When I came back to my apartment fifteen minutes ago I found my book package from Amazon.com jammed into the door. Apparently the mail man/woman is unaware or do not care that thieves may walk into the building. However, if a thief stole this package he/she would have been disappointed of its contents. I highly doubt that he/she would enjoy the books Realist Magic and Maya Ideologies of the Sacred. Hopefully I will although I am more interested in the book that was not sent with them but which will arrive next week or so, and that is Hyperobjects.
One of the most intriguing archaeological sites I have visited is called Gunung Padang in West Java. I went there on July 7 during my vacation in Malaysia and Java. Although the site has been known since at least 1914 it is not very well known among people interested in ancient history. Unfortunately the available English information about the site is confusing and sometimes riddled with pseudoarchaeological speculations. If you check out Wikipedia you will get the impression that this site is at least 13,000 years old and possibly the “cradle of civilization” (if you see such claims you can be sure that it is not an archaeologist doing the writing). Fortunately I ran into the archaeologist (Dr. Ali Akbar) who is in charge of the survey and excavation of the site. He could inform me that this megalithic site dates to around 500 BC.
There is a series of terraces that leads up to the top. This form of construction (“step pyramid”) can be found in later Hindu architecture as well. It seems that the site is aligned towards the volcano Gunung Gede. The surface of the site and the walls of some of the terraces are filled with andesite columns. Since little information is available I will simply post some images without information. Go and visit this site NOW!
Earlier today my son, wife and I saw Pixar’s/Disney’s animated movie Planes (a spin off of Cars). Towards the end of the movie the planes arrive in Mexico and the airport at Mexico City had some interesting Mayanesque/Teotihuacanesque architectural features (I guess Teotihuacan’s Avenue of the Dead provided some inspiration). There are some views of modified historical monuments as well, such as Taj Mahal and the Great Wall of China.
My “new” interest in the 2011/2012 phenomenon was sparked by relating two completely separate studies to what 2012ers and others have been saying for quite some time. I took the opportunity to look what the “2011-prophet” is doing right now. Calleman is apparently planning to release a series of books regarding the emergence of human civilization (which he seems to trace back to roughly 3100 BC…). Now, since I am currently into a more nihilistic perspective where I sense no meaning with existence (quite the opposite of Calleman) I may recall my previous posts regarding the advent of the fourth world and the virtual God. They all revolved around the date of October 2, 2027, a Gregorian date, whose Aztec equivalent indicates something may happen (or not). The nihilistic approach indicates that extinction of existence is the ultimate condition. There is no meaning behind this so is October 2, 2027, the ex nihilo advent of the final extinction then rather than a fourth world?
I looked around to see what information there already is about the year of 2027. A solar eclipse will occur on August 2, only two months before the “end”. Luxor in Egypt will be the place to be to observe this. Jesus will also return. Need I say more? A connection with an ancient capital of Egypt cannot be a coincidence? Only five days later, on August 7, an asteroid will pass near the earth (or will it hit the earth and “move” it. I may be onto something here.
If there is one part of the object-oriented perspectives that I have problem with it is the panpsychic tendencies used to break the correlationist circle. In panpsychism mind is intrinsic to being and therefore exists in and for itself. It need not be correlated with anything else. Such a perspective makes it easier to suggest that consciousness emerge from something already existing (i.e. experience). The alternative is to state that consciousness emerges from something non-conscious which is undoubtedly a more complicated argument. However, I find it hard to accept notions, like that found in “neoanimism”, that even stones have personhood, experience, etc. In the end this implies that meaning is inherent in the objects themselves.
I am beginning to look into Brassier’s eliminitavist nihilism since he wishes to eliminate anything that falsely makes humans feel secure. The destruction of meaning is its goal. Extinction is, in fact, the ultimate fate of all existences. Existence is therefore meaningless. Archaeology studies past extinctions, of what has ceased to be, only traceable in scattered pieces here and there. Connections between various material traces are made in order to form an anthropocentric meaning, both for the past humans but also for the people of today. As such, a nihilistic archaeology could study extinctions on many different levels; the breaking of a ceramic vessel, the burning of a house, settlement abandonment, etc. Past and present humans have invested these events with meaning but it is important to first see them all as something free of any meaning whatsoever. Meaning is secondary.
Receiving reviews is often good as it helps one to see what part(s) of a manuscript needs to be clarified. A reviewer is seldom an expert on all parts of the text he/she reads. I have recently received two reviews of an article of mine that show just that. The article in question is an attempt at applying an object-oriented perspective on water in various archaeological contexts. However, I also include some Deleuzean ideas in my theoretical tool kit. Harman’s object-oriented philosophy sees Deleuzean virtuality as an example of undermining objects. Thus, Harman and Deleuze propose quite different ontologies. Hence, I contribute to the theoretical issues I appropriate. Still, this “appears” to reviewer #1 as a mechanical application but it is all too obvious that the reviewer has never read any of the object-oriented philosophers I use.
The same reviewer also finds a “wonderful irony” regarding the issue of meaning (most of the comment is clearly about that). This statement is based on what I would call a correlationist misunderstanding. What caused this remark is that I am saying, at the end of the article, that reality is not meaningful. However, the reviewer argues that I still try to convey meaning with my theoretical approach. What I am basically referring to is the withdrawal of reality/real objects that I have talked about in the article. The world is always an interpretation, only meaningful to the observer as a sensual object. Hence, meaning is only dependent on the interpreter, it is nothing preexisting. But this is not only a human condition (the common correlationist fallacy), it is an ontological condition of all objects. This is an article attempting to see things from a hydrocentric perspective, rather than the normal anthropocentric perspective that preoccupy the two reviewers. Therefore, the text is ordered in another way. It is only poorly organized, as the second reviewer remarks, from his/her preconceived anthropocentric understanding.
