Time and Tide in Matera, European Capital of Culture 2019: Heterochronic Frictions

Dorothy L. Zinn


Following recent calls in anthropology to produce ethnographic explorations of temporality, and especially of the future, this article discusses the example of the city of Matera, which has just concluded its tenure as European Capital of Culture (ECoC) 2019. It contemplates the heterochronic articulation of temporality in the unfolding of Matera 2019 as a site of ideological tensions or “frictions” (Tsing 2005). Drawing from the work of Bryant and Knight (2019), the author views a Time of Matera 2019 as a form of “vernacular timespace” among the Materani. The discussion begins with a contextualization through a brief summary of past futures in Matera and a description of the more recent transformations of the city under late capitalism, with the rise of touristic commodification and aspirations for a cosmopolitan, hypertechnological future. It then examines how a change that took place in the logo and slogan for Matera 2019, with an ensuing conflict, encapsulates a heterochronic tension existing between Matera 2019 as a mega event and the general population. The analysis also seeks to return anew to the long-standing Italian Southern Question, as it considers the frictions between the unfolding of touristic and high-tech development in the Time of Matera 2019 and the promotion of Matera, but also Southern Italy more broadly, as a celebrated site of “slowness”, following Franco Cassano’s influential notion of pensiero meridiano [Southern thought] (Cassano 1996).

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