Urban Co-Temporality: Historical and Theoretical approaches

Urban Co-Temporality: Historical and Theoretical approaches

DFG Centre for Advanced Studies in Humanities and Social Sciences “Religion and Urbanity: Reciprocal Formations” (FOR 2779); RaumZeit Forschung
Fand statt
In Präsenz
Vom - Bis
21.02.2024 - 23.02.2024
Zahra Naghshband, Max Weber Kolleg, Universität Erfurt

In the pursuit of an analytical framework to unravel the intricacies of urban life concerning asynchronicity, temporal regimes, and conflicting rhythms, scholars across various disciplines share a common concern. The conference introduces the concept of co-temporality as a novel analytical term to comprehend the complexity of "time" in urban life.

Methodologically, co-temporality can be viewed as the maker of urbanity, as SUSANNE RAU (Erfurt) explained in her introductory speech. Rau presented two theses on temporality in the "accelerated world". Firstly, she emphasized the inseparability of the measurement and perception of time from the perception of space, asserting that temporalities are typically localized. Secondly, she argued that acceleration arises from the overlay of different times, making co-temporality the convergence of various rhythms in space. Following her, AARON FRENCH (Erfurt) offered a concise introduction to the concept of co-temporality as a related idea to co-spatiality by Jacques Lévy. He suggested that time is a social construct and, therefore, multiple. Moreover, in urbanized spaces, different temporal regimes can coexist simultaneously, especially in global modernity.

The primary theme of the first panel revolved around Urban Rhythm, initiated by ROBIN CHANG's (Aix-la-Chapelle) presentation. Chang placed the idea of co-temporality in the context of urban regeneration to explore spatially rhythmic and entrained aspects of the urban renewal of Rotterdam. Using examples of non-institutionalized spaces, Chang aimed to characterize temporal activities as brief, undefined actions contributing to space reclamation. She emphasized that the specification of space in the development process in Rotterdam diverges from conventional urban planning frameworks, which often prioritize static time frames and rigid spatial arrangements for permanent or temporary activities and functions.

VERA HENKELMANN (Eschweiler/Erfurt) made a compelling contribution to the interplay between time and light, focusing on the coexistence of religious rhythms of light in medieval cities through written and pictorial sources and artifacts. She explored how light, light devices, and their use contributed to establishing, modeling, visualizing, and regulating temporal practices and rituals performed by various actors in the medieval city. Her primary emphasis was on the distinctions between the time of the clergy and the laity, differences between Christians and Jews, especially at night, and their use of candles during liturgical hours. Additionally, she examined the various relationships between multiple times, arguing that they coexisted, overlapped, competed, and conflicted.

Taking on the role of a flâneur, KEN CHITWOOD (Berlin) depicted "Bereligeon" (Berlin and religion) in the second panel. His aim was to present an alternative image of Berlin, shifting away from the perception of it solely as a secular or neo-pagan city, and instead highlighting its character as a "Religio-city." Chitwood focused on the performance of various rituals within its shared urbanized space. Drawing insights primarily from interview reports at the "House of One" in Berlin, as well as observations of the life within the Jewish community and churches, he sought to offer an understanding of co-temporality in Berlin through the lens of co-rituality.

The relationship between materiality and co-temporality was illuminated by JÖRG RÜPKE’s (Erfurt) discussion of the Roman calendar. He began by distinguishing between multiple temporality and co-temporality, asserting that the Roman calendar serves as an effective "switch stone" to highlight diverse temporalities. Rüpke connected his analysis to the concept of urbanity, suggesting that the Roman calendar not only represents time but also actively contributes to shaping urbanity by organizing the rhythm of life.

Religious buildings, serving as carriers of social changes, offered a perspective for contemplating co-temporality, as proposed by BEATE LÖFFLER (Dortmund). Drawing on empirical data in her presentation, she delved into the process of seeking, making, preserving, and even losing spaces for various religious communities in Germany. Löffler argued that there exists asynchronicity in urban religions, stemming from differences between the congregations of the two dominant Christian churches and the ideological and religious minorities. She illustrated her point with various examples, primarily Orthodox and Muslim communities in post-war Germany and parish history, demonstrating the persistent efforts of religious communities in defining their space, which is influenced by historical context, legal status, and religious identity.

