Posted by: Johan Normark | October 23, 2014

2012 and the Maya Collapse Ecology in the End Times

This is not the final version of this article. It is to be published in a series of essay clusters on ecology from an object-oriented perspective. Some of these essays are available on O-Zone’s website. This version is incomplete as it lacks an abstract (which is available below), some page numbers. Most importantly, note that the reference “Whitesides and Jenkins” on page 7 is wrong. It should be “Whitesides and Hoopes.”

Abstract

The 2012-phenomenon includes apocalyptic fantasies regarding an impending collapse of our contemporary society, supposedly prophesized by the ancient Maya and their Long Count calendar. Sometimes connections to the ancient Maya collapse are made. That also happens to be the quite common in academic circles. Some academic researchers believe we can learn from the past failures for future solutions. The objects that were involved in the ancient Maya collapse were not the same as now and therefore we have little to learn from the Maya collapse in relation to our own ecological crisis. The ancient and contemporary Maya’s sensual profiles of ecology, time and space were/are quite different from those found within the “2012-phenomenon” and academia.

Posted by: Johan Normark | October 21, 2014

Nordic TAG session: Archaeology outside the correlationist circle

Considering that this is a “dormant” blog it has been quite active the past weeks. Anyway, here is a session proposal for next year’s Nordic TAG in Copenhagen.

Nordic TAG

Copenhagen

April 16th – 18th 2015

 

Johan Normark

Department of Historical Studies

University of Gothenburg

 

Archaeology outside the correlationist circle

Correlationism describes the position where subject and object cannot be thought of separately, they are always correlated with each other. Speculative Realism (SR) is an umbrella term for various attempts to break with this correlate. So far it is the Object-Oriented Ontologies (OOO) that has had greatest impact outside philosophy. Some of the strengths with OOO are that they take a stand against reductions of objects to processes and networks. Objects are not exhausted by these relations; they are existent in their own right. Time and space are the result of objects and not the opposite. Rather than inserting objects into an anthropocentric narrative, objects are the starting point of a multiscalar view where all processes occur inside objects.

Being a discipline focused on objects archaeology could not just make use of these ideas but also elaborate on them and put them into operational use. Concepts like vicarious causation, alien phenomenology, gravity, bright objects, incorporeal machines, hyperobjects, etc. change the way archaeological objects can be treated and understood. This session invites contributors to discuss how OOO and SR can be useful for archaeological studies focusing on a wide range of topics such as materials, landscape, settlement, social organization, gender, etc.

Please submit abstracts for papers (max. 200 words), including title and names and contact details of authors to Johan Normark (johan.normark@archaeology.gu.se) by January 1st 2015.

http://conferences.saxo.ku.dk/nordic-tag-2015/

Posted by: Johan Normark | October 10, 2014

Temporality, assemblages, and Black Swans

Abstract proposal for a TAG session in Manchester:

An assemblage is co-constituted with its time and space. In Manuel DeLanda’s perspective, an assemblage emerges from a formless, topological, and symmetrical virtual continuum. Intensive processes break this symmetry and discontinuous actual forms emerge. Because of Graham Harman’s object-oriented critique of process and external relations, Levi Bryant has relocated the virtual within the actual. All processes and relations occur within assemblages, not between them. To Bryant, time is the duration a machinic assemblage needs to produce the parts it consists of. Still, Bryant follows the Bergsonian-Deleuzean tradition where past and present are merged into a creative flow. Future is ignored.

Tristan Garcia suggests an order of intensity of presence. The past is always moving away from presence but there is an order of this past. The past is relatively present and the future has only absence. Future is not ordered but it is a fixed point of reference. To Garcia the present comes first, followed by the past which has less degree of presence. Last comes the future which has maximal absence. As the past of an assemblage grows it becomes richer in determination which for archaeological contexts means that origins are open but later trajectories follows the constraints and entanglements set up by the assemblage itself. Its predicted future becomes increasingly narrower until the assemblage ceases to work. This end is often an unexpected Black Swan event to the assemblage itself whereas archaeologists, in hindsight, insert a narrative behind the demise. One such narrative fallacy is the Maya collapse.

