Posted by: Johan Normark | September 29, 2016

Orienting West Mexico

Later today I shall attend Peter Jimenez’s final seminar for his dissertation thesis entitled Orienting West Mexico: The Mesoamerican World-System 2001200 CE. This will be the third dissertation thesis on Mesoamerica from my department.

The article “The Chicxulub impact and its different hydrogeological effects on Prehispanic and Colonial settlement in the Yucatan peninsula” can now be found here. I will probably make it open-access in the near future if I get the funds to do that.

Posted by: Johan Normark | August 30, 2016

The ontogenesis of ontologies

I am currently writing a text on Descola’s ontologies and how they relate to Maya cave studies. This will be a significant departure from my previous focus on emergence (or ontogenesis in this case). Descola has been described as a neostructuralist but I see no major obstacles in transforming his “rigid” ontological schema into something processual. 

This text is also one of several articles that create a frame for a new project preliminary entitled “The ontogenesis of ontologies”. In its current state the project will focus on long-term changes in settlement and land use in the Maya area related to Descola’s schemas of practice. It will also problematize the concepts of resilience and sustainability.

My article “The Chicxulub impact and its different hydrogeological effects on Prehispanic and Colonial settlement in the Yucatan peninsula” has been accepted for publication in WIREs water. Here is the abstract:

The Chicxulub impact ~66 million years ago and subsequent geological processes have created different hydrogeological regimes in the Yucatan peninsula, Mexico. These regimes have affected settlement patterns on local and regional scales. This study focuses on the intersection between three of these regimes; the Buried Ejecta within Saline Intrusion Zone, the Albion Formation and the Ticul Fault Zone. Lake Chichancanab is located in the intersection between these zones. The Prehispanic settlement east of Chichancanab, in the Cochuah region, is distributed evenly whereas the Colonial period settlement of the same area largely stays within the Buried Ejecta within Saline Intrusion Zone. Colonial socioeconomic conditions and the Church limited the Spanish control of the Cochuah region, partially because groundwater access became increasingly more important during the Colonial period.

Posted by: Johan Normark | June 2, 2016

New article – Multi-scalar cognitive time

The final version of my article “Multi-scalar cognitive time: Experiential time, known time, and Maya calendars” has just been published in Quaternary International. It is part of a special issue called: The material dimensions of cognition: Reconsidering the nature and emergence of the human mind.

Posted by: Johan Normark | May 10, 2016

Ipoh and Pulau Pangkor

After our trip on Sumatra in 2014 we took a flight from Medan to Kuala Lumpur and headed directly to the city of Ipoh north of KL. Surrounding the town are some impressive Chinese Buddhist temples inside caves. The reason why the flags are at half-mast is because the Malaysia Airlines flight 17 had been shot down in Ukraine the day before we entered Malaysia.

After Ipoh we spent a few days on Pulau Pangkor. The island was largely covered in haze. If you want to see hornbills, this is the place to visit (no, these are not toucans as many tourists believe).

Posted by: Johan Normark | April 13, 2016

Sumatra

It turns out I have not blogged about my travels since October 17, 2013. Since the summer of 2013 I have been back to Indonesia and Malaysia twice, Thailand, China and India. I will write some blogposts about these trips in the next couple of weeks. However, they will not contain much specific information. 

In the summer of 2014 me wife, son and I first went to Bali, Gili Meno and Gili Trawangan before we headed to Jakarta to continue to Medan on Sumatra. A few hours ride from there lies Bukit Lawang where one can trekk and spot orangutans. The bath afterwards was cool.

From Bukit Lawang we went to Berastagi where there are hot baths and the nearby volcano Sinabung who had been erupting only a few weeks before. Later the same day we arrived at Lake Toba which probably was the highlight of this trip. Below are pictures of Batak houses and tombs.

Posted by: Johan Normark | March 11, 2016

An evolutionary trajectory

My academic trajectory has changed several times during the past twenty years. The first course I took was a distance course in Classic archaeology at Uppsala University in 1993/1994. Back then I was interested in ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, Greece and Rome. However, I had begun to read some books on the Maya and that became my main interest in the following years when I became a full time student at the University of Gothenburg (1994-2000). My BA-theses in both archaeology (1997) and social anthropology (1998) dealt with Maya issues. So did a minor thesis (“B-uppsats”) in a course on the history of ideas (2000). Since I began my full-time studies I have not changed geographical/cultural area. However, my theoretical approaches have changed.

In both of my BA-theses I was influenced by Bourdieu’s theory of practice which I had encountered in both disciplines. That theoretical approach also laid the initial foundation for my doctoral project on causeways. Once I became a doctoral student (2002) I became influenced by other agency theories, Gell and Bachelard as well, as seen in my licentiate thesis (2004). This was a development towards a “nanoarchaeology”, i.e. splitting up the units of structurating practices used in Cornell and Fahlander’s “microarchaeology” into even smaller segments. I called this “polyagentive archaeology.”

I continued to call this approach “polyagentive archaeology” in my dissertation thesis (2006). I regret that today since I had turned towards the ontologies of flow, of continuity rather than discontinuity. Bergson became my main inspiration with some late additions of Deleuze and DeLanda. Hence, I ditched Bachelard in favor of Bergson. I maintained Gell and made more use of the Swedish anthropologist Göran Aijmer. Apart from an article on Maya warfare (2007) I have not continued to use the term “polyagentive archaeology”. I am no longer convinced that agency is a useful concept (particularly not object/material agency).

