The Chronopolitics of Academic Civility

I noticed an unfamiliar precondition placed at the end of this interesting call for papers on Story’s Place In Our Lives:

Inter-Disciplinary.Net believes it is a mark of personal courtesy and professional respect to your colleagues that all delegates should attend for the full duration of the meeting. If you are unable to make this commitment, please do not submit an abstract for presentation.

I’ve never seen this before and I’m not sure what to make of it. On the one hand, I applaud the sentiment because it is likely to mitigate against people turning up solely for their talk then leaving, as well as encouraging the synchronisation of attention during the event so that the conference might become a zone of strategic deceleration*. On the other hand, it seems almost Canute-like if we take seriously the proposition of the sociology of time that we live in a desynchronised society.

The demand that every speaker must participate for the full three days places synchronisation costs upon attendees which they will be unequally able to meet. The intersection of temporal autonomy with other systems of stratification is an incredibly complex topic which I’ve only recently begun to think seriously about. But I’m convinced that we need to take what Sarah Sharma calls chronopolitics seriously if we’re trying to adapt institutions to cope with the attentional pathologies generated by digital capitalism.

This isn’t a criticism of the policy itself. I applaud the sentiment and I’ll seriously consider implementing a policy like this at some of the events I organise myself in future. But I think there’s a complexity to this which needs to be seriously considered and my impression is that we still lack a politically adequate language within which to talk about these issues in terms of temporality. I’m worried that invoking notions of civility and collegiality without addressing the novel challenges of the accelerated academy could prove unintentionally regressive in ways that might not be immediately obvious.

*Not the pithiest phrase I’ve ever come out with but I think I’m getting at something important with it.

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