ERRANS, in Time

ICI Fellowships for 2016-18


The ICI Berlin announces ten post-doctoral fellowships for the Academic Years 2016-18

Conceptions of time and varied modes of temporal experience seem more at odds now than ever. Hamlet’s hunch – that ‘the time is out of joint’ – has turned into an evergreen of critical discourse. Admittedly, ideas of physical, social, revolutionary time, internal time consciousness, or historical experience are far from settled in their respective discourses and practices. Yet attempts to harmonize or correlate the understanding of time and temporal phenomena generated in different disciplines all-too quickly – and largely with violent effect – resort to normative, if not teleological ideas of progress, efficiency, narrative sense-making, or experiential plenitude.

The rich traditions of critical thinking about time that challenge such normative ideas can, however, appear complicit with the new temporal regimes of capitalism. For example, they are marked by the increase of flexitime in the workplace, celebrations of discontinued employment, even obsolescence as ‘reinventions of the self’. Additionally, the fact that the time of cyclical crises proper to capitalism has been rendered opaque by the proliferation of hedging and speculating on ‘futures’ or that high-frequency trade algorithms enable transactions at posthuman speeds. With acceleration having reached the point of evoking no longer progress but ideas of a ‘frenetic standstill’ (Virilio, Rosa) or the end of history, it would indeed seem that radical opposition to a particular temporal mode – such as linearly progressing time – is neither sufficient nor necessary, but, rather, risks proving counter-productive.

In this second instalment of the Core Project ERRANS, we ask whether the heterogeneous relations between discordant conceptions of time and temporality can be understood as being ‘erratically’ structured, that is, as marked by inherent misapprehensions, a dissonance that defies regulation, and an unexpected variability. For example, boredom or suspense challenges our confidence in the homogeneity of the flow of time; for Fanon, decolonial struggle creates a new human being, but can only do so by reworking the entire past from its very beginning; involuntary memory undermines the supposedly cumulative experience of time throughout a lifetime; Kristeva’s notion of ‘women’s time’ and queer temporalities reveal the (hetero)normative investments in the naturalized time of reproduction; psychotic experiences of homogeneous time unsettle our confidence that linear time is intelligible at all, as do the divergent modifications of Newtonian time by statistical, relativistic, and quantum mechanics; and the explosive potential of temporal standstill undoes the dynamist model for ‘revolution’ inherited from premodern theories of planetary motion.

The different temporal forms of erring provide a possible point of departure. Thus, Homer’s Odyssey juxtaposes its hero’s classical errantry – frequently seen as anticipating bourgeois, enlightened, or capitalist subjectivity – with the errant ruse of Penelope’s nocturnal unravelling of the burial shroud she is weaving during the day. These modes of erring also need to be considered as gendered, as one could argue for many temporal categories. Penelope’s gesture presents a paradigm for radical, that is, ‘wilful’ resistance to the narrative strongholds on temporal experience and, by extension, to the dictates of the exploitation of labour time that only intensified with the creation of inactive leisure or ‘down’ time. Penelope’s unravelling, hence, is akin to the radically negative temporalities experienced in melancholia, obsessive-compulsive disorders, lethargy, or traumatic rupture, ultimately raising the possibility of an ‘empty’ or even ‘dead’ time. Similarly, neither the time that can only be killed nor the time buckling before the deadline, neither the crawl of monotony or tedium nor the unlimited expandability of imminence can be discounted as mere limit cases or pathological experiences, but would have to be taken seriously as errant misalignments of irreconcilable aspects of time.

A radical discordance of Euro-American time becomes most blatantly manifest in what Johannes Fabian has termed ‘the schizogenic use of time’ by well-intentioned anthropologists: interacting with indigenous peoples in one time and writing about them in another, they perpetuate a systematic temporal relegation that in colonial regimes was based on assumptions about non-Western peoples living outside of time and needing to be brought up to date or ‘civilized’. These vast lingering temporal injustices, but also the most modest temporal complications of affective experience remain linked to the peculiar afterlife of history – past the closed gardens of salvation and redemption, past (post-)Hegelian mobilizations, past other narrative closures. Much recent work on the temporal structures and textures of the everyday – changing dramatically in a media culture going ‘live’ 24/7 –, the monotonous, boredom, but also the event, trauma, catastrophe, or end, draws its power from a confrontation with the frames of history, enlarged, crooked, manipulated, or broken as they may be.

We welcome contributions from a wide variety of fields and disciplines, pertaining, for example, to:

  • Incompatible temporalities conjured up in aesthetic conceptions of vitality and vitalist legacies of the life sciences
  • Decolonizing metropolitan time, both questioning claims of belatedness at the periphery, and embracing indigenous epistemologies of time
  • A queer cultivation of nostalgia, complicating the relation to futurity
  • The relation of physics and philosophy regarding the complementarity of being and becoming, reversibility and irreversibility, or the entanglement of past, present, and future
  • The paradoxical mobilization and political value of an aesthetics of untimeliness
  • Media-specific temporalities in the constitution of the archive
  • The shifting valences of age and ageing beyond a teleology of deathbound decline
  • Temporal antinomies and narratological deviations in literature and other media
  • Controversies in psychoanalysis and theories of cultural memory revolving around the concept of belatedness/retroaction (Nachträglichkeit)
  • The importance of anachronism as a critical category but also as a deliberate strategy
  • Fashion as an ambivalent model of disjunctive temporalities
  • Ideas of survival, afterlife, and revenants beyond standard conceptions of tradition or genealogy


The ICI Berlin invites scholars from all disciplines to engage in a joint exploration of ERRANS, in Time. We especially welcome applications from individuals who will contribute to diversity and equal opportunity in scholarly research.

The committed exchange between fellows is a central aim of the Institute. Applicants should be interested in a theoretical reflection upon the conceptual and intellectual basis of their projects and in discussing it with fellows from other disciplines. In particular, fellows will be expected to participate in the weekly colloquia, bi-weekly informal meetings, and other activities of the Institute, to contribute to a common publication, and to be resident in Berlin for the duration of the fellowship.

The fellowships announced are for the academic years 2016-18 (12 September 2016 – 13 July 2018). There is no age limit, but applicants should have obtained their PhD within ten years of the date of appointment or have fulfilled all requirements for receiving their PhD by 1 July 2016. Stipends range from EUR 1800 to 2000 per month. 

Interested applicants should read also the description of the Core Project ERRANS and follow the application instructions.

Application deadline: 6 January 2016