On 3 December at 16:15 Juhan Hellerma will defend his doctoral thesis “Mapping time: analysis of contemporary theories of historical temporality” for obtaining the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
Research Fellow Jaanus Sooväli, University of Tartu
Professor Marek Tamm, Tallinn University
Professor Ethan Kleinberg, Wesleyan University (USA)
Professor Helge Jordheim, University of Oslo (Norway)
The current thesis examines matters of temporality in the context of contemporary philosophy of history. During the heyday of the linguistic turn shaping the field in the second half of the 20th century, the theory or philosophy of history was primarily viewed as a discipline dealing with various aspects pertaining to the historian’s pursuit of historical knowledge, serving thus as a particular meta-study of historiography. Today, in addition to questions dealing with the possibility and scientific status of historical knowledge, and the role and significance of linguistic representation in particular, many scholars are showing increasing interest in issues of historical temporality. In this context, among other questions under scrutiny is that of the emergence of the notion of historical past, which grants the modern discipline of history its specific domain of study – namely, the past understood as separate and qualitatively distinct from the present. Accounts expounding various time-related implications pertaining to the discipline of history are in turn part of a larger conversation that features a range of theoretical perspectives toward manifold cultural and societal perceptions of time. Following debates concerning the notion of historical temporality, the thesis pursues three objectives. The first is to offer a broader conceptual framework that helps systematize and facilitate dialogue between various theories of temporality proposed in recent literature. Second, the thesis focuses on the hypothesis about “presentism” prominently articulated by the French historian François Hartog, scrutinizing presentism’s intellectual potential as the prevailing temporal matrix shaping our current perception of historical time. Third, the thesis presents a particular critique of presentism, arguing that rapid changes occurring across technological and ecological domains necessitate venturing beyond the present-based temporal economy promoted by presentism.