Time, Process and Innovation in Colonial Encounters

by Per Cornell

In the violent and abusive colonial context, time is a crucial factor. In certain cases, in a wide colonial context, there may be active indigenous projects, even a process of social innovation among the colonized. The traditional discussions concerning the colonial only addressed the power of the colonizer, and, to the extent the colonized was addressed it was as the victims of a history, to which they contributed little or nothing. The evident question arising from the postcolonial debate, not least Spivak’s, Colombres’ and Düssel’s discussion is the question of what history could be. De Beauvoir’s early and decisive arguments on the other are highly relevant here. In order to argue for a general history it must include conflict, difference and variability as parts of the historical process. However, the logics of such a history cannot be limited to one set of actors or social settings, but rather focus on the interactions or lack of interactions between different social settings. Time and timing is crucial. Mainly discussing cases from two regions of the Americas, several aspects of time will be addressed. Involved is Derrida’s chronospatial discussion and Marx’ arguments on the historical process, in which process creates entities. Toscano (2010) has argued on the importance of “real abstraction” in Marx, but we are still far from getting at the way such factors intervene in the intricacy of a colonial encounter. When times meet, it is about what, in the grand theory of traditional humanities, could not link in any conceivable way, beyond full and complete appropriation from one side over another. Thus, as Derrida discussed it, how is it that encounters between different times can produce social effects? Can there be new and different ways of writing history, in which conflicted time is crucial? Would this affect the way of the political?


Per CornellDoctoral degree 1993, Associate Professor 2001, Professor 2013. Has worked as university teacher at all levels in Sweden, Argentina, Sri Lanka and Nicaragua, and has created new courses and programs. Has brought more than 13 doctorate students to their degree. Organised field projects, mainly in Argentina and Mexico. In the organisation of the large scale rescue archaeology operations at Nya Lödöse (Gamlestaden, Gothenburg). General Manager of several projects, eg the Frame project The Early Modern Town, financed by the Swedish Research Council. Organiser with the Architect Professor Giorgio Verdiani, University of Florence of the network AACCP on architecture and archaeology.