Posted by: Johan Normark | October 4, 2014

Maya collapse and water as hyperfact

A brief update for those of you who still follows this blog. I have been busy writing articles and books (and still am I must add). Earlier this week I submitted an article for the proceedings of the 18th European Maya Conference in Brussels last year. Here is the prelimary abstract for the article “Colonial period analogies and the mega-drought hypothesis for the Maya collapse”:

Palaeoclimatological models for the Maya area suggest that a series of droughts coincided with the Maya collapse (ca AD 750-1050). In order to find correlates to how these droughts affected Prehispanic communities, researchers have used direct historical analogies from the Colonial and modern periods. These correlations neglect the changes that the Spaniards brought to the area, such as the reducción and the congregación. This text focuses on how “black-boxed” analogies from the Colonial period affect some contemporary interpretations of the earlier Terminal Classic collapse. Colonial period changes in local and regional settlement patterns reveal some inherent assumptions in the generalized and reductionist palaeoclimatic studies.

Another artice will also be published in Current Swedish Archaeology, entitled “Water as a hyperfact” and this is the preliminary abstract:

Most entities studied by archaeologists share the same basic necessary conditions. They are limited spatiotemporal units which are continuous within a human frame of reference. These entities cannot dissolve into their constituent parts without affecting their function, capacity, and morphology. Further, they usually occupy one physical state at a time. The hyperfact, on the other hand, is vastly distributed, it can dissolve into most of its parts without affecting its “essence,” and it can be in several physical states at the same time. Water is a typical hyperfact, existing on multiple scales, from molecules to the hydrological cycle.

Posted by: Johan Normark | April 16, 2014

The 2012-phenomenon and the (new) age of hyperobjects

Yes I know, I have ceased to blog so I should not post anything more here (115 days have gone since my “last” post). All I will do here and in the future is to post links to my texts on Academia.edu. Here is a paper I presented last week in London.

Posted by: Johan Normark | December 21, 2013

The end

As I mentioned in my previous post I have decided to stop blogging. This is the final blog post but the blog will remain online. It will remain online partly because if my plans work out I will write at least two more articles on my blogging about the 2012-phenomenon.

I have written 821 posts, there are 3146 comments and at the time of writing 564,422 views. Thanks for visiting the blog and commenting on it for the past 4.5+ years.

Why am I ceasing to blog? There are several reasons. The blog has served me well when I actually wrote about Maya stuff or theoretical issues. More recently my posts have tended to focus on the books I have bought, the conferences I have attended (and not attended), vacations, etc. I feel that I no longer have a genuine interest in maintaining what the blog originally was about. It has almost turned into an extension of my facebook account. Although I seldom posted stuff on the blog during the past six months it still took time to maintain and overview the blog. I do not have that time anymore.

I may create a webpage where I update my research but less often than on this blog. However, that is not something I plan to do in the near future. If I do it I will add the link on this blog.

Today is the ha’b (365-day) anniversary of the end of the 13th Baktun last Gregorian year (and even this year the December solstice falls on the 21st). I thought that would be a good date to “terminate” the blog. But who knows, maybe “I’ll be back” like another terminator (?)…

Happy solstice everyone. A new age emerge today. As it coincide with the death of the composer of one of my favorite tunes I end the blog with this beautiful instrumental tune.

Posted by: Johan Normark | December 18, 2013

The end is nigh

I should have been presenting two papers in Bournemouth during the last two couple of days but the flu struck me on Sunday and I have spent the three last days indoors and in bed here in Göteborg. Hence, I will not be reporting anything from the TAG conference as I had originally planned. 

