In this article, we locate a tendency to revert to ‘Western,’ ‘national,’ and/or ‘racial’ times during periods of intense uncertainty or ‘crisis’ when individuals and societies seek to make sense of the present through the past, drawing upon the concept of a ‘time-border.’ We suggest this tendency is a ‘conventional’ pull in temporal thinking that has recurred in modern time cultures. In our own present, this reversion appears to be occurring despite novel approaches to time and periodization in historical research over the past thirty years, prompting a radical reformulation of how historians study the past (in terms of the influence of the global turn or Deep Turn and big history on notions of historical time, or new periodizations of the Anthropocene and posthumanism). This innovative approach to time jostles uneasily against the pull towards ‘conservative,’ linear, and national/racialised time often found in public discourse — highlighting the tension, as well as the reciprocity, between linear and cyclical approaches to time in lived experience and historiography. Throughout the essay, the urgency to reconsider notions of historical time and periodization in view of the coronavirus pandemic is a key theme tying together an analysis of time, periodization, and historiography.
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