, is rooted in a metaphysical freezing of the temporal continuum. This intellectual operation, where one makes a vertical incision at a moment in time to reveal a historical present, he calls an essential section [coupe dessence]. Althusser remarks that this essential section is only thinkable in combination with a specific conception of social totality one in which all the elements of the whole are given in a copresence []43 and that as such it is highly ideological. The ideological character of Hegels concept of time worries Althusser mostly because Hegel borrowed it from a vulgar empiricism that still underlies the practice of most historians and social scientists. A clear example can be found in the widespread distinction between the synchronic and the diachronic. Since a truly Marxist conception of totality should not be confused with the Hegelian spiritual whole, so too, according to Althusser, a Marxist notion of time should be distinguished from the Hegelian one. In line with what Althusser calls overdetermination,44 Marxist totality is a complex structured whole, which is made up of relatively autonomous levels and cannot be reduced to the primacy of a centre. This has important theoretical consequences. Most important, the structured totality can no longer be grasped with the commonsensical notions of a historical present or contemporaneity. In fact, Althusser radically breaks with the notion of a singular time, and instead posits a plurality of times: [] it is no longer possible to think the process of the development of the different levels of the whole in the same historical time. Each of these different levels does not have the same type of historical existence. On the contrary, we have to assign to each level a peculiar time, relatively autonomous and hence relatively independent, even in its dependence, of the times of other levels. [] for each mode of production there is a peculiar time and history []
42 43

Althusser L. & Balibar E., Reading Capital. London, Verso, 1979, p. 94. Ibid., p. 94 (italics in the original). 44 Althusser L., For Marx. London, NLB, 1977, p. 101. Althusser borrowed this notion from Freud.


philosophy has its own time and history; aesthetic productions have their own time and history; scientific formations have their own time and history, etc.45 Here then, we are confronted with a radical critique of contemporaneity/coevalness. When it comes to his theoretical critique, Althusser is well aware of potential pitfalls. Once one rejects the ideological model of time, he explains, it is important not to substitute another one for it. One has to resist the temptation to relate the plurality of different times to a single ideological base time or reference time. According to Althusser, this is exactly what went wrong with the chronosophic reflections of some of the Annales-historians Lucien Febvre, Ernest Labrousse, and most notably Fernand Braudel. They correctly observed that there are different times in history, but they were tempted to relate these varieties, as so many variants measurable by their duration, to ordinary time itself, to the ideological time continuum we have discussed.46 If a reference time is reintroduced it soon becomes irresistible to treat the dislocation of different times as forms of backwardness or forwardness in time.47 Regrettably, Althussers own philosophy is not without ambiguities on this very issue. Despite his stress on the plurality of times, Althusser claims that these times are only relatively autonomous after all, and that their co-existence is fixed in the last instance by the level of economy.48 As Martin Jay explains, this strange philosophical move should be interpreted as an attempt to head off charges of non-Marxist pluralism.49 But even despite the fact that he immediately adds that the lonely hour of the last instance never comes,50 Althussers relapse into economic determinism raises serious questions about the consistency of his chronosophy. If there is such thing as a centre to the social whole after all, how then to fence off the reintroduction of a reference time that measures all temporal dislocations in terms of forwardness or backwardness? The same problem arises in the work of Bloch. Bloch too, despite his rhetoric about polyrhythmic dialectics, cannot resist the reductionist seduction. Despite his recognition that many social antagonisms function alongside the one between proletarians and bourgeois, the weight of the former antagonisms, for Bloch, can never equal that of the latter one. The

Althusser & Balibar, Reading Capital, p. 101 (italics in the original). Ibid., p. 96 (italics in the original). 47 Ibid., p. 105 (italics in the original). 48 Ibid. 49 Jay M., Marxism and Totality. The Adventures of a Concept from Lukcs to Habermas. Cambridge, Polity Press, 1984, p. 407. Actually this accusation of subverting the Marxist notion of totality was formulated against Althusser by E.P. Thompson in The Poverty of Theory (London, Merlin, 1978, p. 289). 50 Althusser, For Marx, p. 113.



remnants of reductionist political ontology are clearly reflected in Blochs chronosophy, which, except for objective and subjective Ungleichzeitigkeit, also includes the categories of objective and subjective Gleichzeitigkeit. Non-contemporaneous contradictions have an important revolutionary force, Bloch writes, but the subjectively non-contemporaneous contradiction would never be so sharp, nor the objectively non-contemporaneous one so visible, if an objectively contemporaneous one did not exist, namely that posited and growing in and with modern capitalism itself.51 On the basis of this notion of the objectively contemporaneous, Bloch is able to claim that Communist language is in fact totally contemporaneous and precisely orientated to the most advanced economy.52 Despite Blochs own warnings not to confuse Ungleichzeitigkeit with mere backwardness, it is hard to ignore that this is the main association in the last instance. In other words, it is not the denial of coevalness in itself, but its subordination to a referential coevalness that produces the tendency toward allochronism that is undeniable in Blochs work.

