2nd International Workshop on Ecology and Time Systems in Australasia And the Americas

Clockwise from left: Fred Damon, Wang Mingming, Matthew Prebbles, Henry Chan, Ana Díaz, Yang Qingmei

The 2nd International Workshop on Ecology and Time Systems in Australasia And the Americas: New Approaches to Value Systems and Calendrical Transformations across the Pacific Rim was held on the campus of Beijing University between January 12 and January 14 of this year. The first Workshop was held on the campus of the University of Virginia in early 2009.

The idea behind the conference is that anthropological approaches to the cultural construction of time need to be enriched by a comparative perspective that heightens the uniqueness of specific cultures, and, importantly, which is sensitive to radically different ways of experiencing and representing temporality.  The group considered and compared calendars and other ways of organizing temporality in China, Borneo, Bali, several places in what anthropologists call Melanesia, and the complex time systems found in traditional Mesoamerican and Andean societies.

Slide from M. Prebbles presentation

The social systems studied in the Workshop are defined by their location around the broader Pacific Ocean region, relatively recent or more distant flows of cultural history across this area, and by the similarities or differences in their respective productive systems (rice, maize, tubers) and ecological settings. China’s cultural history, for example, parallels that of the cultures that occupy Southeast Asia and others extending into Melanesia and Polynesia.

The historical flow here probably started from southeastern China upwards of 6000 years ago, so these places have common routes.  And while Southeast Asia extending to Eastern Indonesia maintained contact with China over this time span, these cultures developed various different time systems. The Workshop addressed the question of how we account for these differences. Arguably the different ways these areas relate to the monsoonal winds and what is now called ENSO (El Niño Southern Oscillation) play a role in the respective organizations of temporality.

Participating scholars, listed here, came from the United States, Mexico, Australia, Malyasia and China. For the final publication we expect contributions from people from England, France and Italy who participated in the 1st Workshop at UVa.

Person Institution
Helmer Aslaksen Mathematics Dept, National U of Singapore
Henry Chan Manager,
Environmental Impact Assessment and Social Initiatives,Sarawak Forestry Corporation, MALAYSIA
Fred Damon Department of Anthropology, University of Virginia
Ana Díaz Mexican National Anthropology Museum
J. Stephen Lansing Department of Anthropology, U of Arizona, Santa Fe Institute/Sr Research Fellow, Stockholm Resilience Centre
Xueting Liu MA in anthropology at Beida; graduate student
Carlos Mondragón El Colegio De México
Matthew Prebble Archaeological  Post-Doc Research Fellow, School of Culture, History & Language, College of Asia and the Pacific, ANU
Mingming Wang Peking University, and CMU Beijing
Qingmei Yang Postdoctoral fellow at Institute of Sociology, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS).

The Workshop was supported by the National Science Foundation (USA), the University of Virginia, El Colegio de México, the China Center for Sociological and Development Studies, and The Chinese Review of Anthropology.

From left: Mondragón, Prebbles, Díaz, Lansing, Damon, Aslaksen.

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