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When Time Is All You Have Left: A Space Reading Circle

March 19, 2018 @ 3:00 pm - March 23, 2018 @ 9:00 pm

“When Time Is All You Have Left” explores how synchronization and translation mediate our experience of lost time as a temporality of migration. Lost time is an experience that is central to the dissonance felt in the shift from familiar rhythms to the mastery of new temporalities that we struggle to participate in shaping. This reading circle explores the problems with regard to human relations to time, taking migration as a starting point to explore the temporal transformations that govern people’s experience of space during major political and social upheavals. We focus on Syria, as a complex space that gave rise to massive mobility in present times. Today’s Syrians can all be said to inhabit a time that began in March 2011, when the Syrian uprising broke out and radically changed the familiar temporalities enforced by Assad’s Syria for four decades. As the Assad dynasty routinely claimed eternity as the temporal structure of its rule, the Syrian uprising was a break with eternity that unleashed multiple and often conflicting temporal claims on how to organize human relations. The consequent mass migration of millions of Syrians introduced in new temporal dynamics that will impact how the place called Syria will be imagined and will also impact how Syrians in new and unfamiliar places relate to their new homes. For the cultural producer, the new temporalities have been challenging the forms and themes that are relevant in the new context. The problem becomes one of time, in the sense that we lose time as we struggle to master ways to translate our interests and artistic expressions to semiotic paradigms that are not wholly familiar and that are governed by unfamiliar temporalities. As we labour to synchronize and iterate cultural translatability and relevance, we often encounter the untranslatability of migration’s predicament, as a problem of the loss of diachronic lineage. As we translate our meanings into new semiotic paradigms, the diachronic acquires new significance as a temporality that gives migrations their distinctive identities.

Through a focused multi-media syllabus derived from texts and videos that reflect on the temporalities of Syrian experience over the past fifty years, this reading circle will explore the problem of lost time as a problem of acting globally when the local no longer is a familiar or accessible anchoring point.


With Yassin al-Haj Saleh, Rana Issa, Sonja Mejcher-Atassi, Sami Khatib and others.


Haus der Berliner Festspiele
Schaperstraße 24
Berlin, 10719 Germany
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