Another notion of Totality: Gramsci, hegemony and the coevalness effect But what about the threat of irreducible pluralism or relativism that you posit in Time and the Other and that was so much clearly also feared by Bloch and Althusser? As I already mentioned, I believe a solution can be found Antonio Gramscis non-reductionist notion of a politically constituted totality or, better, in the radicalized reading of this notion by Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe. Instead of seeing only temporal differences or non-coevalness, I believe that a particular coevalness or historical present can exist but as the outcome of hegemonic struggle rather than as primordial realities. Since hegemonic coevalness results from political processes and since as such it can always be contested, it is never complete; it should always be conceived as a coevalness effect. In fact two notions of totality can be found in Gramscis work. On the one hand Gramsci held an idealist view of totality which had all the characteristics of the expressive totality that Althusser denounced as thoroughly Hegelian. On the other hand, however, Gramsci also developed a non-idealist, open-ended, decentred and constituted notion of totality which underpins his theory of hegemony.53 As Laclau and Mouffe show, Gramsci developed his theory in reaction to orthodox Marxist belief in economic laws that would

51 52

Bloch, Heritage of Our Times, p. 109 (italics in the original). Ibid., p. 105. 53 Jay, Marxism and Totality, p. 156.


spontaneously bring the proletarian revolution.54 Gramsci argued that this revolution had to be created by political initiative and that this initiative could not be taken by a single class but had to be supported by a hegemonic alliance of classes.55 Although Gramsci himself remains ontologically committed to Class, Laclau and Mouffe claim that the stress on political initiative and alliance can help purge the remnants of economic determinism from the Marxist notion of holism. In the latters post-structuralist hands, totality is rendered into a constituted or articulated reality which can never become universal but does have universalizing effects. Laclau and Mouffe use many different terms for their totality they write about signified totality, discursive totality, contaminated universality, or political

universality but despite the fact that it always remains incomplete, they stress that it is real. This is important because this real totality-effect distinguishes their perspective from that of pluralism or relativism in which particularities are merely added up without any mediation between them being thinkable as in some forms of post-modernism.56 That there always exist universalizing effects within the realm of the social is due to the fact that even the most radical logic of difference eventually makes possible a logic of equivalence. The logic of difference can provoke antagonistic relations or frontier effects in which the internal differences between Others are reduced by a common reference to an Us. However, the logic of equivalence can never become universal, because in that case there would be no Other left to reduce our internal differences, so that the logic of difference would promptly return.57 As far as I know, neither Gramsci nor Laclau and Mouffe have elaborated their theories in the direction of an analysis of the politics of time, but it should be clear that this can be done relatively easily. In analogy with Laclau and Mouffes concept of totality one should conceive of coevalness as a reality that is politically constituted or discursively articulated. Similarly it should be recognized that hegemonic coevalness can never become universal. Coevalness is always constructed through a reference to a non-coeval Other. There

Laclau E & Mouffe Ch., Hegemony and Socialist Strategy. Toward a Radical Democratic Politics. London, Verso, 2001. Also see: Butler J., Laclau E., & Zizek S., Contingency, Hegemony, Universality. London, Verso, 2000. 55 Interestingly, Gramsci stresses the importance of communication and the creation of a speech community for the creation of hegemonic alliances. See: Gramsci A., Hoare Q., & Smith G. N., Selections from the prison notebooks of Antonio Gramsci. New York, International Publishers, 1971. 56 Laclau & Mouffe, Hegemony and socialist strategy, p. x. 57 I cannot enter at length into these logics here, but Laclau and Mouffe provide the following illustration: In a colonized country, the presence of the dominant power is every day made evident through a variety of contents: differences of dress, of language, of skin colour, of customs. Since each of these contents is equivalent to the others in terms of their common differentiation from the colonized people [] the differences cancel one other out insofar as they are used to express something identical underlying them all Ibid., p. 127.



