Partha Chatterjee, for the win

An oldie but a goodie:

“People can only imagine themselves in empty homogeneous time; they do not live in it. Empty homogeneous time is the utopian time of capital. It linearly connects past, present, and future, creating the possibility for all of those historicist imaginings of identity, nationhood, progress, and so on that Anderson, along with others, have made familiar to us. But empty homogeneous time is not located anywhere in real space–it is utopian. The real space of modern life is a heterotopia (my debt to Michel Foucault should be obvious). Time here is heterogeneous, unevenly dense. Here, even industrial workers do not all internalize the work-discipline of capitalism, and more curiously, even when/ they do, they do not do so in the same way. Politics here does not mean the same thing to all people. To ignore this is, I believe, to discard the real for the utopian” (“Anderson’s Utopia” Diacritics 29:4, 131-2).

On Habit

As I work to get into a habit of writing and think about the book project, I think that habit is kinda important.  For that’s what institutions do: they enable habit, routine, static repetition.  Anachronisms depart from such habits and routines, not because they aren’t also habitual (they can be, of course) but because they’re tied to history and historical time, they suggest a different scale, a different level of generalization.

Athena Vretto’s “Defining Habits: Dickens and the Psychology of Repetition” is helpful as a way of thinking through habit, reminding me of the ways that habit is tied to class, consumption, psychology, social structures (and, to add to her account,- – as Newman argues – – belief).  In her words:

“Habits are dangerous precisely because they do not necessitate consciousness or evoke emotion. Paradoxically responsible for both human individuality and mechanicality, habits make people unique while simultaneously threatening to transform them into things” (417).