Dr. Alexandra Paulin-Booth
RU Temporality, Humboldt-Universität
Postdoctoral Researcher, Academic Coordinator RU Temporality, Theory Network
Dr. Alexandra Paulin-Booth is a historian of temporality, and she is particularly interested in how understandings and experiences of time play a role in politics and intellectual life. Her research draws on case studies from France and the French empire in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries to study the interactions between politics and temporality.
Alex was brought up in the U.K. and attended her local comprehensive school before studying at Durham University. There she completed an undergraduate degree in Combined Arts (the programme included History, English Literature, French Literature and Language, and Art History) and a Masters in Modern History.
Alex pursued her doctoral studies at the University of Oxford, where she obtained a D.Phil. (Ph.D.) in December 2017. She spent a year on exchange at the École normale supérieure Paris–Saclay before returning to Oxford to write up her thesis while undertaking a Lectureship in Modern European and World History at Balliol College. She headed back up north to Durham as Assistant Professor for a year, after which she moved to the continent to take up a position as Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Université Libre de Bruxelles. In January 2020, she moved to Berlin to take up her position at SCRIPTS, where she is a Postdoctoral Researcher and Coordinator of the Temporality Research Unit.
Intellectual, political, and cultural history of the 19th and 20th centuries;
Modern European history;
History of temporality, changing ideas about time, and related concepts (e.g. modernity, acceleration, utopias/uchronias/dystopias);
Far-left and far-right political movements;
History of European empires in the 19th and 20th centuries;
History of France and the French empire (particularly in West Africa);
Citizenship and race.
Current Research Projects at Scripts
Alex recently finished her first monograph, which will appear in Manchester University Press’s series ‘Studies in Modern French and Francophone History’ in May 2023. It is a book about how political activists and thinkers understood and experienced time and how their ideas about time shaped their ideologies and their actions. Using thinkers and activists drawn from the left and right of the political spectrum in France at the turn of the twentieth century, the book argues that time provides an important means of exploring how concepts such as nationalism, revolution, and social change were understood in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Time was a contested terrain, and how people thought—and fought—about time was crucial for how they understood the world and developed ideas about how to change it.
Click here to hear more about this research: this is a talk Alex gave in 2019 at Edinburgh’s Centre for the Study of Modern and Contemporary History. The seminar focuses on utopian and dystopian fiction in France at the turn of the 20th century.
At SCRIPTS, Alex is also developing her next major research project, which asks how understandings of time shaped French colonialism and responses to the colonial project in West Africa between 1895 and 1960. Colonialism was often configured by contemporary observers as an encounter of ‘modern’ and ‘primitive’ societies—forward-looking peoples in contrast to peoples of the past or peoples without time. Such a conceptualisation leant heavily on liberal narratives of progress. But behind this ostensibly simple model there lay a diverse and often surprising set of ideas about time, modernity, and acceleration. This project will argue that time-based contestations and exchanges highlight that many of the political debates of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries were rooted in understandings of time.
Paulin-Booth, Alexandra, 2023: Time and Radical Political Movements in France: From the Dreyfus Affair to the First World War, Manchester University Press.
Paulin-Booth, Alexandra 2021: ‘“Irregular rhythm”: empire and ideas of the present in interwar France’ in: Wright, Julian / Fryxell, Allegra (eds): Time on a Human Scale: Experiencing the Present in Europe, 1860–1930, Oxford University Press,
Paulin-Booth, Alexandra/Kerry, Matthew 2021: ‘Activist times: temporality and political action in twentieth-century Europe’, Special Issue of the European Review of History 28(4): 475-483
Paulin-Booth, Alexandra 2016: ‘Donald Trump’s political slogan betrays a renewed political fixation on the past’, The Conversation (24 October 2016) (accessed 28 October 2021).
Paulin-Booth, Alexandra 2014: ‘A period of transition: political time in the thought of Jean Jaurès’ in Jeschke, Lisa / May, Adrian (eds): Matters of Time: Material Temporalities in Twentieth-Century French Culture, Oxford: Peter Lang, 26–39.Dr. Alexandra Paulin-Booth is also a book reviewer for The English Historical Review (see her recent reviews on Christopher Clark’s Time and Power and Julian Wright’s Socialism and the Experience of Time).