What I am about to tell you, or confide in you, today, will remain rather primary, loose. This is both deliberate and due to lack of time. But what time do I mean? The time that has not, or has not yet, been loosed by all that is too bound, too secondarily bound, thereby leaving so-called free energy chained up, in the crypt. But perhaps that energy is merely deprived of the space-time it needs to cathect, unfold, inscribe, play.
(Irigaray, 1993: 25)
As Irigaray’s words convey, there are many occasions when we might have the time of the clock available to us to do something, maybe a spare half an hour here or an hour there. However, our minds and lives are too busy with other things to have the necessary time-space to cathect, unfold, inscribe, play. . .
The relationship between time and space has been extensively theorized in the physical and natural sciences. This relationship can be seen in Euclidean geometry and Newtonian and Einsteinian physics. Euclidean geometry and Newtonian physics view space as threedimensional. Every point can be fixed in space in three dimensions and time is a constant continuous phenomenon experienced universally this way. Einstein argued that time and space are held in relation to each other. One’s perception of both depends upon one’s location. Thus, the experience of time-space was not universal. As Hawking (1988: 21) comments: ‘the theory of relativity put an end to the idea of absolute time! It appeared that each observer must have his [sic] own measure of time, as recorded by a clock carried with him [sic], and that identical clocks carried by different observers would not necessarily agree.’
Adam reviews these theories and illustrates that there are three kinds of approach that are relevant for social science research:
The first includes time as both a measure and a quantity to be measured. As such, it is used in mechanics, Newton’s laws, Einstein’s theories of relativity, and in the empirical studies and synchronic analyses of social scientists. The second is concerned with directional processes and events as expressed in the laws of thermodynamics, the theory of dissipative structures, some historical analyses in social science, and the work of Mead and Luhmann, The third approach is that of quantum theory which conceptualises the ultimate reality as fundamentally temporal and which has so far not had an impact on the social sciences. (1990: 49)
Because she is, in part, interested in raising questions about the impact of major theorizations of the natural and physical sciences on changing understandings of subjectivity, Grosz (1995) draws on Newton’s and Einstein’s conceptualizations in her exploration of time-space and the body. In accord with Adam (1990), Grosz notes two important points here:
first representations of space have always had – and continue to have – a priority over representations of time. Time is represented only insofar as it is attributed certain spatial properties. The second is that there is an historical correlation between the ways in which space (and to a lesser
extent, time) is represented and the ways in which subjectivity represents
itself. (1995: 97)
Grosz’s (1995) main intention is to offer a preliminary account of the significance of time-space through which she raises some questions for the development of feminist theorizations of the body. Her work is exploratory and is intended to provoke further conceptualizations. For this reason what I outline here is relatively fragmentary and abstract. Grosz notes the work of Irigaray and Kristeva as foundational to feminist explorations of time-space relationships. She comments that in ‘providing a starting point for reconceiving the ways in which sexed subjects are understood, Kristeva and Irigaray have merely opened up a terrain that needs further exploration’ (ibid.: 84).
In this respect Irigaray reconceived the spatiality of women’s bodies in terms of internality rather than externality and as agentic points of closure and openness rather than as passive holes awaiting penetration by the phallus. One of the ways that she did this was through a rebuke of the phallocentrism of Lacan’s analysis of the mirror-stage. Lacan’s analysis views women in terms of what they lack, as a ‘hole’, rather than in terms of what they have. The emphasis in Lacan on what can be seen, i. e. the phallus, was countered by Irigaray’s use of the speculum, the curved mirror that enables internal inspection of the body. As a metaphor the speculum demonstrates that what is is not always on view. What woman is or could be cannot simply be known through a dominant phallocentric view represented by a looking glass mirror. The speculum allows access to those sites that are hidden from (male) view and that are beyond the phallus. Battersby (1996: 262) notes how ‘Speculum as a whole reverses the direction of gaze, using woman’s body as the apparatus through which to regard the philosophers’ accounts of being.’ For example, Irigaray opposes the Lacanian image of woman as ‘hole’ with the symbolic image of ‘contiguity, of the two lips touching’ (Whitford, 1991: 28). This image is designed to show how woman’s desire does not need to be seen through male representations but can be seen for itself.
