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Efficiency, compressed time and acceleration are among the most dominant tropes of our age. Their effects change our workplaces, contribute to the global reallocation of economic resources and turn restlessness into a sign of (post)modernity. Given these developments, one cannot, however, argue that otium, or its German equivalent – Muße –, has become obsolete in the current dispensation; on the contrary, the current crisis gives new meaning to a concept that might have seemed outdated some decades ago. As the pressure of efficiency becomes tangible in more and more areas, otium once again returns to the centre of debates about spaces of freedom in society in general and in the arts and sciences in particular. Otium becomes a heuristic concept to discuss the potential for creativity and innovation that might emerge from such spaces of free time; it also allows us to rethink the fundamental anthropological question of the relation between productivity and freedom. One of the most important features of otium is its transgression of such binaries as work and leisure, acceleration and deceleration, activity and inactivity. Experiences of freedom that are characteristic of otium do not remain isolated within the times and spaces allocated to otium. They generate a scope for extended reflection and enable us to practice new modes of experience that feed back into our everyday life. The very incongruity between the limited autonomy one experiences in leisure moments of otium and the context of purposefulness and social determination that characterise our everyday lives tends to facilitate critical reflection on our social roles. Therefore, it is through otium and the spaces of otium assigned to different social groups that societies negotiate the relation between individual freedom and social determination.

In the CRC 1015, cultures of otium are systematically analysed from literary, historical, and sociological perspectives. In the second project phase, the CRC puts an even stronger focus on the social and socio-political aspects of the topic. While, in the first project phase (2013–2016), historical topics were approached from the perspective of the humanities and social sciences, the current research profile includes a broader spectrum of disciplines and increasingly focuses on contemporary issues and developments. By analysing different social practices, their histories, discursive mediations and aesthetic interpretations, we explore fundamental anthropological questions in closer detail and thereby refine contemporary debates on the allocation and use of temporal resources.