Entangled Island Times: A History of Literature and Knowledge of the Islandbiogeography between 1600 and 1850
The project examines which different distinct time forms feature in the investigation of islands. From a systematic perspective, it is especially interested in the tension between a nature-time (with its two variants of a geological and a biological time) and a culture-time (with its two variants of a European-Western conception of time and an ethnologically foreign conception of time). It aims at criticizing these conceptions of time with regard to their implicit anthropocentrism and confronting them with the new-materialistic concept of an »entangled time«.
On the basis of this theoretical redetermination of a material temporality, the project focuses historically on the era between 1600 and 1850, that means the years before, during and after the time-theoretical turn in the late eighteenth century. The project’s subject foci are tropical and South Sea Islands, for which in the »first contact« between Europeans and islanders there are particularly sharp contrasts concerning the cultural conception of time. With regard to disciplinarity, the project has its center in literary studies and from this standpoint considers the aesthetics of a material distinct temporality; in addition, it also integrates constitutively ethnological questions as well as scientific perspectives of the islandbiogeography, especially animal ecology and climatology.
Accordingly, the corpus to be analyzed consists of literary, documentary, ethnographic, zoological and geographic European texts about islands from the years between 1600 and 1850. It will be examined to what extent these texts implicitly or explicitly negotiate phenomena of time, to what extent they feature the tension between different time forms, where covert traces of a distinctive cultural-indigenous time can be found which defy the European regime of time, and finally how the different temporalities become intertwined as part of the progressing globalization of trade and the related networking of islands, so that something like an Entangled Island Time evolves as a historical phenomenon. Out of this, the question emerges to what extent the island-times of the colonializing Europeans change as part of the time-theoretical turn of the late eighteenth century and how vice versa the colonial island-times have contributed to the development of our modern conception of time and which role aesthetic procedures play in this process, which can be found as much in natural-historic and ethnographic accounts of islands as in literalized travelogues and fictional island narratives.