The Global Transformation of Time
Harvard University Press 2015
New Books in European StudiesNew Books in HistoryNew Books in Middle Eastern StudiesNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books in Science & TechnologyNew Books in Science, Technology, and SocietyNew Books in World AffairsNew Books Network July 13, 2016 Anna Levy
From the 1880s onward, Beirut-based calendars and almanacs were in high demand as they packaged at least four different calendars into one, including: “the reformed Gregorian calendar; the unreformed, Julian calendar used by various churches of the East; the Islamic lunar Hijri calendar; and the Ottoman ‘Rumi’ or sometimes financial/’Maliyye’ calendar.” Described as a center of calendar pluralism, Beirut’s plurality of time was less an exception than it was a quandary to later advocates who aimed to organize time along geographical lines.
In The Global Transformation of Time: 1870-1950 (Harvard University Press, 2015), Vanessa Ogle excavates 19th century movements to reform and standardize time: summer time, calendar time, time zones, religious time, and national time among others. Ogle questions the inevitability of 21st century time, demonstrating that it was the object of active creation for nearly two centuries prior. The rise of nationalism, the consolidation of colonial practice, along with autonomous religious reform movements simultaneously gave rise to, and were in turn, molded by advocacy focused on time. New communications technologies, such as the telegraph, and time-keeping devices, such as city clock towers, similarly served as the infrastructure around which time-keeping debates became organized.
Written as a historical account, time becomes a central character in this book: casting a common lens over otherwise disconnected places and people, raising controversy, and shifting between the center and the periphery of a broader story of 19th century transformation.
Anna Levy is an independent researcher and policy analyst with interests in critical political economy, historical memory, histories and philosophies of normalization, accountability politics, science and technology, and structural inequality. She is based in Brooklyn, NY and Amman, Jordan.