In respect of Kristeva’s analysis of identity, time and space, this illustrates issues of simultaneity rather than linearity. Identity, time and space cohabit Kristeva’s (1986) conception of ‘Women’s Time’ in terms of the politics of feminism. As Moi indicates, Kristeva provides a classic statement in relation to this:
[Kristeva] explicitly addresses the question of feminism and its relations to femininity on the one hand, and the symbolic order on the other.
According to Kristeva female subjectivity would seem to be linked both to cyclical time (repetition) and to monumental time (eternity), at least in so far as both are ways of conceptualizing time from the perspective of motherhood and reproduction. The time of history, however, can be characterized as linear time: time as project, teleology, departure, progression and arrival. This linear time is also that of language considered as the enunciation of a sequence of words. (1986: 188)
Kristeva talks of three generations of feminists but she is not using generation solely in the sense of linear time – our grandmothers, mothers, daughters. Rather, her usage emphasizes generation in terms of occupying symbolic and corporeal space in the social order. The three generations to which Kristeva refers are, therefore, both linear – from first wave to third wave – and they also co-exist. Kristeva advocates a deconstructive approach to sexual difference where feminist struggles should be seen historically and politically in terms of the following three tiers:
1 Women demand equal access to the symbolic order. Liberal feminism. Equality.
2 Women reject the male symbolic order in the name of difference. Radical feminism. Femininity extolled.
3 Women reject the dichotomy between masculine and feminine as metaphysical. (This is Kristeva’s own position.) (Moi, 1997: 249)
Moi comments that the implications for feminism are that it remains politically essential that women take up their space in human society as equals and that women also need to emphasize their difference in this space. To ignore these aspects of the feminist struggle would be to ‘lose touch with the political reality of feminism’ (ibid.). Kristeva’s third position above has to be viewed as simultaneous, rather than linear, to these other two positions.
In recognizing the foundational work of Irigaray and Kristeva, Grosz’s starting point is that the relationship between time-space and corporeality is reciprocal:
If bodies are to be reconceived, not only must their matter and form be rethought, but so too must their environment and spatio-temporal location. . . bodies are always understood within a spatial and temporal context, and space and time remain conceivable only insofar as corporeality provides the basis for our perception and representation of them. (Grosz, 1995: 84, emphasis in original)
This reciprocity leads Grosz to explore two key points. One of these is concerned with the relationship of the body to time-space. Here Grosz offers some significant points:
space is no more ‘tangible’ or perceptible than time, for it is only objects in space and time which can be considered tangible and amenable to perception. Space is no more concrete than time, nor is it easier to represent. The subject is no more clearly positioned in space than in time; indeed, the immediacy of the ‘hereness’ of corporeal existence is exactly parallel to the ‘nowness’ of the subject’s experience. (ibid.: 85)
A second point is the relationship between changing identities and changing conceptualizations of time-space:
Developmental^, the child perceives and is organized with reference to a series of spatial conceptions, from its earliest access to the ‘space of adherence’ to the virtual space of mirror-images, the curved and plural spaces of dreams and the spatiality conferred by the primacy of vision. Historically, it can be argued (although I do not have space to do so here) that as representations of subjectivity changed, so too did representations of space and time. If space is the exteriority of the subject and time its interiority, then the ways this exteriority and interiority are theorized will affect notions of space and time. (ibid.: 99)
Thus, Grosz comments that the Kantian conception of subjectivity finds its correlate in Newtonian physics. In contrast, ‘the decentred Freudian subject conforms to the relativity of an Einsteinian universe’ (ibid.: 100). Grosz’s attention to time-space relationships and the body indicate the potential of further reconceptualizations. For example, Benhabib’s (1992) ‘exile’, Braidotti’s (1994) ‘nomad’, Brah’s (1996) ‘diaspora space’ have all been predominantly theorized in terms of spatiality. These theorizations have indicated the multiplicity of spaces that exist and the politics of space. It is perhaps the moment for these spatial metaphors to be more clearly recognized as simultaneously concerned with time.