Violence and Temporal Subjectivity



    1. Department of Anthropology
      University of Wisconsin–Madison
      5420 W. H. Sewell Social Science Building
      1180 Observatory Drive
      Madison, WI 53706
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Perceptions of temporal malleability and subjectivity are experienced by many perpetrators, victims, and witnesses of violence. Are perceptions of the slowing down, speeding up, or heightened awareness of time, which accompany violent moments, indicative of broader cultural and humanistic phenomena? In this article, I explore accounts of temporal perceptions surrounding violent encounters as a methodologically useful field of intersection between theories concerning the cultural construction of reality, the anthropology of time, simulation, and an emergent holographic physics. If, as a growing number of physicists assert, the universe can be described as a hologram where “time” is illusory and simultaneous, violent events that are perceived as temporally ambiguous offer sites of particular interest for the humanistic examination of these physical models. In other words, the temporal subjectivity often experienced by those who encounter violence can be interpreted as directly perceivable holographic encounters. The perpetrators, victims, and witnesses of such encounters can be viewed not only as interpreters of particular cultural temporal systems but also actively manipulating space–time and socially constructed reality. Interpreting violence through the experience of human agents could lead to greater insight into not only the symbolic meaning generated by acts of violence but also its hyperreal, desensitizing, and dissociative effects. Furthermore, the amplification of these effects by mass media and modern state ideologues becomes more penetrable under such an interpretive model. I draw from ethnographic research with police and “security” personnel in Thailand, Vietnam, and the United States, as well as from media and performance analysis.