Posted by: Johan Normark | April 2, 2009

PA 2 – the human catalyst within assemblages

In posthumanocentric archaeology, matter is a durational process which is actualized into a contemporary form. Material objects affect and are being affected by non-linear rhizomes in which human associated relations are meshed in a multitude of processes. The rhizome is a form that is neither genealogical nor orthogenetic like the arborescent schema but a connection between different multiplicities. Multiplicities are crucial in posthumanocentric archaeology since they replace essences and explain emergent properties. Multiplicities specify the structure of spaces of possibilities, spaces which, in turn, explain the regularities exhibited by morphogenetic processes. The rhizome is therefore made up of heterogeneous components that are different in kind, such as a bee and a flower, a relationship that is not working on an arborescent schema. The rhizome works as an acentered multiplicity that always changes and is on the move since there is no central driving agency or cause. In short, the rhizome is an anti-genealogical, horizontal, nomadic, non-fixed and heterogeneous network that works from the bottom up.

What usually is termed “human culture” works on a rhizomatic model rather than on an arborescent model. “Culture” lacks a true genealogy, there is no creator, no single origin, since emergence is a decentralized process. A multitude emerges as an assemblage of component parts without a united control. Thus, the emergence of the world and humans cannot be found by reducing processes to certain essential stages or hierarchies as is done in arborescent humanocentric concepts (either band, tribe, chiefdom and state hierarchies, or structure and agency, or by using human agents and artifacts as different stages of a causal process). In the posthumanocentric interactions, a human being is but one of several material nodes in a decentralized rhizomatic meshwork of emergence. The human subject emerges from matter and the humans themselves form greater assemblages together with other material forms.

It is when the archaeologist creates representations of the rhizome(s) that it is transformed into a transcendent and arborescent macro-structure, an abstract class, that some archaeologists call culture. Culture as a concept is abandoned in Posthumanocentric archaeology and real “social” assemblages of increasing scale replace it, a bottom-up view . The position of the human is to become a catalyst for material processes where past intentions are removed as a-priori starting points. That is how I view the human: as a catalyst within assemblages.

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