August 2019

Chronos, Aion and Kairos: From my desk to the field and back



In his philosophical discussion of the concept of the event, Deleuze has drawn on the Stoics’ two-fold conceptualization of time: a) as Chronos and b) as Aion: ‘Briefly there are two times, one of which is composed of interlocking presents; the other is constantly decomposed into elongated pasts and futures.’ (Logic of Sense, 73). Chronos delineates a cyclical succession of movements, marking occurrences and their causal links.  However the event can only be conceptualized within an image of time as Aion, a continuum wherein past, present and future co-exist, an unfolding time, wherein events as forces that effectuate changes, emerge. In Deleuze’s (Difference and Repetition, 111) thought: ‘time itself unfolds (that is, apparently ceases to be a circle) instead of things unfolding within it (following the overly simple circular figure).’ But there is also a third modality of time, that of Kairos, ‘the now time’ in Giorgio Agamben’s reading of Paul’e epistles. Chronos and Kairos are ususally opposed Agamben notes, but it is their relationship that is most extraordinary: ‘the chronos is where we have the kairos and the kairos is where we have a little chronos’. (Time that is left, 6)The two concepts of time are therefore interlocked and this is why we can’t simply take kairos as just an ‘occasion’, ‘chance’ or ‘an opportune time’ as it is often explicated. As Agamben beautifully puts it:  ‘what we get when we grasp a kairos is not another time, but only a contracted and abridged chronos. The precious pearl in the ring of chance is only a small portion(porzione) of chronos, a time which is left.’ (Time that is left, 6)

In the context of this tripartite conceptualization of time, my research on ‘Revisiting the nomadic subject’ emerged as a specific project with a set of material restrictions and constraints, including strict timelines and deadlines, but it eventually erupted as an event, effected but not determined—by the conditions and processes of its actualization. As an erupting event, the project has a limitless capacity in expressing forces of narratability, migrant and refugee’s women desire to appear in the world through exposing their vulnerability and dependence, but also their will to live in the world with others.  ‘Would the symptoms of love, be the symptoms of fear?’ Julia Kristeva (Tales of Love, 6) has asked, linking fear and desire in the act of transgression: ‘fear of crossing and desire to cross the boundaries of the self’ (Tales, 6), as well as territorial borders and patriarchal restrictions in the case of my project. In this light, telling stories of forced displacement became an event opening up striated regimes of fear and further creating possibilities for transgression. The narration time of the stories was that of the Kairos, the time that was left.

Here I am then, counting down the Chronos of the formal completion of the project, while experiencing its interlocking relationship with the Kairos, the time that has been left. My last diffractions are written in the Kairos, time when we get entangled in the unfolding of events, time as ‘creative advance’ in Alfred Whitehead’s words. (Process and Reality) Although my fieldwork and narrative interviews have already become ‘a stubborn part of the past’ (Process), they have also initiated new becomings, as they are being listened, read, contemplated, rewritten. In this sense they have already become components of the Aionic time, the durée, where past, present and future co-exist in forces of experiential intensification.

Thank you

It is at this moment, in the Kairos of the project that I want to thank from the depths of my heart all those people who were entangled in the process of Revisiting the Nomadic Subject’.


First of all the 22 amazing women who graciously offered me the gift of their stories: Thank you so much, Nadia, Somi, Hannah, Sima, Click, Christina, Elena, Derya, Melina, Awat, Dana, Mariam, Anna, Hanielle, Linda, Erika, Ilya, Zahra, Elina, Shachnaz, Warda, Tanya! You know who you are as you have chosen your ‘other names’. I still cannot believe it that you shared with me your experiences and memories of errance. I feel so lucky to have met you, you have opened unknown vistas in the ways I see and understand the world.

My thanks also go to the wonderful people that opened the gates of the field and introduced me to my participants: Ariane Adam, Thodoris Zeis and Efi Stathopoulou from Refugee Legal Support-Athens (RLS-Athens); Maria Liapi from Diotima Centre; Maria Doukakarou from the Observatory of the Refugee and Migration crisis in the Aegean at the University of the Aegean; Maritina Koraki from Caritas Hellas, Lesvos; Elina Karagiorgi from UNHCR, Lesvos; Konstantina Kalampoki from Iliaktida Lesvos; Kleio Chatzidaniil from the University of the Aegean. Thank you all so much for your gift of trust!

I was further supported by a group of academic colleagues and feminist friends, who showed me tracks and traces in a field that I had not treaded before, invited me to their classes, workshops and seminars and gave me wise advice: Akis Papataxiarchis from the Observatory of the Refugee and Migration crisis in the Aegean,  Giannis Kallas and Panagiotis Grigoriou from the sociology department of the University of the Aegean, Alexandra Chalkias from the sociology department of Panteion University, Efi Avdela and Alexandra Zavos from the University of Crete, Maria Preka from the 2nd General Lykeion of Nea Filadelfia, Myrto Tsilimpounidi from the Feminist Autonomous Centre for Research, Aggeliki Sifaki from Utrecht University; feminist author and journalist Aggelika Psara. Thank you, dear colleagues and friends, for helping me navigate the maze.

Thanks to artist Mato Ioannidou for generously allowing me to use the beautiful images of her exhibition Genealogies for the website and all presentations of the project.

Last but not least I want to thank the Leverhulme Trust for granting me the research  fellowship that made the whole thing happen.

Please reference as:

Tamboukou, Maria (2019), Diffractions, August 2019,