Co-Temporality

— Aaron French (ORCID 0000-0003-4316-2774)

Co-Temporalities is based on the insight that time is a cultural construction and therefore contingent and dependent on context, as with any social phenomena. When viewed in this way, temporality shifts from a unity to a multiplicity, subject to competing and co-operating factors that determine how co-temporalities interact and coexist. Especially in the urbanized space, temporalities tend to clash and to change, accompanied by alternating rhythms that are experienced differently by state and social actors. Co-Temporalities allows the researcher to grasp these complex temporal dynamics in the city and to better understand the relationship between urbanity and time.

Co-Temporalities is modelled on a related concept, co-spatiality, that was introduced by the French geographer Jacques Lévy in 2003 to describe space in terms of multiple layers. Lévy outlined a specific relation between spaces through the idea of interspatiality, a space of overlapping realities that interact. Similarly, co-temporalities offers a method for analyzing the connectivity between co-extensive spaces through the lens of time, investigating the overlapping temporalities and temporal practices in the city. It accomplishes this through the assumption that co-temporalities are located; they must “take place” and therefore multiple strata or layers of temporalities co-exist. This can be seen most explicitly in the city, where various forms of time are lived out by diverse groups of social actors.

While the approach is informed, in part, by the work of Lévy, it also draws on the idea of an urban rhythm analysis that was developed by Henri Lefebvre (Lefebvre: 1992 [published after his death]). Lefebvre was interested in analyzing the rhythms of urbanized spaces and how those rhythms influenced the inhabitants, especially in terms of their day-to-day lives. Lefebvre worked out this idea in cooperation with his wife and collaborator, Catherine Régulier, for example, in their examination of the entanglement of time and space with architecture and movement in the streets of Mediterranean cities (Lefebvre and Régulier: 1986).

In a more deconstructive sense, Michel Foucault already pointed out in the 1970s (Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison) how time could be regulated, stamped, and structured in the context of penal, military, and school systems in modern (disciplinary) societies and the urban environment. The concept of an imposed temporal dimension on the urbanized space was further developed by Foucault’s disciple, Gilles Deleuze, in the essay “Postscript on the Societies of Control,” in which he argued that in post-disciplinary societies—i.e. the modern increasingly socio-technical society and hence city—time as control factor was modulated; it transformed the individual of the philosophical Enlightenment into a fragmented “dividual,” a data-point to be manipulated, modulated, and controlled, at once “free-range” within the city and yet restricted and monitored (Deleuze: 1992).

From a religious studies perspective, co-temporalties also draws on Charles Taylor (Taylor: 2007) in thinking that secularity—and by extension especially the modern secular Western city—is indeed a form of time. However, modernization is not homogeneous or equivalent—and certainly not always already non-religious—and therefore, speaking with Shmuel N. Eisenstadt (2003), “multiple modernities” can exist simultaneously, playing out in the lives of people in (global) urbanized spaces and pluralistic cities: sometimes in harmony, sometimes in conflict.

In other words, co-temporalities is a corollary to Lévy’s co-spatiality by incorporating the temporal dimension in an analysis of coextensive and overlapping spaces. After all, space and time, as Albert Einstein taught us, can be expanded and compressed, stretched, pushed and pulled, warped and disjointed by matter, by architecture, by cities and bodies and pollution and the movement of life. 

“Weltzeituhr” at Berlin Alexanderplatz. (Image: Jörg Blobelt, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

UrbRel Application

Co-temporalities is applied in the context of KFG as a consideration of the urban setting and the city as spaces of diverse and overlapping temporal practices. By allowing scholars to approach the pasts, presents and futures as coextensive in a single urbanized space, co-temporalities opens up a range of objects within a city-space for potential study. This includes studies in the fields of literature, music, performativity, socioeconomical aspects (fairs, agriculture, etc.), ritual practices of different religious groups, and knowledge production more generally. The concept is therefore highly versatile and diverse and informs a interdisciplinary perspective. Not only religious studies but history, sociology, urban studies, philosophy, gender studies, and postcolonial studies are all possible for better understanding the intersection of temporality, religion, and urbanity.

UrbRel Bibliography

Iori, Elisa. 2022. ‘Co-Spatiality’ Urbrel Blog: 05.12.2022. https://urbrel.hypotheses.org/glossary/cospatiality

Keller, Sara. 2023. ‘Urban Temporalities (City Walk 9).’ UrbRel Blog. https://urbrel.hypotheses.org/4520.

Lévy, Jacques. 2021. ‘Co-Spatiality: An Introduction.’ Religion and Urbanity Online, edited by Susanne Rau and Jörg Rüpke. Berlin, Boston: De Gruyter. https://doi.org/10.1515/urbrel.17481739.

Rau, Susanne. 2019. ‘At Markets and Fairs in Lyon.’ Urbrel Blog. https://urbrel.hypotheses.org/382.

Rüpke, Jörg. 2020. ‘The Roman Calendar – Time for a City and an Empire.’ Urbrel Blog. https://urbrel.hypotheses.org/1077.

Schmolinsky, Sabine, Diana Hitzke, and Heiner Stahl, eds. 2018. Taktungen und Rhythmen: raumzeitliche Perspektiven interdisziplinär. Berlin: De Gruyter Oldenbourg.

General References

Deleuze, Gilles. 1992. Postscript on the Societies of Control. October 59: 3-7.

Eisenstadt, Shmuel. 2003. Comparative Civilizations and Multiple Modernities. Leiden: Brill.

Fisher-Høyrem, Stefan. 2022. Rethinking Secular Time in Victorian England. Cham: Springer Nature.

Foucault, Michel. 1977. Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison. New York: Random House.

Kavanaugh, Leslie. 2010. Chrono-Topologies Hybrid Spatialities and Multiple Temporalities. Amsterdam: Rodopi.

Lefebvre, Henri. 1992. Éléments de rythmanalyse. Paris: Éditions Syllepse.

Lefebvre, Henri and Catherine Régulier. 1986. ‘Essai de rythmanalyse des villes mediterraneennes’. Peuples Mediterraneens 37.

Lévy, Jacques. 2013. ‘Cospatialité.’ In Dictionnaire de la géographie et de l’espace des sociétés, edited by Jacques Lévy and Michel Lussault. Paris: Belin: 236–237.

Lyon, Dawn. 2019. What Is Rhythmanalysis? London, UK: Bloomsbury Academic.

Negishi, Kaima. 2020. “Coexistence of Multiple Temporalities: Ruptured Shared Mobilities in the Tokyo Metro.” In Sharing Mobilities: New Perspectives for the Mobile Risk Society, edited by Sven Kesselring, Malene Freudendal-Pedersen, Dennis Zuev. New York: Routledge.

Salamońska, Justyna. 2017. Multiple Migration: Researching the Multiple Temporalities and Spatialities of Migration. CMR Working Papers, No. 102/160. University of

Taylor, Charles. 2007. A Secular Age. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University.

Warsaw, Centre of Migration Research (CMR), Warsaw. https://www.econstor.eu/handle/10419/180967.


Cite this entry

French, Aaron. “Co-Temporality”. Religion and Urbanity Blog. KFG “Religion and Urbanity: Reciprocal Formations” (FOR 2779). 04/25/2023. https://urbrel.hypotheses.org/glossary/co-temporality

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