WP4: Politics and Government

WP4 Leader: Einar Wigen

As Kari Palonen and others have pointed out, politics is to a large extent a struggle with time (Palonen 2006). But whereas studies of politics have concentrated on parliamentary rhythms and election cycles, this project will study how other time scales come to bear on the field of politics. The Lifetimes project builds on the idea that all temporal arrangements have political effects and become the object of political decision and action. In WP5, we study how entanglements between different time scales give rise to temporal arrangements specific to the field of poltics and government. Whereas the focus of WP2 were microbes, the focus of WP5 is the body, scaling up from the individual body of the ruler to the collective body of the dynasty to the body politic.

1) The first part of WP1 focuses on how the fate of the bodies of state leaders, both their biological frailty and their assumed connectedness with cosmological time scales, in terms of signs from the heavens, has severe consequences for the perceived health of the state. More precisely, this part of WP1 will investigate how the theory of “the king’s two bodies”, discovered by Ernst Kantorowicz in the Medieval and Early Modern Europe (Kantorowicz 2016), continue to be in operation both inside and outside Europe, hence introducing the biological time scale of birth, ageing and death into the practices of government (Neocleous 2001), challenging other rythms like elections cycles and parliamentary schedules.

2) In the second part we scale up to the level of dynasties, which have little or no role in the political thinking of modernity, but nevertheless continue to impose a, less-future-oriented, more circular temporal arrangement, onto the dream of modernization and progress. Emphasis will be on the Ottoman dynasty, but also how dynastic times live on in present-day Turkey. The cycle is not only historical and political, but also tied to cosmology in the form of astrology, with the firmament exerting agency upon the dynast and the polity alike, thus tying the three time scales together in the body of the Sultan. 3) For the investigation of the body politic we will turn to a piece of historiography, the Austrian Orientalist Joseph von Hammer-Purgstall’s Geschichte des Osmanischen Reiches (1833), in which biological, geological and cosmological time scales are inscribed in a temporal arrangement, which also includes Western historicist and modernist chronologies as well as the particular dynastic times of the Ottoman empire.