Reviewer #1 also argues that I basically re-label things. That is only partially true. I re-label things from one coherent ontology instead of using the multitude of disparate “ontologies” that one finds in archaeological texts. Hydrology and kingship, two critical concepts for the article, are usually not treated from the same set of categories. The first is “nature” and the latter is “culture” and “constructed” but in my perspective they are all part of the same reality. I clearly should have begun the article with a description of the correlationist circle. It will take some time to break this circle in archaeology and particularly in Mayanist studies…
This week I attended the ESEH conference in Munich. “My” session (organized by Martin Hultman, thanks for the invitation) and one other session dealt with posthuman ideas and new materialism (which can be seen as related fields). In various presentations one could hear the now common claims that everything flows, matter is energy, matter matters, trees are agents, animals (read geese) have culture, anthropocentrism is bad, etc. A term like materiality was used quite often but I agree with Ingold when he wonders what “academic perversion” has introduced this concept. To me it is a concept lingering from social constructionism. Materiality and even matter itself are terms that say very little. Where is this matter located? Has it to do with particles (rather than waves)? To Harman, materialism is simply an idealism with a realist alibi. Some of the presentations made that very clear.
In one presentation geese, that unfortunately landed in a polluted lake, were described as creatures with culture. There we find one of the main problems with these ideas. Anthropocentrism is seen to be wrong but the animals are being anthropomorphized. Instead of getting rid of the concepts of nature and culture once and for all, formerly “natural” animals are forced into the cultural sphere instead. They are just like us rather than we being like them. Animals are seen as persons and subjects, etc. Correlationism seems to hold a strong grip on posthumanism and new materialism since they still discuss the dichotomy between subject and object, culture and nature, etc. Hence, the suggestion that animism may provide a new way to interact with other entities (seeing animals, plants, stones, etc. as entities with personhood, not just from a social constructionist perspective but rather from a realist perspective) needs some more elaboration. Are “non-western” views really that different from western views? They are still anthropocentric. The Maya tethers such persons to turkeys, plants, stones, etc. but that perspective tells us nothing of what a turkey (or goose) feel. For that we must perform an alien phenomenology and become “turkeycentric”. Animism is, in my view, simply a sensual profile made of real objects. It is nothing revolutionary, not a new paradigm.
To quote Bogost: “posthumanism is not posthuman enough”. I am reluctant to the use of any concept that begins with the prefix “post” (yes, I know that I once used the term “posthumanocentrism”). Ideas that claims that they are not “post” anything else always seem more promising. So, instead of “animating” or “anthropomorphizing” every entity with personhood we must, as Harman says, morph “the human realm into a variant of the inanimate.” There we find the similarity between entities, they are not all subjects or persons. Instead they are all objects (or units). We should not reduce them to some underlying process (undermining) or being part of a greater network (overmining). We should definitely not reduce “matter” to being transformations of energy and refer to Einstein’s famous equation. The only field of thought that I have seen this to be a common ingredient is in “New Age” (quite common in the “2012-phenomenon”). We do not want to tread on that slippery slope that may drag us down into muddy waters.
I have been invited to two sessions at this year’s TAG conference in Bournemouth. The abstract of the first paper can found here. My second abstract is for the session The material dimension of cognition: a coalescence of the pragmatic and the significative milieux:
The necromantic ordering of days
Time-keeping and calendars emerge from cognitive interaction with digits, animal migrations, aging, pregnancy, vegetative cycles, sun and phases of the moon, the hydrological cycle, i.e. from objects and the events they generated. Once established calendars also affect the way we perceive time.
The Maya calendars are necromantic devices. They are objects formed by people, long time dead, but whose past contributions affect temporalities long time thereafter, even in a completely different context as in the case of the global internet “2012-phenomenon.” The Maya calendars were designed to order the days, i.e. the passing of time. However, their usage changed after great upheavals occurred in the 10th century AD. The accumulative time of the Long Count disappeared in favor of the cyclical Short Count. For at least 1000 years the “divine kingship” (ajawlel) 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 so-called Maya collapse. From the structure of the Long Count there is no evidence that it was cyclical as is commonly believed. In the Postclassic period the Short Count dominated among the Yucatec Maya and it did so until the Spanish conquest of Noj Petén in 1697. This calendar consisted of cycles of 256 years and its importance in the Postclassic coincided with myths of previous ages. Knowledge of earlier history and perception of ruins enforced an understanding of previous creations and their associations with repeated periods of time.
In less than five hours from now the summer solstice will pass and we are six months into the post-2012 era. It happens on this year’s Midsummer Eve so it is an event to celebrate. Unless some significant “2012-related” events occur in the near future I would say that the 2012-phenomenon died quickly. Judging from the stats on this blog for the last quarter, the popularity of the best well-known 2012-proponents have declined dramatically. John Major Jenkins, Carl Johan Calleman and Patrick Geryl, these people or their ideas are not even within the top 25 search-terms (which they were a year ago). The only “survivors” are people or ideas where the “end date” of the Maya Long Count calendar was not their main driving argument. These are people like McKenna, Osmanagic, Currivan and ideas like the Maya pyramids in Georgia. What do we learn from this? Never set an end date for your particular business (what a surprise…). Hence, it may seem like I have not learnt my own lession when I now say that I will close all comments older than three months. I want to close only those related to “2012″ but apparently that was not doable. Have I stopped covering “2012″? Yes and no. I am not actively looking for “2012″ information but I have at least two articles on the issue. One has already been proof-read… If nothing dramatically happens in the “mayanism” business in the next decade or so, I expect to see you in 2027.