In my early postdoctoral phase I became increasingly influenced by Deleuze, DeLanda, and Protevi. This can be seen in my articles published between 2008 and 2012. DeLanda’s assemblage theory work very well with complex systems theory and therefore it fitted my first postdoctoral project on caves and climate change. However, once I received funding for my “water as archaeological material” project (2011) I had encountered speculative realism and particularly object oriented ontologies. This has resulted in a couple of articles (from 2012 to present date). Although Meillassoux, Harman, Bogost, Garcia and Morton have affected my writing it is Bryant that I find to be of most interest. I will still make use of Deleuze and DeLanda in my upcoming articles that are in press. It may not be obvious but I do use DeLanda in my most recently published article on neuroarchaeology (2016).

So where am I now? Well, considering this trajectory I have mainly emphasized theoretical issues that few Mayanists care about. I will most likely continue with that but I also feel that my archaeological interests go beyond the Maya area today. This summer I will travel to Indonesia for the tenth time but I believe I never will actively work there. I am stuck in the Maya area. However, I am also a bit tired of the ontological stuff but I think I have found a way out of the ontological turn.

I am currently developing a project idea that shall combine two separate topics that I deal with in two articles that I am currently writing: evolution and some aspects of the ontological turn. I see this as a new change in my academic trajectory. Why? Because I do not think archaeology is the discipline of things. I once did think so but what separates archaeology from other disciplines is the study of the long-term development of Homo sapiens. It is time for me to go back to what I initially found interesting in archaeology. 

Posted by: Johan Normark | March 1, 2016

Multi-scalar cognitive time

I have uploaded the abstract for my upcoming article in Quaternary International. It is called “Multi-scalar cognitive time: Experiential time, known time, and Maya calendars.”

Posted by: Johan Normark | February 21, 2016

Mesoamerican research in Gothenburg

On March 18, 2016, Teobaldo Ramirez Barbosa will defend his dissertation thesis Churches, Chapels and Maya Dwellings of Colonial Yucatán and Belize. The opponent will be Professor Elizabeth Graham, University College London (UCL). Teo has Professor Per Cornell as thesis advisor, i.e. same as I had.

Right now doctoral candidate Peter Jimenez is in Gothenburg to present his dissertation project The Archaeology of West and Northwest Mesoamerica 3001300 CE: A World System Perspective. Peter has Professor Kristian Kristiansen as thesis advisor.

Posted by: Johan Normark | February 2, 2016

Talk at the Ethnographic Museum in Stockholm

I will give a talk on the impact of climatic changes in the Prehispanic and Colonial period Maya region (I shall compare these periods and argue that the impact of droughts differ to a substantial degree). This will be held at the Ethnographic Museum in Stockholm on March 16 at 6 PM. Here is the Swedish title and “abstract”:

Klimatförändringars påverkan av det förspanska och koloniala mayaområdet

Mayaområdets samhällen i södra Mexiko och norra Centralamerika har vid ett antal tillfällen påverkats av klimatförändringar. Den mest kända är den ”klassiska mayakollapsen” mellan 750 och 1050 e.Kr. Även om paleoklimatologiska data delvis sammanfaller med övergivande med bebyggelse under förspansk tid utgår forskare ofta ifrån den koloniala tidens skriftliga källor för att förklara dessa äldre processer. Detta leder till ett antal problem i vår förståelse av denna avgörande fas i områdets förspanska historia.

Posted by: Johan Normark | January 28, 2016

Landscape Archaeology Conference 2016

Uppsala University arranges a landscape archaeology conference in August. Most interesting to me are the sessions on landscapes and water. I may submit one (or two) papers. 

Posted by: Johan Normark | January 6, 2016

Encyclopedia of the Ancient Maya

I almost forgot that I contributed with a short text on the Maya causeway/sacbe for the Encyclopedia of the Ancient Maya (edited by Walter R. T. Witschey). The link leads to the unedited text I compiled in 2014. The final and printed version will not appear here.

Posted by: Johan Normark | January 3, 2016

Returning to active blogging

Two years ago (December 21, 2013) I decided to stop active blogging due to an increasing burden of work, etc. I still have plenty to do but I feel that blogging actually helped my thought process because I often summarized or commented on research papers, etc. Now I feel a desire to continue with that activity although it will still be kept at a minumum.

The date of the previous decision was one year after the “end of the world”. Now we are more than three years into the “postapocalyptic” world and I have just published an article on blogging about the fringes of archaeology. I will most likely not write much about these fringes in the future unless there is some “2027” connection. I shall focus on research papers that I find interesting. However, January is a busy month so do not expect much until February.

My current interest pushes me into evolutionary theories and in particularly those associated with Bergson, Deleuze, Grosz, and Ingold. I have discussed these before but never in any depth. In the future I will also focus less on Maya archaeology as I am becoming less interested in that field.  

Posted by: Johan Normark | December 30, 2015

Blogging about the end times: Dealing with the fringes of archaeology

An article where this blog is a major part has just been published in an online peer-reviewed journal called AP: Online Journal in Public Archaeology. Here is the abstract:

The 2012-phenomenon is based on the idea that something important was expected to occur on December 21, 2012, a date associated with the ancient Maya Long Count calendar. Even though the date has passed, the overall phenomenon is unlikely to disappear because the dominant themes of the end of the world and/or a transformation of consciousness can be found in other ‘alternative’ histories. These non-academic histories are ultimately apocalyptic in nature. The 2012-phenomenon is also an example of an ‘incorporeal hyperobject’, i.e. an object widely distributed and repeated. It is not anchored in a specifc time-space unit but it is manifested in many different corporeal objects. The 2012-phenomenon is different from the academic Mayanist incorporeal hyperobject because each of them uses different distinctions of what exists or not. These different objects cannot communicate directly in different media ecologies since different distinctions have formed each one. Hence,there can never be a sincere understanding of each camp. Only by perturbing another object can information be translated into meaning. The blog is such a medium that can affect incorporeal hyperobjects. This article discusses the way one blog has interacted with the 2012-phenomenon.

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