Posted by: Johan Normark | September 20, 2009

A matter of wood

Central in Posthumanocentric archaeology is another conceptualization of matter than usually found in archaeology. Deleuze shows the way. He rejects explanations that primarily seek creativity external to what is within any system which is the doctrine of hylomorphism which most archaeologists follow. Hylomorphism states that “the order displayed by material systems is due to the form projected in advance of production by an external productive agent, a form which organizes what would supposedly otherwise be chaotic or passive matter” (Bonta and Protevi, 2004: 97). In this view a soap bubble only realizes an external and pre-existing essential form of “sphereness.” There is no need to describe the emerging process of the bubble, one only relates to a pre-existing form or type.

In the hylomorphic models of matter, matter is a passive substance with essential/static properties to be manipulated by the human/craftsman. Aristotle used the Greek word hyle (wood, timber) to define matter. He used the craftsman as an analogy whereas the equivalent Latin word materia derives from the organic word mater (mother) which, however, also relates to tree. To cut down trees was called materiam caedere and the word madera means wood and timber in Spanish. The organic and handicraft analogies are related since the Greek word órganon means tool and the organism is like a craftsman using his tools (Liedman, 2006: 69-77).

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