Timing rice: an inquiry into more-than-human temporalities of the Anthropocene (New Formations 92, Autumn 2017)

Author: Elaine Gan



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Publication date: March 1, 2018

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Elaine Gan

Practices of cultivating grain have enabled settlement, trade, and state formation for millennia. Such practices involve more-than-human assemblages that have given rise to countless varieties of rice in almost every continent. This essay considers how varieties come into being through timing or modes of temporal coordination: what comes to matter is a matter of time. I argue that situating this inquiry in historical materialities and multispecies socialities that constitute rice opens up underexplored pathways for articulating conditions of liveability in the Anthropocene. Moving beyond the rigid binaries of nature vs. culture, human vs. nonhuman, I offer three analytical lenses for multispecies coordination: the longue durée of entangled historical trajectories; recursive cycles of attunement; and episodes of encounter. My aim is not to present differential coordinations through longer or shorter timescales, faster or slower tempos, less or more timelines, which depend on a human-centred system of measure. Rather, I consider how continuity, change, and collapse arise from the elusive temporalities of naturecultures and suggest tools for analysis.

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