is no coeval West without a non-coeval Rest. A universal coevalness would simply make no sense, it would be insignificant. A certain level of antagonism is a condition for coevalness. Instead of reflecting an equal power relationship and the absence of dominance, coevalness depends upon hegemonic concentration of power. Here I would like to repeat a disclaimer formulated by Laclau and Mouffe: to say that a particular reality has a discursive character is certainly not to say that it has no material dimension. Hegemonic coevalness is anchored in material life and produces material effects. However, it is important to clarify this link. Laclau and Mouffe explain that one will never grasp the process of social articulation if one reduces society to an ensemble of physically existing agents who live within a given territory.58 The same can be said about hegemonic coevalness. While relations of coevalness and non-coevalness cannot be grasped in purely materialist or physicalist terms, they are, of course, not incompatible with these terms. For example, I certainly do not plead for the abolition of the code of chronology because it is based on physical simultaneity. Chronology has taken a long time to develop and is an important analytical tool, but it offers a poor perspective on phenomena such as (non)coevalness. The preoccupation with chronology restrains us in perceiving the political in the politics of time. Positing the natural or undeniable character of coevalness has the same depoliticizing effect. Let me, by way of conclusion, explain why non-coevalness offers a better starting point.

Against Coevalness, against allochronism, for a politics of time Toward the conclusion of Time and the Other you pose the question whether there are criteria by which to distinguish denial of coevalness as a condition of domination from refusals of coevalness as an act of liberation.59 I do not think such criteria can be found. Moreover it would be senseless to attempt to measure whether the denial of coevalness has historically more often led to allochronist abuse or to emancipatory use: endless anecdotal proofs can be piled up in favor of both theses. In my PhD research in which I studied the politics of time in transitional justice, I found ample examples of both phenomena. While studying the Truth and Reconciliation Commissions (TRCs) of South Africa and Sierra Leone, I gratefully used your concept of allochronism to describe the way in which rancorous victims and uncooperative perpetrators are sometimes treated as remnants of

58 59

Ibid., p. 126. Fabian, Time and the Other, p. 154.


a moribund past and rhetorically pushed out of the hegemonic present.60 Studying the Argentine Madres de Plaza de Mayo, in contrast, I encountered a discourse that for politically strategic reasons stresses non-coevalness. Closer to home, a colleague and I analyzed how radical Flemish nationalists use a political symbolism of non-coevalness to contest the time of the Belgian nation making use of strategies as diverse as the development of alternative rituals of mourning, the creation of a calendar with alternative holidays, the option for a 1930s-style sartorial code, and the use of archaic dialects.61 However, as became clear in the cases of Bloch and Althusser, allochronism can only be effected if a stress on the non-coevalness of the Other is combined with the positing of a seemingly undeniable referential coevalness. Only from the perspective of such a coevalness can difference be translated in terms of spatiotemporal backwardness or forwardness. Saying that an Other lives in another time or historical dimension is in itself not ideological: this effect comes into being when one claims the Other lives an earlier phase of our own history/time. The ideological effect of the discourses of the TRCs of South Africa and Sierra Leone, for example, is not situated in their stress on the non-coevalness of some of the perpetrators, victims, and survivors which is even potentially emancipatory but in the way they translate this non-coevalness into pathological backwardness by contrasting it to the referential coevalness of a new South Africa or new Sierra Leone. Therefore, the best way to dismantle allochronism is to embrace the idea of noncoevalness. Instead of attacking non-coevalness, one must deconstruct referential coevalness. Of course, one should not go so far as to say that coevalness is unreal; rather, it should be pointed out that it is not natural or primordial but results from hegemonic articulation. Taking non-coevalness as a starting point for an analysis of the politics of time has some great advantages. First, it grants the politics of time a much more political character than it is granted in your account. It shows not only the political character of the allochronist version of the denial of coevalness, but also renders the so called recognition of coevalness political by stressing its constituted nature. Second, it does not compel us to treat people who stress their own non-coevalness for emancipatory political reasons, as if they were living in denial or as pathologically out of touch with reality.

Bevernage B., History, Memory, and State-Sponsored Violence. Time and Justice. New York, Routledge (Forthcoming; expected for 2011). Also see: Bevernage B., Writing the past out of the present. History and Politics of Time in Transitional Justice. In: History Workshop Journal, 69 (2010), pp. 112131. 61 Bevernage B. & Aerts K., Haunting Pasts: time and historicity as constructed by the Argentine Madres de Plaza de Mayo and radical Flemish nationalists. In: Social History, 34 (2009), 4, pp. 391408.



