The colonisation of time

Ritual, routine and resistance in the British Empire

Much of the world today is governed by the clock. The project to incorporate the globe within a matrix of hours, minutes and seconds demands recognition as one of the most significant manifestations of Europe's universalising will. This book is an examination of the ways that western-European and specifically British concepts and rituals of time were imposed on other cultures as a fundamental component of colonisation during the nineteenth century. It explores the intimate relationship between the colonisation of time and space in two British settler-colonies and its instrumental role in the exportation of Christianity, capitalism and modernity. Just as the history of colonialism is often written without much reference to time, the history of time is frequently narrated without due reference to colonialism. Analysing colonial constructions of 'Aboriginal time', the book talks about pre-colonial zodiacs that have been said to demonstrate an encyclopedic oral knowledge of the night sky. Temporal control was part of everyday life during the process of colonization. Discipline and the control of human movements were channelled in a temporal as well as a spatial manner. In the colony of Victoria, missions and reserves sought to confine Aboriginal people within an unseen matrix of temporal control, imposing curfews and restrictions which interrupted the regular flow of pre-colonial patterns, rituals and calendars. Christianity had brought civilised conceptions of time to the Xhosa. Reports of Sabbath observance were treated by Britain's humanitarians as official evidence of missionary success in planting the seeds of Christianity, commerce and civilization.

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