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    After ‘Big History’: the case for (and against) ‘Big Time’

    Harris-Birtill, Rose After ‘Big History’: the case for (and against) ‘Big Time’. In: 17th Triennial Conference of The International Society for the Study of Time, 23-29 Jun 2019, Los Angeles, U.S.. (Unpublished)

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    In 1991, David Christian’s paper ‘The Case for Big History’ argued for a macro-scale approach to world history from the beginning of the universe to the present: ‘the appropriate time scale for the study of history may be the whole of time’ (223). Nearly thirty years later, Big History is reportedly used by over 1,000 teachers, with the 2011 launch of the Big History Project backed by Microsoft founder Bill Gates, bringing the discipline’s supersized timeline 13.8 billion years to students and educators across the globe. Critiquing Big History as a form of post-secular ‘creation myth’, this paper offers a close reading of its narrative worldview, investigating how far it incorporates ‘the whole of time’, reviewing the discipline’s critical and pedagogical reception, and asking what an interdisciplinary approach to the study of time may learn from the approaches of Big History. While its perspectives include history, biology, geology and cosmology, Big History’s limited focus on human thought and experience risks neglecting the imaginative diversity of several disciplines including literature, psychology, philosophy, politics, and art and their unique interpretations of time’s variant forms and dissonances, as well as their vital ethical perspectives on global historical and current events. Discussing trends in academic supersizing (eg, ‘big data’, ‘distant reading’) as a response to globalisation, this paper asks what form an alternative grand narrative based on ‘the whole of time’ might take, incorporating, for example, time perception (psychology, neuroscience) alongside imaginary time (quantum mechanics), cyclical temporalities (cross-cultural reincarnation narratives, the eternal return) and the vital perspectives offered by science fiction and philosophy. Finally, it asks whether such a macro-scale approach to the interdisciplinary study of time would be transferrable or desirable for time research and pedagogy, ultimately considering the case for, and against, a Big Time.


    Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
    Keyword(s) / Subject(s): big history, HISTORY, time, Globalisation, distant reading, Interdisciplinarity, Interdisciplinary research, pedagogy
    School: School of Arts > English, Theatre and Creative Writing
    Depositing User: Administrator
    Date Deposited: 14 Sep 2021 09:51
    Last Modified: 14 Sep 2021 09:51


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