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In our opening session, TIME served as the framework to understand the universe. TIME though, as Professor of Anthropology Janet Hoskins has shown in her research, can also serve as a paradigm to illuminate human cultures here on earth. In her work with the Kodi, an indigenous people who live on Sumba Island in the Indonesian archipelago, Hoskins used TIME to understand their cultural and social practices: “Time,” Hoskins argues, “must be seen as a crucial (perhaps the crucial) dimension of analysis.” All aspects of Kodi life-- marriage, clan, and village relationships are structured around temporalities linked to the phases of the moon. In a society without written records, this lunar calendar is part of an oral tradition led by the “priest of the new year”, a sort of living Father Time. The literate traditions of Vietnam are also organized through a lunar calendar, and the idea of temporal cycles linked to the renewal of the universe in periods of revelation. Hoskins will also discuss the East Asian temporalities of the lunar calendar in Buddhism, Taoism and Caodaism (a 20th century Vietnamese new religion).
Time is a universal construct among human societies, but it is not uniform in its construction. Professor Hoskins will help us step out our of time—linear, historical, western—and into an entirely different time-frame, and in so doing, we may better understand ourselves and the beautifully different peoples with whom we share the planet.
Janet Hoskins, Professor of Anthropology
Janet Hoskins is Professor of Anthropology and Religion at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles. She has done extensive field research in Indonesia, Vietnam and California, as well as shorter periods of research in Cambodia, Laos, and Malaysia and archival work in the Netherlands and France. Janet's research interests are defined around several overlapping themes, each of which draws on a separate set of interdisciplinary connections : (1) indigenous representations of the past and of time, (2) the relation between gender, exchange and narrative, and (3) colonial and postcolonial theory, with specific reference to Caodaism, a new universal religion born in French Indochina in 1926. Her first book The Play of Time: Kodi Perspectives on Calendars, History and Exchange (winner of the 1996 Benda Prize in Southeast Asian Studies) was both an ethnographic study of the politics of time in an Eastern Indonesian society and a theoretical argument about alternate temporalities in the modern world. She has published three additional books, the latest two being The Divine Eye and the Diaspora: Vietnamese Syncretism Becomes Transpacific Caodaism (2015) and the edited collection (with Viet Thanh Nguyen) Transpacific Studies: Framing an Emerging Field (2014).