What the past holds in store : an anthropological study of temporality in a Southern French village.
This thesis examines the diverse and conflicting ways in which the past is invoked in a
village in the coastal area of the Aude department, in the Languedoc region of Southern
France. The region of Languedoc has been undergoing turbulent, and unpredictable socio-
economic change since the development of viticultural capitalism in the 19th century,
and since the 1960s has also witnessed the development of a sizeable tourist industry.
These factors, along with the proximity of the village to the city of Narbonne,
have led over the past 150 years to the creation of a heterogeneous village population.
The thesis details the plurality of ways in which the past was temporalised in the village
during the fieldwork period (1996-7), taking account of the various social groups present
in the village, and their economic activities and life worlds. It also illustrates the relationship
between local temporalities and wider socio-economic developments in the
region, in particular in relation to the development of a tourist industry that transforms
the past into a commodity. The thesis is partly concerned to assess the relationship between
these wider socio-economic developments, and the sociality of the village inhabitants.
Drawing on recent anthropological work on time, human temporality is viewed as the
product of symbolic processes, through which agents make evident, and act upon, the
inherently temporal character of existence. In this sense the apprehension and significance
of the past is implicated in a dynamic with present action and future orientations,
and interpreted accordingly. However, a 'culturalist' perspective is avoided in the thesis
by foregrounding the importance of interpreting all human activity as both historically
situated, and implicated in wider political economic processes. In this respect, the thesis
also pays attention to issues of political economy, and attempts a partial synthesis of
different anthropological approaches: the phenomenological, the symbolic, and the materialist.