My interest in this blog has also plunged during the past six months or so. Therefore I have decided to stop blogging on December 21, i.e. one year after the supposed “end date” of the Maya Long Count. Thus, I will only write one more blog post which will be #821. If you want to see what I am up to in the future you should visit my Academia.edu page

Posted by: Johan Normark | December 4, 2013

New project(s)

I have not been active on the blog for about two weeks as my focus is elsewhere. This is a busy time of the year but two days ago I received an unexpected phone call. A project application of mine (“The necromantic ordering of days: from the Long Count to the Short Count in Maya calendars”) had been approved so now I can begin my fourth postdoctoral research project in seven years. This happened just as I was about to start writing on a fifth project application, this time together with my former thesis advisor Per Cornell and my new colleague Christian Isendahl (also a Mayanist, formerly at Uppsala University). This (fifth) project, in cooperation with INAH-QR in Mexico, will deal with the settlements along the Cancun-Tulum coastline during the contact period. Let’s see if we receive funds for that project as well.

So what is my new (fourth) project about? It emerged from my coverage of the 2012-phenomenon on this blog (who says blogging is a waste of time?) and elsewhere on the internet. It sparked my slumbering interest in the Maya calendars. Since time and temporality are some of my main interests in archaeology I saw a way to combine three different aspects of time in this project: the Maya view(s) of time, archaeological views of time and ontological aspects of time. My growing interest in the field of “neuroarchaeology” (Malafouris, Renfrew, etc.) will also be applied in this project. That is, how do objects shape our mind? Or to put it in the context of my project: how did the Maya calendar(s) shape the mind(s) of the Maya?

Time-keeping and calendars emerge through the interaction between objects and the events they generate. Once codified, the calendars are “necromantic” objects that affect the perception of time across multiple generations. Just like our own lives are shaped by ancient Roman months and a later Papal calendar reform, the lives of the Classic period Maya were affected by calendar systems created by long-dead Formative period people.

The specific aim is to study how the Formative (2000 BC–AD 250) and Classic (AD 250–1050) Maya Long Count of accumulative time disappeared in favor of a cyclical Postclassic (1050–1519/1697) Short Count. The “divine kingship” was associated with the Long Count until the cessation of dated monuments at the beginning of the 10th century AD, an event that coincided with the Maya collapse. In the Postclassic period the Short Count dominated and did so until the Spanish conquest of Noj Petén in 1697. This calendar consists of cycles of 256 years and its importance in the Postclassic coincides with myths of previous ages. Knowledge of earlier history, past collapses and perception of ruins enforced a calendar change that emphasized previous creations and/or repeated periods of time. The change in how the Maya used their calendars will primarily be studied from changes in site plans, artefact assemblages, etc. and when these occurred in relation to known calendar periods. 

Posted by: Johan Normark | November 20, 2013

Apocalyptic hyperobjects

A weird coincidence. In a couple of previous posts I have described the “2012-phenomenon” as a hyperobject. I will also give a talk about it next year in London. Roughly one year ago I went to Tjolöholms slott (Tjolöholm Castle) outside Göteborg for an interview for the Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter. The interview was about the 2012-end date and the reason why we went to Tjolöholm was because it was the setting for parts of Lars von Trier’s movie Melancholia. Two days ago this review of Timothy Morton’s book Hyperobjects was posted. It uses Melancholia as an example throughout the review.

Posted by: Johan Normark | November 18, 2013

The rise of the Maya (sorry, Viking) warriors

We have a new apocalyptic date contender. This time it apparently comes from Norse mythology. Be prepared on February 22, 2014. Watch the “Viking” blowing a Bronze Age lur. Only 1500 years or so separate them, but who cares..?

This group of apocalypteros really should have pushed this end date a bit earlier. There is no time to build up a whole “2014-phenomenon” with this short notice. No, you apocalyptic fans better go back to Mesoamerica again and prepare for 2027 instead. In the mean time you can experience some  Swedish music about both the Maya and the Vikings and violent stuff.

Here is a song about Viking warriors and Ragnarök made by the Swedish Death Metal band Amon Amarth.

