Posted by: Johan Normark | October 28, 2010

Research plan

My “Water as archaeological material” project consists of five case studies in order to limit the scope of such a potentially vast topic as water easily could become. My overall strategy with my research is to lay the foundation for future projects that will work from the results of this broader project. The aim is therefore to penetrate other fields of research than archaeology and other geographical areas than Mesoamerica.

In order to show the multiplicities of water in timespace, the project will make use of five “plateaus” and “ands” that are linked through the medium of water. The term plateau comes from Deleuze and Guattari’s non-linear history in “A Thousand Plateaus” (1987) and refers to regions of intensities. I’ll also see them as temporal and spatial captures of flows. Hence linear meta-narratives such as culture or ideology will not be used in the project. A common method in earlier research on water is to use one or few local areas and phenomena and from these generalize greater processes by reducing complexities to few driving causes. This is a top-down approach but in this project bottom-up morphogenetic processes are crucial.

Each plateau will emphasize differences in intensity and scale of assemblages. The plateaus shall focus on a particular scale and show how smaller and greater assemblages affect that scale. The assemblages are not just stacked on top of each other. They are linked through entrainment, the way formerly independent assemblages fall into step with each other (Protevi 2009).

My starting point(s) for all plateaus will be the empirical data collected during my doctoral and postdoctoral work in southern Mexico and Belize: caves, buildings, water sources, and ceramics. The doctoral study, primarily financed by Göteborg University (GU), included water management and the use of water as construction material for causeways and other buildings (Ford et al. 2001; Normark 2004b, 2006a, 2008a, 2009a, 2010a). The postdoctoral study, primarily financed by VR and SIDA, focuses on climate and settlement changes related to water accessibility and cave use in the Yucatan peninsula (Normark 2008b, 2009b). Additional studies of relevance to this project have focused on the senses (Normark 2010b), warfare (Normark 2007), and identity (Normark 2004a, 2006b). Hence, I have already done research on all plateaus. In my water project the focus is turned to a specific material that connects to materials and processes discussed in my earlier studies.

This project combines and elaborates my earlier topics in new ways and draws out extensions to the present and other parts of the world. This can be done since water, and not “human culture”, is in focus. The project combines archaeology, epigraphy, iconography, anthropology, human ecology and studies of the physical, chemical, biological and social properties of water. Apart from my earlier collected empirical data I will primarily work with published sources. No additional fieldwork will be necessary, apart from visiting sites, libraries and museums in Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, and Honduras to gather information not available in Sweden.

I will outline these five case studies/plateaus in future blog posts. These are: (1) water and the somatic, (2) water and material objects, (3) water and the striating State, (4) water and Earth, (5) water and smoothening processes.


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