ANNA-KATHARINA RIEGER (Graz) sought to illustrate the challenge that archaeology faces in analyzing time, emphasizing that it can only be accomplished when time materializes. Using examples of sacred spaces in Pompeii, including the temples of Apollon, Isis, and Athena, her contribution examined different temporal regimes and layers. The analysis questioned whose time materializes in these spaces and in what ways. The focus was on recognizing time layers (past, present, future) in images, objects, and buildings within these shared sacred spaces. Additionally, Rieger concluded that these various examples are not only co-temporal but also embrace heterochronic aspects, representing disruptive moments when various temporalities collide in the flows of social and individual temporal structures of the city.

Returning to the contemporary context, FEDERICA MIRRA (Birmingham) investigated the phenomenon of square dancing in China's southwestern cities. Since the 1990s, predominantly retired women in China have gathered in public spaces to collectively partake in square dancing, a popular activity regulated by the central government. Mirra argued that square dancing indicates a desire for a shift in temporal and spatial dynamics toward more relaxed urban rhythms and spontaneous social exchanges. Mirra proposed that square dancing offers a unique perspective to understand how space is negotiated and reveals different temporal dimensions, providing insights into China's dynamic society and changing urban landscape.

Utilizing two distinct analytical frameworks inspired by Henri Lefebvre and Norbert Elias in a comparative manner, FREYA FREHSE (São Paulo) and NINA BAUR (Berlin) presented their research on interaction patterns and the (re)production of urban public space. They drew from two distinct examples of street food vending in Singapore and São Paulo during their post-colonial periods. They showed how ephemeral interactions in social activities, such as street-food vending, influence historical continuity and disruptions in the social reproduction of urban public spaces. As thy argued, the impact on these urban public spaces is mediated through the "temporal density" of social interaction, affecting the physical-material and social aspects of these spaces in distinct ways.

Exploring again the intersection of co-temporality and food, HEINER STAHL (Siegen) suggested that the kitchen functions as a sensory laboratory where knowledge about cooking, time, and temperature is intricately connected to the textures of dishes. He highlighted historical instances, such as the selling of ice cream in 1830s Leipzig and the interests of local pastry confectioners. Stahl discussed spatial procedures extracted from archival material, examining mediated cooking knowledge, gastronomical work environments, gustatory indulgence at tables, and the public consumption of ice cream. He underscored sensorial detection as a means of exploring space, reformulating its contents, and influencing social and cultural hierarchies within communication pathways.

The "fish-time," as the concluding case on the second day unfolded with JOSEPH KRETZSCHMAR 's (Bremen/Erfurt) presentation, focused on early modern Bremen's local time zone, particularly in the context of the market square. Kretzschmar showed the daily market on the square, structured by the Christian liturgical calendar and fasting rhythms, with a specific focus on "fish-time" during fasting periods. He explored the breeding rhythms and decay imperatives of fish, which led to city council ordinances and varied handling practices. Additionally, he mentioned that the market's structure was also influenced by clock time, with church clocks guiding merchants and guild members. Yet customers' visits were shaped by conversational rhythms, status displays, and shared experiences, all highlighting the diverse co-temporalities that intersected in the historical everyday experience of the market square.

The third day of the conference commenced with an intriguing and travel-focused presentation by AIMÉE PLUKKER (Ithaca). She discussed the tourist longing to understand the rhythm of others, particularly in the historical interaction between the cities of Rome, Amsterdam, Berlin, and American tourists in the post-World War tourist industry. Plukker examined the use of different temporalities in the tourist industry, arguing how temporality and the rhythm of others became commodified. She explored how the tourist experience distorted the natural time of the other and manipulated time to create a sense of "leisure time."

MARYAM RAHMANI's (Erfurt) presentation served as an illustrative example of the convergence and divergence of different temporalities in society’s life. She started by mentioning the overwhelming number of commemorations and ceremonies in post-revolutionary Iran, stemming from two distinct temporal systems – the solar and lunar Hijri. Rahmani clarified that the Lunar Hijri Calendar represents Shia Islamic temporality, while the solar calendar covers Ancient Iran’s ceremonies. Her argument highlighted the challenges arising when the opposing emotional feelings of these two time systems coincide, leading to a confrontation between national joy and religious sorrow. Rahmani presented findings from her fieldwork in Iran, demonstrating how the state's policies increasingly religionize the calendar and how society resists and responds in diverse ways.

Examining the "strategic temporality" of over 500,000 Syrian refugees in Turkey, PALADIA ZISS (Birmingham) shed light on another example of the rhythm of others. Her focus was on investigating neighborhood relations among refugees, newcomers, and long-term urban neighbors. Drawing on the notion of chronotope by Mikhail Bakhtin, she characterized neighborhood relations as individuals leading separate lives in time and space, forming dialogical chronotopes of separation. Ziss argued that nation-states establish temporal borders between refugees and citizens, maintaining refugees as different through asynchronous rhythms. However, she mentioned that repetition, regularity, and equality in shared space and time lead to debordering.

