Posted by: Johan Normark | January 19, 2010

Posthumanocentric books in preparation

Even when they are nonliving, or rather inorganic, things have a lived experience because they are perceptions and affections (Colebrook 2006:157).

This year will be a busy one. Apart from a couple of articles, a field season, and the usual lottery of fund raising applications I am actually writing three books. In a recent post I mentioned my summary and analyzes of the 2012 circus which I have decided to publish in book form. The two more important books that I write right now are called: Holy Places, Holey Spaces and the Emergent Wholes: Caves and Climate Change in the Maya Lowlands and Posthumanocentric Archaeology: Neo-Realist Studies of Materialities. Summaries of their contents can be found here. These books develop aspects of Posthumanocentric archaeology. The first one is directly related to my current research and the latter one will have a broader scope. Here is an excerpt of the introduction to the latter book:

Things, objects, artefacts, material cultures, architecture and materialities are all categories used to describe materials that have been modified by humans to suit human needs. These categories become tools for our investigations into past human activities, world views, political systems, etc. However, it seems that the material properties of the objects have become reduced in favour of a human creativity (cf. Ingold 2007). Materialities have become passive. This is the result of a long tradition of research (Olsen 2007).

Instead of following the path of material passivity, in this book we will take a path where materials will be seen as assemblages of flowing images and by image is meant “a certain existence which is more than that which the idealist calls a representation, but less than that which the realist calls a thing, – an existence placed half-way between the ‘thing’ and the ‘representation’. This conception of matter is simply that of common sense” (Bergson 2004:vii-viii). In this view, the brain and consciousness are also images, not containers for other images. There is only a difference of degree between matter and our perception of it. Therefore there is no privileged position of a perceiving human subject, like that we find in phenomenology or neurocentric perspectives (cf. Malafouris and Renfrew 2008).

Technology, art and science can help us to gain access to such non-human centred perceptions and affections. This anorganic perception will break our habitual thinking. Instead of viewing the past from a particular human narrative, this book will therefore attempt to see assemblages in the Maya area, as part of technologies that generated images other than those centred on something “human”. Thus, the attempt is to break with the dominant trend in archaeology that wishes to give materials meaning, a human narrative, or a contemporary relevance. Such approaches mainly focuses on what is not available in the archaeological record. This non-available ‘what’ is the human and its culture. Culture minded archaeologists set their focus on either past economy, social constructions, memories, subjectivities, cosmologies, etc. assumed to be reached from materials or these categories are used a-priori while studying materials.

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