• Henry J. Rutz
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4020-4425-0_8892

The dual classification of cultural systems of time as Western or non‐Western is an oversimplification that limits our understanding of how time is created, represented, measured, and practiced in different cultures. The premises underlying dualistic thinking about time reveal its limitations.

First, dualistic thinking adopts the premise that Western time is linear (irreversible), abstract, quantitative, and homogeneous. In contrast, non‐Western time is cyclical (reversible), concrete, qualitative, and heterogeneous. There is a tendency to draw too sharp distinctions based on characteristics presumed to be in opposition. Underlying these are further distinctions between them (Oriental, primitive, oral, preindustrial) and us(Occidental, modern, literate, industrial). Embedded in these implicit distinctions is the assumption that non‐Western time is to be thought about within a conceptual frame that implicitly adopts Western time as a standard for perception and evaluation of...

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. Aveni, Anthony. Empires of Time: Calendars, Clocks, and Cultures. New York: Basic Books, 1989.Google Scholar
  2. Evans‐Pritchard, E. E. The Nuer. New York: Oxford University Press, 1940, reprinted 1970.Google Scholar
  3. Fabian, Johannes. Time and the Other. New York: Columbia University Press, 1983.Google Scholar
  4. Gell, Alfred. The Anthropology of Time: Cultural Constructions of Temporal Maps and Images. Providence, Rhode Island: Berg, 1992.Google Scholar
  5. Howe, Leopold E. A. The Social Determination of Knowledge: Maurice Bloch and Balinese Time. Man (N.S.) 16 (1981): 220–234.Google Scholar
  6. Geertz, Clifford. Person, Time and Conduct in Bali. In The Interpretation of Cultures. New York: Basic Books, 1973. 360–411.Google Scholar
  7. Munn, Nancy. The Cultural Anthropology of Time: A Critical Essay. Annual Review of Anthropology 21(1992): 93–123.Google Scholar
  8. Rutz, Henry J., Ed. The Politics of Time. Washington, D. C.: American Anthropological Association, 1992.Google Scholar
  9. ‐‐‐. Meaning of Time in Primitive Societies. In Encyclopedia of Time. Ed. Samuel L. Macey. New York: Garland, 1994. 371–372.Google Scholar
  10. ‐‐‐. Primitive Time‐Reckoning. In Encyclopedia of Time. Ed. Samuel L. Macey. New York: Garland, 1994. 496–497.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg New York 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Henry J. Rutz

There are no affiliations available