On February 27, OLA held an in-person event as part of its program “2084: Imagined Futures from the South”. The keynote speaker was Carmen Ibañez Cueto, an interdisciplinary social scientist from Bolivia currently teaching at the Freie Universität in Berlin. The title of her presentation was “Colonized Temporalities”. The commentator for the event was Ann Stoler, Willy Brandt Distinguished Professor of Anthropology and Historical Studies at the New School for Social Research. The event was moderated by Juan Manuel González, Senior Fellow at OLA, who gave a brief introduction of the Program 2084, its objectives and operation, at the beginning. Michael Cohen, co-director of OLA, gave the opening and closing remarks of the event.

Watch the video

Professor Ibañez started off by mentioning how many historical accounts of the Spanish conquest of the Americas depict this as the clash of different cultures. Her aim in the presentation was to further deepen this characterization by using as entry point the matter of temporalities, looking specifically at the high Andean region of South America. She argued that this contact between colonizers and colonized, in this case Aymara and Quechua peoples, brought together two forms of conceiving time that were very different. The result of this encounter was what she calls a chrono-structural mismatch, with important consequences that should be unveiled and understood.

Time for the Indians mentioned above is conceived as a moving spiral, whereas the Spanish introduced a linear and progressive notion of time. In the first case, the future is a continuous return to the past, for the second, the future is a continuous breaking with and overcoming the past. In the account of the first meeting between Atahualpa and Francisco Pizarro, it is said that the Indian leader told the Spanish that they had already seen the coming of the white people in the past, and that they had been expecting them. These different temporal imaginaries brought forth a challenging situation: a hybrid coexistence of temporalities in which colonizers sought to domesticate the notion and experience of time of the colonized, and the latter resisted the imposition of the Spanish imaginary.

Professor Ibañez also talked about how history is written, depicted, and taught in Western educational systems. How the stories of the so-called “defeated” have been left out, presenting histories full of absences and silences. Just recently, the “others” have been gradually introduced into the historical accounts, but problematically. They are being added, but without engaging with why they were silenced in the first place, and without adequately accounting for their voices. In this line, Ibañez is currently working with archives that contain documents and material objects of Indians during the colonial period, painstakingly translating them in an effort to put together some of their stories.

Professor Stoler’s comments covered several points: she mentioned her agreement with a non-linear idea of time and suggested Foucault and his genealogical approach as a way to think and unveil the multiple splinters of time. Related to that, she mentioned that she teaches a course called “Grammars of Time”, which discusses the multiple temporalities in social life, and how people experience and manipulate time. Professor Stoler talked about some authors who have discussed how the past has been silenced in different ways, how different kinds of knowledge have been dismissed, and how some things, processes or events have been refused to be considered as part of the past. She agreed with the problematic nature of how the histories of “others” are being incorporated into historical accounts, briefly putting forth her critiques of subaltern, decolonial and post-colonial studies.

Following these presentations, the audience had the opportunity to ask questions and make comments. This gave way to a lively conversation between several people of the audience and Professor Ibañez regarding topics of identity creation and loss, the problematic nature of archives, power relations behind the encounters of languages, and questions about letters she found and is translating written by Quechua women in the 18th century.

Tags: , , , , , , ,