Let me give a more elaborate example to illustrate the advantage of the proposed perspective. I became convinced that your perspective does not work when I had to translate an official letter for an Ethiopian-born refugee applying for political asylum in Belgium. The letter stated that this asylum was denied and requested the young woman to declare that she would voluntarily leave the country within a very short term. There was no way she was going to do this, returning to Ethiopia was simply no option. There she was, a fresh-born illegal in the fortress of Europe, still on Belgian territory, but no longer part of its system. I asked her what she planned to do now. I could have guessed the answer: since several years she scrupulously guards herself from making plans for a future further off than a few days, because thinking about that gives her great stress and headaches. I wanted to comfort her by saying that my family and I would make sure that all would be ok, but I realized that saying that would be a plain lie. Of course, we could materially support her, but what really matters is not ours to give. She is denied a horizon of expectation and forced to live in a constant state of provisionality that is what the Belgian state is doing to her and what I feel incapable of changing. It struck me how much her situation differs from mine. Though we are physically simultaneous, I felt that we are non-coeval. This non-coevalness is not only, or even primarily, due to our different spaces of experiences but rather to the radically different expectations that I am allowed to have. None of the plans that I make can be applied to her situation: she cannot reasonably expect to get a degree that grants her a reasonable job until she grows old and receives a state pension, neither can she expect to receive anything more than the most basic medical care if something goes wrong. Do I engage in an oppressive form of allochronism by denying our coevalness? I do not think so. On the contrary, stressing non-coevalness enables me to understand some of the complex reality in which many illegal refugees and migrants are living. Nations, it became clear to me, construct hegemonic coevalness by excluding a whole lot of non-coeval people, and the appropriate reaction to this practice is not situated in a denial of this non-coevalness but, rather, in endlessly reminding the coeval nation about the non-coevalness at its core.

Epilogue Let me finally make some remarks on the direction which the analysis of the politics of time should head for and raise some of the questions I think it should try to answer. As I already stressed, the notion of allochronism is indispensible for the analysis of the politics of time. Yet, as a historian, I think it is badly in need of historization. Elaborating on Koselleck, the French historian Franois Hartog claims that temporal orientations, even within one society

or culture, change throughout history. Within Western history, for example, Hartog claims, dominant temporal orientations changed around the end of the 18th century from a traditional normative orientation on the past into a modernist orientation on the future and, more recently, around 1989, into a post-modernist orientation on the present. In order to describe these changes Hartog coins the term rgimes dhistoricit.62 I am skeptical about Hartogs often crude interpretations of these regimes of historicity and their interrelation, but Hartog is right when he claims that the notions of past, present, and future (and other related temporal concepts) can get different normative values within different regimes of historicity. In the modern regime of historicity, for example, the past is typically associated with being pass (as if being out of fashion), while in some other regimes of historicity, the past, as Mircea Eliade famously claimed, is approached as a sacred thing that must be ritually repeated ad infinitum.63 It should be clear that allochronism, for its ideological effects, depends on these different normative investments related to different regimes of historicity. Without knowing that they take place in a modernist regime of historicity in which the future is greatly valued, one can, for example, make no sense of the popular Italian stories of Giovanni Guareschi in which the Catholic priest Don Camillo and the communist mayor Peppone compete to put the clocks in the church tower and the bell-tower of the city hall in advance of each other. Furthermore one should ask whether the practice of spatiotemporal distancing is unique for the discipline of anthropology or whether it can also be found in the discipline of history. I believe it can, but perceiving this is hard because the notion of temporal distance is even more fundamental, and thus even harder to question, for historiography than it is for anthropology. To understand the performative and political dimension of historical allochronism, one needs a concept of the coevalness or at least contemporaneity of past and present the idea of a contemporaneity/coevalness of the (physically) nonsimultaneous.64 Such a concept is needed because it can help historians cope with the oftenheard claims by victims of historical injustices that the past retains a living presence in the present. You seem open to this idea when you approvingly refer to the radical presentism of thinkers such as Hegel and Marx who posited the contemporaneity of different historical forces and moments into the historical present. Yet I am afraid that you underestimate the great intellectual difference between posting the coevalness of the (physically) simultaneous
62 63

Hartog F., Rgimes Dhistoricit. Prsentisme et Expriences du Temps. Paris, Seuil, 2003. Eliade M., The Myth of the Eternal Return. New York, Bollingen Foundation, 1954. Also see: Gauchet M., Le dsenchantement du monde. Paris, Gallimard, 1985. 64 I have doubts about using the term coevalness here because the concept in this context cannot be used in your interpretation, since that interpretation presupposes the dependency on physical simultaneity.


and the coevalness of the (physically) non-simultaneous. For you these ideas seem natural allies, for me they stand in fundamental contradiction: the coevalness of the nonsimultaneous and thus the ambiguous presence of the past can only be conceived if one first deconstructs the seemingly undeniable coevalness of the simultaneous the self-presence of the historical present.65


I defend this argument in: Bevernage B., Time, presence, and historical injustice. In: History and Theory, 47 (2008), pp. 149167.