Earlier today I stumbled upon a song about the “Maya” made by the Swedish Death Metal band Unleashed. It was released last year so it was probably inspired by the Maya apocalypse and Apocalypto as well. Apparently the Maya warriors were actually Vikings according to this “alternative” history…

Posted by: Johan Normark | November 16, 2013

Nordic TAG 2014

Yesterday the sessions for next year’s Nordic TAG were posted here. It is my old department at Stockholm University that arranges the conference this time. I think I may submit an abstract or two and if I do it I will most likely submit one of them to one of the old microarchaeologist’s sessions. If I go it will be my third Nordic TAG (Aarhus and Kalmar being the previous ones).

Posted by: Johan Normark | November 12, 2013

Identity, fragility, Black Swans, neuroscience

I just placed an order on Amazon. Within a few weeks I hope to be able to read these six books:

How Things Shape the Mind: A Theory of Material Engagement by Lambros Malafouris and Colin Renfrew; The Fragility of Things: Self-Organizing Processes, Neoliberal Fantasies, and Democratic Activism by William E Connolly; The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable by Nassim Nicholas Taleb; Place and Identity in Classic Maya Narratives by Alexandre Tokovinine; Politics of the Maya Court: Hierarchy and Change in the Late Classic Period by Sarah E Jackson; and Ruins of the Past: The Use and Perception of Abandoned Structures in the Maya Lowlands by Travis W. Stanton and others.

The books all relate to my current, past and future research topics. The first and last book in this list belongs to my future “neuroarchaeological” project on how ancient ruins shaped Postclassic Maya calendars. The other four books melt together both my former “climate” project and my current “water” project (too complicated to go into detail here).

Posted by: Johan Normark | November 8, 2013

Cochuah volume

Good news from last night (Swedish time that is): the volume on the archaeology and anthropology in the Cochuah region (edited by Justine Shaw) has been accepted for publication by The University of New Mexico Press. My contribution consists of two articles; a traditional one on Postclassic miniature shrines and a Deleuzean inspired one on the caves in the region. I thought about writing yet another article on the causeways for this volume but my colleague Alberto Flores covers that part this time.

Posted by: Johan Normark | November 7, 2013

The 2012-phenomenon and the (new) age of hyperobjects

I have finally settled for a preliminary abstract for the conference on art history in London that I mentioned a week or so ago (I shall try to combine Meillassoux’s contingency with OOO). There might be some slight changes but here is the abstract:

Apocalyptic and new age fantasies focusing on the erroneous “end-date” of the Maya Long Count saw some absolute purposeful meaning encoded in an ancient calendar. However, as Meillassoux’s take on facticity indicates: there is no absolute reason or ground for reality. The absolute is contingent.

The 2012ers also failed to see that what they were and still are part of: the growing awareness of hyperobjects. Timothy Morton’s hyperobject is an object so massive that we encounter it everywhere and nowhere at the same time. Global warming is Morton’s preferred example. We encounter its local manifestations in rain, puddles, news, political debates, etc. However, we can never point out its specific time-space location. In fact, the hyperobject emits time and space. The appearance of the hyperobject is the past, it is what objects encounter in any situation. The withdrawn essence of the hyperobject is the future, it is what it will generate in new relations. A hyperobject has a birth, life and death although on a scale beyond humans.

The 2012-phenomenon is such a hyperobject. Its parts consist of objects and other hyperobjects such as the Aztec Calendar stone, Tortuguero Monument 6, the precession of the equinoxes, the Milky Way, archaeological text books, the Bible, Capitalism, Internet, etc. The 2012-phenomenon is a symptom of the ecological crisis. Despite that the “end date” has expired it has not ended since its parts will become part of a new hyperobject in the years to come since the symptoms of the ecological crisis remain.

Posted by: Johan Normark | November 6, 2013

Alexander Bard on the Meillassouxian God

The Swedish artist, song-writer and philosopher Alexander Bard mentions Quentin Meillassoux’s inexistent God in his presentation which ends by declaring Internet as a God (among several gods). 

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