No Friday in Samoa This Week, or, The Social Construction of Time Redux

Slow posting here over the holidays, but I had to mention this fantastic story. Dedicated readers may remember my love of the social construction of time as an example for teaching social construction: powerful, important, political in a broad sense, but not as hot button and identity-challenging as race, gender or class, I think time makes an excellent introduction to thinking about the historical, political, cultural, etc. construction of reality.*

In the most recent example of the continuing work to make time real, Samoa will not have a Friday this week. Here’s NPR:

People in Samoa (population 193,000) want to be closer time-wise to Australia, New Zealand, China and Tonga because they do so much more day-to-day business with those relatively nearby nations than with the rest of the world. And the problem until now, for example, has been that when it’s 8 a.m. Monday in Samoa it’s 8 a.m. Tuesday in Tonga. Business people in Samoa have kind of been losing a working day when it comes to dealing with their nearest neighbors.

NPR also notes the historical importance of the dateline, and how the move reflects changing patterns of trade:

Samoa has been on the eastern side of the dateline since 1892, The Australian notes, “following lobbying by merchants who did most of their business with America and Europe. … The world has changed. Australia and New Zealand provide half the country’s imports and buy 85 per cent of Samoa’s exports.”

So, in addition to fights over daylight savings time in the 20th century, and over the standardization of time zones for railroads in the 19th, let’s add the international date line as an interesting site where time must be constructed.

And, for a funny take on the dateline problem, see this West Wing clip (of many others).

*Which, as a reminder, is the story of how things become real not why they aren’t real.

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