Temporal topologies

CC w/ stanislawski

  • pre-enlightenment = future is descent from ancient ideal state (\)
  • post-enlightenment = future is ascendant progress from ancient primitive state (/)

via Mircea Eliade, historian

tl;dr: Since historical events are by definition unpredictable, it seemed more scientific to study those phenomena one could in fact predict: the things that kept happening, over and over, in roughly the same way. In a Senegalese or Burmese village this might mean describing the daily round, seasonal cycles, rites of passage, patterns of dynastic succession, or the growing and splitting of villages, always emphasizing how the same structure ultimately endured. Anthropologists wrote this way because they considered themselves scientists (‘structural-functionalists’, in the jargon of the day). In doing so they made it much easier for those reading their descriptions to imagine that the people being studied were quite the opposite of scientists: that they were trapped in a mythological universe where nothing changed and very little really happened. When Mircea Eliade, the great Romanian historian of religion, proposed that ‘traditional’ societies lived in ‘cyclical time’, innocent of history, he was simply drawing the obvious conclusion. As a matter of fact, he went even further.

In traditional societies, according to Eliade, everything important has already happened. All the great founding gestures go back to mythic times, the illo tempore,1 the dawn of everything, when animals could talk or turn into humans, sky and earth were not yet separated, and it was possible to create genuinely new things (marriage, or cooking, or war). [...] The alternative notion, that history is actually going somewhere (the Last Days, Judgment, Redemption), is what Eliade referred to as ‘linear time’, in which historical events take on significance in relation to the future, not just the past.

dawn-of-everythingch. 12


enlightenment, as justification for colonialism—history is continuous upward sweep (as opposed to empires that came before which asserted an unchanging, eternal ideal)

Certes, au cours du siècle suivant, elle a connu un succès remarquable. Mais cela a créé une foule de contradictions : par exemple, le fait particulier que les empires coloniaux européens, contrairement à presque n’importe quel autre empire dans l’histoire du monde, ont été forcés de prétendre qu’ils n’étaient pas des arrangements éternels, mais des moyens temporaires pour accélérer la marche vers la civilisation de leurs sujets - au moins ceux que, contrairement aux Wendats, ils n’ont guère fait disparaître de la carte.


certain indigenous cultures

eternal return, time is a circle (O)


sagesse-kandiaronk Graeber, David, and David Wengrow. 2019. “La Sagesse De Kandiaronk: La Critique Indigène, Le Mythe Du Progrès Et La Naissance De La Gauche”. Revue Du MAUSS Permanente. [link] ↩︎ 1

dawn-of-everything Graeber, David, and David Wengrow. 2021. The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity. Signal. ↩︎ 1