Balancing Blood Sugar: Fasting, Feeling, and Time Work During the Egyptian Ramadan

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This chapter focuses on Ramadan, a special period set aside annually in the Muslim calendar to fast, pray, and study the Quran. Thorsen and Dalsgård argue that the Ramadan is not only a period of abstention and piety, but also a period of substantial time work. On the collective level, Ramadan structures time and its content; on the level of individuality, it operates through a disciplining of one’s body, evoking certain emotions and concomitant micro-temporalities throughout the day and month. As Thorsen and Dalsgård demonstrate, however, people who observe the Ramadan in Cairo are not just passive subjects to this disciplining; they are also experiencing and creative subjects, who may try to change their circumstances. Drawing on Michael Flaherty's theory of time work (2003), they explore how people act upon their present situation in order to modify or customize particular temporal experiences. Thorsen and Dalsgård’s conceptual orientation is one of embodied sociality, as they focus on the emotional substratum of temporal experience and the intertwining of the somatic, the subjective, and the social in the experience of time. Their approach to time work derives from an understanding of human agency as driven by cognitive reflections as well as physiological and emotional processes. They suggest that the biochemistry of the human body may provoke certain temporal experiences and drive us to a desire for change, but also constrain our attempts at making these changes come about. Thorsen and Dalsgård show that, during the obligatory fast from dawn to dusk, certain perceptions of time are evoked and altered by means of temporal agency. This ethnography is based upon participant observation among families with members diagnosed with diabetes.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationTimework : New Research on Temporal Agency
EditorsMichael Flaherety, Anne Line Dalsgård, Lotte Meinert
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2019

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