MARLIS ARNOLD (Bonn) explored the interplay of temporal and spatial imagination of Rome as depicted in the Forma Urbis Severiana and its perception by ancient viewers. She argued that the Forma Urbis Severiana presents a specific image of Rome which is incomplete not only due to fragmentation but also selectively emphasizing certain structural details, thereby creating a constructed urban image tailored to the learned viewer of the highest social circles who can recognize central reference points. However, it may be less obvious for viewers from other social groups, highlighting the plan's specificity and connection to a particular audience and urban reality. She highlighted that the plan's temporal discrepancies, evident to early 3rd-century viewers, likely faded over time, leading to altered and more conflated perceptions of the city for later viewers. As time passed, the plan transformed into a historical artifact, with its discrepancies and errors blending into the city's historical memory.

Highlighting the potentiality of ancient cities in developing the conceptualization of deep time, CHRISTINA WILLIAMSON (Groningen) discussed sanctuaries as prime timekeepers. Utilizing the concepts of "temporal rootedness" and co-temporality, she examined the connection between the divine and urban temporal narratives, focusing on the sanctuary as a locus where various temporalities intersect. Williamson's case study centered on the sanctuary of Asklepios, aiming to demonstrate the identification of various temporalities, including myth, ritual, and devout practices, along with their respective agents and audiences.

The final discussion involved a reflection on presenters' utilization of the concept of co-temporality. It commenced with a critical examination of the use of "layers of time," stressing the need to explore the connection between these layers rather than treating them as simple, isolated entities. The benefit of concepts like co-spatiality and co-temporality should be to depict the complexity of social phenomena without oversimplifying it only into discrete layers. However, some participants pointed out that layers, such as spatial and material ones, function as metaphors and facilitate discussions about co-temporality. The layers of time, analogous to the usage of meso-level and macro-level terms in sociology, could function as methodological terms. The conference concluded with an open question, possibly for future gatherings: How do the layers of time and space relate to each other, and how should one understand their interconnectedness?

Conference Overview:

Welcome & Introduction with Susanne Rau, Aaron French & Katharina Waldner (all Erfurt)

Panel 1: Urban Rhythms

Robin Chang (A ix-la-Chapelle): A Multi-Level and Rhythmic Approach: Temporalities of Urban Regeneration

Vera Henkelmann (Eschweiler/Erfurt): Rhythms of Light—Multiple Temporalities in Medieval Cities and Their Religious Implications

Panel 2: Co -Rituality

Ken Chitwood (Berlin): Encountering Berlin 's Religio-city and Co-Rituality in Urbanized Space(s)

Jörg Rüpke (Erfurt): Co-Temporality and Urbanity in the Ancient City of Rome

Beate Löffler (Dortmund): Asynchronicity in Urbann Religions. Social Change and Spatial Permanence

Panel 3: Co-Spatialities & Co-Temporalities

Anna -Katherina Rieger (Graz): Co-Temporal and Heterochrony —The Archaeology of Various Temporalities in Shared Sacred Spaces of Roman Pompeii

Federica Mirra (Birmingham): Overlapping Temporalities: Square Dancing and Contemporary Visual Arts in Kunming

Fraya Frehse (São Paulo) & Nina Baur (Berlin): The Historicity of Interaction Patterns and the Reproduction of Urban Public Space: Street Food as Empirical Pretext

Heiner Stahl (Siegen): Eating Ice Cream between 1780 and 1830: Urban Co-Temporalities, Courtly and Civic Cultures of Luxurious Food and Contested Gastronomical Spaces

Joseph Kretzschmar (Bremen/Erfurt): Between "Fish-Time" and Northern Renaissance: Co-Temporalities in the Bremen "local timezone", 1400-1600

Panel 4: Competing Histories

Aimée Plukker (Ithaca): Rhythms of the Other: Urban Temporalities and Tourism in the Work of Henri Lefebvre

Maryam Rahmani (Leipzig): Religious Sorrow & National Joy: Conflicting Rhythms of Commemoration in Post-Revolutionary Iran

Paladia Ziss (Birmingham): Chronotopes of Communality and Disconnection: How Temporality Shapes Local Relationships between Refugees and Longer -Term Residents in Turkey

Marlis Arnhold (Bonn): Past, Present & the City as Imagined in the 3rd Century Marble Plan of Rome

Christina Williamson (Groningen): Deep -Time Narratives and Co-Temporalities at Urban Sanctuaries in the Graeco-Roman World