Keeping Pace with Global Times

  • Paul Huebener (Editor), Susie O'Brien (Editor), Tony Porter (Editor) and Liam Stockdale (Editor)
    Time, Globalization and Human Experience: Interdisciplinary Explorations. Routledge (purchase at
Reviewed by Tania Aguila-Way

This volume marks a new direction in the field of globalization studies, which, as noted by the editors, has been slow to address the temporal dimensions of the “time-space compression” that geographer David Harvey famously ascribed to the global back in the 1990s. The collection addresses this gap by drawing on multiple disciplines to grapple with the “contested notions of time and speed” that accompany the global. Subjects under discussion include the relationship between time, political sovereignty, and political critique; the temporalities of global capital, pre-emptive security, and petroculture; the global spread of infectious diseases; and the tension between official timekeeping and the material realities of lived time.

Despite their diversity of subject matter, the chapters share an interest not just in identifying the many ways in which globalization hegemonizes our experience of time, but also in asking how the very contradictions that pervade global capitalism can create unexpected openings for the creation of “more socially just and sustainable futures.” Robert Hassan’s chapter on “temporal sovereignty” locates this potential in the contradictions inherent to “accelerated” networked time, which is modelled on computer networking, but involves participation by human actors who can never be fully in sync with their technological counterparts. For Hassan, this tension emphasizes that “time is human before it is technological,” and thus requires “political recognition . . . as a human right.” Wayne Hope’s chapter on worker exploitation sees opportunities for transnational networks of “labour resistance” in the time-sensitive structures of global supply chains, which require collaboration across workforces in multiple time zones. In their chapter on the SARS crisis, Yanqiu Rachel Zhou and William D. Coleman explore how the time-space compression that enabled the rapid spread of SARS across the globe also facilitated the development of an effective transnational infrastructure for combatting infectious disease threats. Other contributors see a democratizing potential in the tension between officially imposed temporalities and the “material rhythms” of the environment and the human body. In his chapter examining the workings of global time standards, Kevin K. Birth concludes that official timekeeping depends on an assumption of “temporal uniformity” that belies the complex relationship between the Earth’s rotation and the circadian cycles of the human body. Adam Barrows’ chapter addresses this complexity by theorizing globalized time as a “perpetual negotiation” between “larger global cycles and smaller idiosyncratic local rhythms.”

For readers looking for direct applications to literary studies, several chapters stress the importance of the narrative imagination as a key terrain for negotiating the conflicting temporalities involved in globalization. Simon Orpana’s chapter analyzing the sci-fi film Looper illustrates how cultural texts can reinforce dominant temporalities by limiting our capacity to imagine “present and future” alternatives to the status quo, while Liam Stockdale examines how the practice of pre-emptive security relies on the speculative imagination to govern a future that remains “unknowable.” Brent Ryan Bellamy asks how the narrative resources of science fiction might be used to disrupt the “endless, oil-infused present” envisioned by petroculture, while Petra Rethmann argues that finding alternatives to “neoliberal life” requires replacing linear conceptions of time with a “utopian imagination” that “sees time as contingent.”

All in all, this wide-ranging collection illuminates the social, political, and environmental stakes involved in thinking about the relationship between time and globalization, providing a useful starting point for scholars interested in examining how the timescapes of Canadian literature and culture interact with the timescapes of the global.

This review “Keeping Pace with Global Times” originally appeared in Eclectic Mix Spec. issue of Canadian Literature 234 (Autumn 2017): 162-163.

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