Out of Time, or Anderson's National Temporality Revisited

  • Torgeir Fjeld Université Paul Valéry - Montpellier 3, France


In his influential study Imagined Communities, Benedict Anderson makes the claim that a novel conception of time is inaugurated by the introduction of nations: in contrast to the agrarian sense of time as cyclical and characterised by recurrence, the time of the nation is linear, homogeneous and empty. This notion of temporality is drawn from an earlier work by Walter Benjamin, who posits the linearity of traditional historiography with what he refers to as Messianic time, which is to be understood as a temporality where the moment of redemption is an ever-present potentiality. This essay sets out to delineate these three notions of time, and then goes on to discuss this third temporality in greater detail. First, it can be considered as a psychological time, or a mind time, that governed by traumatic encounters. This sense is shown as a strictly logical time in the work of Jacques Lacan. Second, it is a time of grace, in the sense that it is governed by necessity. Blaise Pascal and the Jansenists went to great length to refute the dominant notion of grace as sufficient. If there is an instance that determines events, then the means by which this instance governs can only be a necessary cause. Finally, the work of Benedict Anderson, and particularly a later article in his corpus, is reconsidered. Here, Anderson argues that the effects of globalization have to some extent rendered the temporal linearity of nationalism obsolete. It is therefore apt to consider what a time after nationalism will be like.


February 15, 2016
How to Cite
Fjeld, T. (2016). Out of Time, or Anderson’s National Temporality Revisited. Networking Knowledge: Journal of the MeCCSA Postgraduate Network, 9(1). https://doi.org/10.31165/nk.2016.91.415