In relation to my previous post I can with confidence state that relationism is a dominant ingredient in archaeology (and anthropology). This leads to several hidden assumptions in the way archaeologists treat objects. In a recent article by Ian Hodder he states that “any notion of ‘the thing itself’ is indefensible given the notion of co-constitution” (p 157). This, he suggests, depends on the anthropocentric accounts of objects. However, “perhaps one consequence of the human-centred approaches […] is that things have appeared to us rather directly as separate, bounded entities. This is indeed how they naïvely appear to us as humans” (p 157).
The assumption hidden in Hodder’s article is that there is no such thing as a thing itself because it is not a discrete bounded entity in space (and in time as well I may add). It depends on its external entanglement with other things and humans. However, from an object-oriented perspective relations can be either domestic (the internal structure of an object) or foreign (the way an object relate to another object). An object cannot change through foreign relations, only through domestic relations. For example, a car that hit another vehicle becomes a temporary limited object where the domestic relations change its component parts. After the crash the vehicles become separate objects again but with new domestic relations making them impossible to drive. This means that objects indeed are discrete bounded entities in both time and space (and it is simply not the effect of our “naïve” mind). Relations do exist but they are not what determine the object. The object is greater than its relations.
Hodder, Ian (2011). Human-thing entanglement: towards an integrated archaeological perspective. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 17:154-177.